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An eye-opening exploration of women's addiction, recovery

April 16, 2012
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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We have devoted a great deal of attention to the importance of gender-sensitive treatment services, and we often are reminded that a great deal more learning must take place in this area. In a brilliantly delivered webinar presentation on April 11, the clinical director of Caron Texas pointed out that while women become addicted and achieve recovery in different ways from men’s experiences, only 8% of all substance abuse research has specifically investigated women’s needs.

As a result, said Brenda Iliff, MA, LADC, CAC, answers to many seemingly basic questions continue to elude the field, such as whether women fare better in treatment with a therapist of the same gender. (There does seem to be evidence-based consensus that gender-specific groups benefit women in treatment).

Iliff’s presentation, “Equal but Different: Top 5 Issues Women Face in Addiction and Recovery,” combined data, heartfelt emotion, and a sharp wit to deliver the message that women’s inclination toward connection with others makes them hard-wired for recovery—provided that clinicians understand what addicted women bring to the therapeutic milieu and how critical issues can be addressed successfully.

Iliff surveyed webinar participants at several intervals during her hourlong presentation, and in one of these surveys respondents favored “social stigma” as the biggest barrier to women seeking treatment for addiction. Yet Iliff said it is actually the perception of not needing treatment that poses the greatest obstacle, as evidenced in past research.

Iliff discussed several factors that are critical both to women’s experience of addiction and to the process of recovery, from relationship building to past trauma history to the presence of prevalent co-occurring issues such as eating disorders.

She stated that even some tried-and-true aspects of treatment and recovery, such as the “one day at a time” orientation of 12-Step based programming, should adjust to the needs of women. She suggested that a “just for today” approach constitutes a better fit than “one day at a time” for women who might see a daunting process ahead of them.

Click the webinars link on this site’s homepage for more details about the April 11 webinar and upcoming events; I hope you will join us soon for one of these practical and informative sessions.


Gary Enos


Gary Enos

Gary A. Enos has been the editor of Addiction Professional since its inception. He also...

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