Recovery is anything but a one-size-fits-all process. Each person has a unique past with substance use, personal triggers to drug use, genetic factors that come into play and strengths that are different for each individual.

Recovery is an extremely personal process, and the journey is different for women than men. Historically, men are more likely to struggle with a substance use disorder than women, and for this reason recovery programs can often seem designed for men. 

In this article we’ll explore the unique needs and challenges women face in recovery and how intensive outpatient programs can cater to women.

Women’s recovery

Until recently little attention has been paid to how specific demographic groups respond to substance abuse treatment. The research on women’s recovery is increasing and there are many differences you’ll want to take note of.

How drugs impact women differently

Drug use for both men and women poses a threat to the health of the immune system, the liver, the heart, the brain and other vital organs. In addition to these shared consequences, women also face damage to the endocrine system (the body’s hormones), fertility, menstrual cycles, pregnancy and nursing.

There’s plenty of evidence that substance use is dangerous and potentially fatal to both the mother and her child in the short term, and could have impacts that last a lifetime. For this reason and others, women may also be more reluctant to seek treatment for fear of judgment, loss of custody or legal consequences.

Different reasons women begin and continue drug use

Women often report seeking out drugs or continuing to use a harmful drug for different reasons than men. Women are more prone to utilize substances as aids in losing weight, managing fatigue, dealing with chronic pain (women deal with chronic pain more often than men) and as an attempt to self-medicate.

Intensive outpatient programs for women

Struggling with a substance use disorder comes with unique needs and challenges. Oftentimes, the best way to heal from a drug problem is an intensive outpatient program for substance abuse. These programs are non-residential, meaning patients return home at night, and offer 

Many women find themselves unable to attend treatment due to childcare duties at home. An outpatient program can accommodate mothers and caregivers by allowing them the flexibility they need to care for their loved ones. 

Intensive outpatient programs may feel more comfortable for women who have been victims of abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that women who have experiences of domestic violence are more likely to struggle with addiction, and these women may prefer to return to the comfort of their own homes after a day of treatment.

An intensive outpatient program allows women to receive vital care during early recovery. Intensive outpatient programs for substance abuse often include one-on-one and group therapy, education on the science of addiction, coping strategies training, access to educational and financial opportunities, assistance with transportation and career help.

What to expect out of treatment

Starting treatment for the first time can be terrifying, especially for those who face external barriers to treatment. While there are some women-only facilities for rehab, not all intensive outpatient treatment for substance abuse is designed to be gender-specific. 

If you partake in an outpatient program, however, you can definitely expect the following. 

Personalized treatment plans

In recovery, regardless of whether you attend a women-only or co-ed program, you’ll receive a personalized treatment plan that factors in your needs and preferences, long term goals, history of substance abuse and individual strengths.

The goals and objectives in your treatment plan are concrete milestones you’re aiming to achieve and the steps you’ll take to get there. Your goals will both pertain to sobriety and include accomplishments you want to achieve in your daily life, like finishing school or regaining custody of your children.


Women typically attend intensive outpatient programs at a vulnerable point in their lives. Whether you’re simultaneously trying to leave an abusive partner, experiencing homelessness or involved in dangerous circles. You’ll find that even though outpatient treatment is non-residential, you’ll have assistance finding a safe place to stay and be assured of maximum security at the rehab center.

A continuum of care

When you’re starting treatment for a substance use problem, there’s no need to worry whether you’re signing up for the right program. You’ll first talk through a level of care assessment to determine the rehab program that is most appropriate at the current time. 

You’ll also automatically be connected to a sliding scale of treatment that can help you from your very first day to years down the line when you can say you’ve achieved sobriety. This continuum of care includes treatment for drug use as well as services to help with: 

  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Medication
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Childcare
  • Education
  • Career opportunities
  • Financial assistance

Those listed are just some of the ways in which the continuum of care can assist you.

Finding women’s recovery to meet your needs

If you are looking for treatment designed with women in mind, check out Real Recovery Personalized treatment from compassionate and certified staff will get you the care you need in the environment you want. When you find sobriety through Real Recovery you’ll feel safe, understood and free. Call today.