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Drug and Alcohol Rehab for Women

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Finding the right drug rehab center is an important part of treatment and recovery for addiction. Many women have found that pursuing a women’s rehab center has helped address their unique needs. Others may find benefit in certain services at rehab centers that are tailored to women. Several issues lead women to seek women’s only rehab programs, such as difficulties in their relationships with partners or children, women’s health issues, trauma, pregnancy, or others.

Women may be wondering what women’s rehab centers are, how drug and alcohol addiction may differ in women, and what the different types of rehab centers are, as well as their benefits. If you are a woman weighing your options for rehab programs, this article will address common questions and concerns and help you make a decision that is right for you.


What are Women’s Rehab Centers?

While most drug and alcohol rehab centers accept clients regardless of gender, you have the option to pursue a single-gender program as well. General rehab programs typically have gendered living and sleeping spaces or have clients staying in rooms by themselves. One benefit to pursuing a women’s only rehab center would be the sense of community that emerges from being part of a group of women with similar experiences.

Women’s substance abuse treatment acknowledges that “relationships are central in women’s lives,” and that connection to others can be “mutual, empowering, and emotional resources” in recovery.1 Having strong social connections to others in treatment may also help clients feel comfortable discussing sensitive issues like mental health, trauma, or women’s health issues. Research into women’s rehab centers has indicated that clients who participate in single-gender programs tend to stay in treatment longer and have higher rates of completion.1

Silhouette of sad woman heroin addictWomen’s rehab centers may also be more adept at addressing the common issues that lead women to seek treatment for drug and alcohol use. For example, single mothers may struggle to find childcare coverage during the time they are in treatment. While this may be a barrier to care for some, some women’s rehab centers offer childcare onsite or help clients to coordinate with outside agencies.1 There is emerging research that suggests that residential or inpatient programs that offer onsite childcare for participants can improve parenting skills and strengthen family relationships.2

Other programs may offer an outpatient format, where clients can reside at home between treatment sessions. Another service that women may benefit from in a rehab program is domestic violence advocacy and trauma counseling. Research into women and substance abuse has shown that having experienced sexual, physical, or emotional abuse greatly increases the risk of developing a substance use disorder.3 Utilizing a trauma-informed approach and addressing these interrelated issues is key in helping women recover from substance abuse.1


Drug and Alcohol Addiction in Women

The experience of drug and alcohol addiction is often very different for women than it is for men, and not just due to psychosocial issues like gender-based violence or the impact of motherhood. Research suggests that women may have more frequent cravings to use drugs and may be more likely to relapse after treatment.4 They may also experience greater sensitivity to the effects of some drugs due to sex hormones, as well as greater physical effects on their circulatory system.4 It is important to consider the impact of substance abuse on fertility, pregnancy, and caring for infants, especially those who are breastfeeding.

Using substances during pregnancy is highly risky for both the pregnant woman and the fetus.4 This includes the use of substances that many people might think are harmless, such as nicotine or marijuana. In a 2018 national survey of women and substance abuse, a significant increase was noted in women who use marijuana daily or near daily.5 Marijuana use during pregnancy has been linked to lower birth weight for infants, as well as the risk of stillbirth.4 Heavy use of other substances, like alcohol, has been linked to infertility in women who are trying to become pregnant, as well as changes in menstrual cycles.1


What Benefits Can Women Expect from Rehab?

Drug and alcohol rehab can benefit not just you as an individual woman, but also your relationships with your family, partner, friends, and children. Many women who use substances may be doing so to cope with unhealthy family dynamics, or the pain of an abusive childhood.1 Rehab can help women to not only better understand and cope with these past experiences, but also develop strategies for communicating with their family members going forward.

Similarly, another benefit women may experience is improved parenting skills. Many outpatient rehabs can work with your schedule to help you find childcare, or even offer childcare onsite as part of treatment.2 Whether you are working through past experiences with your family of origin, or learning how to care for a family of your own, rehab can be a beneficial part of your journey.

Other features of rehab that may appeal to women in recovery are ancillary services, such as education about women’s health and wellness, single-gender accommodations, and women’s support groups. There is strong evidence that being in a single-gender environment increases a sense of connectedness with other clients in rehab and helps you to stay sober.1 This sense of connection can also help you open up about the mental health impact of addiction, whether in support groups or individual counseling. Many women drink or use drugs to cope with trauma, co-occurring depression, anxiety, or another mental illness such as an eating disorder.2 In response to the growing number of women experiencing these symptoms, rehab centers have begun screening for mental health symptoms and trauma history at the onset of treatment.2


Inpatient Rehab vs. Outpatient Rehab for Women

Your treatment plan for rehab will be based on what level of care you need, and this starts with determining the right setting. Considered a more intensive option, inpatient treatment is typically held in a medical setting like a hospital, clinic, or facility, and can last from 30 to 60 days up to 6 to 12 months.6 While inpatient is typically a residential program, meaning clients stay overnight at the rehab center during treatment, outpatient treatment allows clients to live at home to stay close to their families during treatment.6 Length of stay is typically determined based on your needs at the time you are starting treatment, and your treatment plan will change as you progress. Generally, it is recommended that treatment last 90 days or more to be considered most effective.6

What is an Inpatient/Residential Rehab Center?

Inpatient treatment is also sometimes called residential rehab because clients live at the rehab center full-time while they are completing treatment.7 For this reason, inpatient rehab may be a good fit for clients who lack a supportive home environment. Another benefit of inpatient rehab is access to medical and mental health care 24/7 during the early recovery phase; treatment is designed to reduce the risk of relapse once a client leaves this phase of treatment.6 Because clients are closely monitored by medical professionals, inpatient rehab may be a good fit for women who are pregnant, have a co-occurring mental illness, or have a chronic health problem.

Clients who require withdrawal management may also benefit from inpatient treatment for medical detoxification services.6 Because the medical staff are onsite in a residential or inpatient rehab, they can assist clients with managing medications and their overall health.

What is an Outpatient Rehab Center?

Outpatient treatment differs from an inpatient or residential setting in that clients go home to their own residences after treatment has ended for the day. Outpatient can be a good fit for clients struggling to find childcare, who have a strong support system at home, or who have to work or attend school while in treatment.6 Within outpatient treatment, there are also different levels of care depending on the intensity of treatment a client needs:

  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): Treatment is held 3–4 times per week in a structured group format for a longer duration during the day.1
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): An IOP is a more intense treatment program than PHP. Treatment is held several times per week in a structured group format, sometimes in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate various schedules.1 The flexibility of an IOP is considered a benefit of this format and has led to increased rates of completion among postpartum women.1
  • Outpatient counseling: Clients attend 1–2 weekly sessions of individual or group therapy led by a mental health clinician, typically after the completion of a higher level of care such as PHP or IOP.1

Behavioral Therapy and Aftercare

After you have completed addiction treatment, many programs advise moving on to an aftercare program to solidify the skills you learned. Women are more likely to relapse after treatment, which makes aftercare an important support in early recovery.4 Research indicates that aftercare programs that are targeted to women’s needs tend to be the most effective in preventing relapse.1 Many clients may decide to stay in a sober living environment after completing treatment, and many women find that a single-gender environment is useful.

Aftercare is usually held in a group format, much like outpatient treatment, and may also include a component of individual therapy. These group sessions may use a variety of approaches, but one of the most common is cognitive-behavioral therapy. Also called CBT, this approach targets the link between maladaptive thought processes, painful emotions, and behaviors to help people overcome addiction.8

Another common approach is contingency management, which uses incentives or prizes to reinforce positive behavior in recovery, such as a negative drug test.9 A third approach that is similar to both of these is motivational interviewing, in which counselors utilize relationship-building skills to help clients move through the change process of quitting drugs and alcohol.10

Many aftercare plans advise participation in some kind of peer support program, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).11 Some women may prefer to continue their recovery journey in a single-gender setting, such as in groups like Women for Sobriety, which focus on emotional and spiritual well-being for women.11


Effects of Drugs and Alcohol During Pregnancy

If you are pregnant, using drugs and alcohol can have a significant impact on your health. Many pregnant women may avoid seeking treatment for drug or alcohol addiction due to fear of legal problems or social stigma.12 While this is a valid concern, your well-being is by far the most important factor to consider. Federal law requires that pregnant women receive prioritized admission to publicly funded substance use treatment.12

Fast access to treatment is especially important if you need detoxification from drugs or alcohol. For example, if you use opioids while pregnant, there is an increased likelihood that both the mother and baby can become addicted and experience withdrawal symptoms.12 This is a growing problem in the United States—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that between 1999 and 2014, the number of pregnant women using opioids at the time of delivery quadrupled.13 As you step down from detox to a lower level of care, IOP may be a good option, allowing you to arrange childcare, balance working and parenting with treatment, or gain support in a women-only setting.


Find an Addiction Treatment Program

If you are a woman seeking drug and/or alcohol addiction treatment, it is never too late to take the first step. Contact one of our admissions navigators today to discuss your specific needs and find an option that is right for you. They can help you verify your insurance benefits or locate a rehab center in your area. Call American Addiction Centers at

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Jennifer Fifield is a Senior Web Content Editor at American Addiction Centers and an addiction content expert for drugabuse.com and recovery.org. She holds a bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism and a master’s degree in Health Promotion Management. Jennifer has served as a content editor on numerous articles, web pages, and blog posts within the medical, dental, and vision industry. She has 15+ years of experience in higher education including writing/editing, administrative, and teaching positions within the health/wellness, accreditation, and health communications areas.
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