Alcohol Rehab for Women

Women, Alcoholism And Treatment



Targeted alcohol rehab for Women
Alcoholism treatment needs to reflect, and provide for, gender differences




It was only in the 1990's that studies on women and alcoholism were allowed to receive federal funds. Prior to this money was only allocated to studies on men and alcohol dependence. You can speculate as to why this was, but what it underlines is the attitude of the mainstream to alcoholism; it is a condition on which gender has no bearing.

This attitude is also reflected in the fact that for many years treatments for alcoholism have made no distinction between men and women. Treatment centers and support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous do not acknowledge that sex plays a role, and as result group therapy etc. are mixed.

Recently, however, there has been a shift in this attitude to women and alcoholism, and a recognition that gender does indeed play a role in the causes of alcoholism and, by extension, must be factored into the treatment of alcoholism.

Targeted alcohol rehab for women is a necessity.


Causes Of Alcoholism In Women

Some causes of alcoholism are gender specific, the following are factors that can lead to women turning to alcohol:

  • Many women suffer from low self-worth and have self-esteem issues. Alcohol eases these feelings.
  • Abuse - physical, sexual, verbal and emotional. Abuse in both childhood and adulthood is more common among women. Erasing the memory with drink helps, at least in the short term.
  • Co-dependent relationships are often a cause of alcohol dependency. When a woman (or man) places all their self-worth in the person of their partner, they fear losing him so they will do anything to please, if he drinks then so will she.
  • Many women have unreasonable expectations of themselves. They need to have a job, look after the family, keep the house and look good at the same time. A sense of failure in not matching up to the perfect woman can lead to the drink cupboard.
  • Eating disorders are much more common among women than men. Alcohol is often used as a substitute for food, or to cover the shame of their condition. It is not unusual for women to present at treatment centers with an eating disorder AND alcohol dependency. According to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 50% of those with an eating disorder also abuse alcohol or drugs.
  • Depression is much more common among women, many abuse alcohol as a form of self-medication. Eventually dependency develops and the depression worsens (alcohol being a central nervous-system depressant).

Blaming men for women's alcoholism is not the way to go. But looking at the above causes of women's alcoholism, one sees that men do play a large role in the development of alcoholism in many women. It is not hard, then, to see why mixed support groups and treatment centers are not ideal.



AA Alternatives :



How Alcohol Rehab For Women Differs

Most obviously, there are no men.

This is important because:

  • A woman who suffered abuse at the hands of a husband, or feels that men's implicit demands led to her alcoholism is not going to be willing to talk about these issues whilst in a mixed therapy group. Issues that, if not resolved and brought out into the open, may well lead to alcohol relapse.
  • Women are more likely to feel safe among other women and be able to empathize with one another.
  • As mentioned above, women are more likely than men to have a dual-diagnosis, that is suffer from mental health problems AND alcohol-dependency. Women-only treatment centers can cater for both conditions.
  • Some alcohol rehabs for women have facilities for mothers to spend some time with their children. Alcohol rehab usually lasts for a minimum of four weeks, a long time for a mother to spend without her child(ren).

The need for women to attend single-sex alcohol rehabs is borne out by the statistics; women who undergo alcohol rehab for women are more likely to recover from alcoholism (and stay recovered) than those at a mixed treatment center.





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What To Expect At Alcohol Rehab For Women

As with any other alcohol rehab, there are three main parts to alcohol rehab for women:

  • Detox From Alcohol (3 to 6 days)
  • Recovery program (4-6 weeks)
  • Aftercare - Relapse Prevention-Support Group (A Lifetime)

Detoxing from alcohol and Relapse Prevention/support groups are dealt with separately on this site.

Your actual stay in a rehab will differ depending on the specific treatment center you attend, but typically you can expect some of the following treatments/activities/therapies:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Psychodrama
  • Meditation
  • Life-skills therapy
  • One-to-one counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Taichi

The possibilities are endless. Generally alcohol rehab for women utilizes more of these holistic treatments as women are more receptive to them then men.


12 Step Programs And Alcoholic Women

Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and other 12 step programs are generally mixed. This is not ideal as explained above. Although, research has shown that a woman attending AA is more likely to get sober, and stay sober, than a man.

Despite this, many women are not comfortable with AA due to its...

  • ...patriarchal nature, AA was founded by two men, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, members of the Oxford group; an overtly Christian group. Christianity is a patriarchal religion in which god is a He and the savior of the world, Jesus Christ, is a He.
  • ...the 12 steps, which were written by men for men. Members of AA are taught through the steps that they can only arrest their alcoholism if they relinquish control, embrace humility and hand over power to God. This is fine for men, but this lack of control and humility has been the lot of many women all their lives. Women can find it hard to relate to this.
  • ..a feeling of insecurity. There are (which is true of any large organization) bad people lurking in AA looking to capitalize on the vulnerable. There are men who use AA as a pick-up joint, taking advantage of women going through bad times.

Having said all this, there are women only 12-step groups that can be a great strength to women trying to recover from alcoholism. Some of these groups amend the steps to make them less male-centered.

Women for Sobriety (WFS) is a support group specifically for women in recovery. Its secular nature is what makes it fundamentally different from Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12-step method.



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Deborah Morrow, M.S. Addiction Psychology, is the director of treatment programs for The Alcoholism Guide website. In her practice, Deborah provides on-line coaching and support for those dependent on alcohol or who require other services such as relapse prevention or court mandated services. (Read More)



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