Because there are significant differences between men and women with alcohol use disorders, it is logical that there should be specific support groups for women in the same way that there are support groups for men, for individuals with certain types of co-occurring disorders, and for individuals with different types of substance use disorders. It is important to remember that there is no treatment or recovery program that is applicable to everyone.
According to research reports in the journals Substance Use and Misuse and the Journal of Addictive Diseases, there are additional reasons why women-only support groups may be beneficial.
Many support groups were developed based on the needs of male participants, including the original development of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
The reasons that men and women abuse alcohol are often very different.
Many of the issues in recovery that occur for men and women can be significantly different.
Peer support groups are designed to foster the support of individuals with the same or similar experiences. Attempts to make peer support groups more homogeneous can bolster the support.
Women-only support groups can address many of the cultural issues that women who have alcohol use disorders face, such as being caregivers, attempting to balance work and private life, etc.
Women with alcohol use disorders often have body image issues, and are often reluctant to discuss these issues with men.
Women with alcohol use disorders may feel more comfortable discussing physical, emotional, or sexual abuse with other women.
Women are encouraged to get sponsors in 12-Step groups that are also female. The prospects for finding a suitable sponsor are increased if the support group consists entirely of females.
Women with co-occurring disorders may feel more comfortable discussing other issues with women in a closed environment.
Becoming involved in a gender-specific support group can bolster one’s recovery and increase the effectiveness of empirically validated alcohol use disorder recovery programs. These programs include the overall components of physician-assisted withdrawal management (medical detox), psychotherapy for alcohol use disorders, medical management, complementary and alternative therapies, etc. However, again, alcohol use disorder treatment is not the same for everyone. Some women may find that they prefer to attend gender-specific support groups for women, have a woman therapist, attend psychotherapy groups for alcohol use disorders and other mental health problems that consist only of female members, etc. Other women may not be inclined to participate in gender-specific support groups. In either of these cases, the preferences of these individuals should be respected.
The use of a gender-specific support group for women can greatly enhance an individual’s overall recovery program, help to reduce dropouts in treatment, and even help certain individuals avoid issues with relapse. Because women often experience issues associated with alcohol use disorders quite differently than men do, it is important that the special considerations associated with women who have alcohol use disorders be addressed in treatment. One of the most effective ways to do this, and to get women to open up and share their experiences, is to ensure they are able to attend support groups that cater to their special needs. Women-only support groups are viable options to meet this goal.