Substance use disorder (SUD) affects people of all genders. The effects of untreated drug and alcohol addiction can be devastating.

Addiction can change the way a person’s body and brain function. These changes can make it very difficult to overcome it alone. Active substance abuse can also worsen the symptoms of a mental health condition.

For people living with addiction, seeking treatment can be life-changing. Overcoming addiction requires comprehensive treatment and continuing support.

Therapy is one of the most important aspects of comprehensive treatment. Some people may choose to participate in programs offering gender-specific therapy. Gender-specific treatment programs treat men and women separately. This allows people to receive tailored addiction recovery treatment plans.

This article will explore the benefits of gender-specific therapy in drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs. You will learn:

  • What happens in gender-specific therapy programs
  • The benefits of gender-specific group therapy
  • Where to find comprehensive outpatient programs and support

Contact the First Step Behavioral Health specialists to learn about our comprehensive programs or to schedule an intake appointment.

What is Gender-Specific Addiction Treatment?

Gender-specific addiction treatment programs offer separate programs for men and women. Treating men and women separately acknowledges that people of different genders have different needs. Gender-sensitive programs provide tailored support for men and women. It focuses on helping people of both genders address specific societal, cultural, and personal issues.[1]

Why is Therapy Important in Addiction Treatment?

Addiction is a complex condition with roots in a person’s experiences, genetics, behaviors, and environment. While some treatment programs focus only on treating the physical aspects of addiction, this is usually not enough to result in lasting recovery.

Comprehensive addiction treatment programs provide holistic support for a person’s body, mind, relationships, and spirit. Treatment plans include therapy, medications, holistic therapies, support groups, education, and more.

Therapy can help people explore and process their emotions and experiences. Individual and group therapy can help people identify the roots of their substance abuse. People learn to reduce stress, cope with challenges, and change destructive behaviors. They develop stronger communication skills and better self-esteem.

Therapy is one of the most critical aspects of long-lasting addiction recovery. Many people participate in therapy during treatment and afterward as part of an aftercare plan.

How Does Addiction Affect Men and Women Differently?

Gender-specific addiction therapy focuses on the needs of each person. It recognizes the differences men and women face during addiction and recovery.

Here is an overview of some of the differences between men’s and women’s experiences with addiction.

Type of substance used

Research shows that women are most likely to become addicted to prescription drugs.[2] Men are more likely to enter treatment for alcohol abuse or illicit drug addiction.


Women may have a more significant response to drugs, even in smaller doses. This can result in an earlier onset of physical dependence.

Mental health

Studies show that women are more likely to have anxiety or mood disorders. There is a strong link between mental health conditions and substance use disorder (SUD).[3]

Underlying cause

Research suggests that men and women may begin abusing substances for different reasons.[2] Men are more likely to use drugs or alcohol to improve confidence or improve social functioning. Women are more likely to self-medicate trauma, stress, anxiety, or other emotional pain.[3]

No two people have the exact same experiences with addiction or recovery. These gender-specific differences in substance abuse do not explain each person’s journey with addiction. However, understanding common patterns may help mental health and medical teams recognize and address problems quickly during treatment.

What are the Benefits of Gender-Specific Therapy?

Research shows that people benefit from gender-specific therapy during addiction treatment.[4] Women especially benefit significantly from treatment centers that offer this option.[3]

Here are some of the most significant benefits of gender-specific treatment.


Living with addiction can cause people to feel isolated and lonely. Having a community of people with similar experiences can help. Gender-specific therapy groups often form close connections and come to rely on one another’s support and guidance.


People of all genders may feel more comfortable expressing themselves in a gender-specific group. They must feel safe sharing their ideas, beliefs, and vulnerabilities without worrying about others’ judgment. Having a group of people of the same gender may make people feel safe and comfortable enough to open up.

Specific focus

Addiction affects people differently. Men and women often face different issues, including traditional gender roles, that can affect their experiences in addiction recovery. Gender-specific therapy sessions can provide tailored information people need to begin their recovery journey.

Find Treatment Now

If you or someone you love might benefit from gender-specific therapy, reach out to the team at First Step Behavioral Health to explore our women’s and men’s programs. We are happy to answer your questions, verify insurance, or help you schedule an intake evaluation.

Take the first step of your recovery journey by contacting us today.


  1. National Institute of Health: Gender and Use of Substance Abuse Treatment Services
  2. Springer Link: Gender Considerations in Addiction: Implications for Treatment
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use
  4. National Institute of Health: Women’s and Men’s Experiences in Group Therapy for Substance Use Disorders: A Qualitative Analysis

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