Why Gender-Specific Treatment Works

Southern California–based Balboa Horizons has found success in offering gender-specific addiction recovery programs for adult men and women 18 years of age and older. Clinical research has shown improved outcomes with gender-specific treatment. The separation creates an atmosphere of openness and acceptance and minimizes the distractions most often found in co-ed facilities.

“It’s a fact that young women and men are going to act differently around the opposite sex. However, we want people to leave their act at the door,” says Executive Director Burr Cook. He notes that honesty, open-mindedness and willingness are often lacking initially, and denial and defenses are common. Many of Balboa Horizons’ clients have experienced various forms of trauma and abuse, and the climate in a co-ed community — especially one with younger adults — can discourage authenticity and vulnerability.

“What we are seeing with our clients in our gender-specific program is a willingness to become vulnerable much quicker and more completely than in the co-ed environment,” says Cook. “Issues around honesty, trust, safety, asking for help and willingness to help all become easier to deal with in the gender-specific environment. In this type of treatment, clients are able to focus on self more completely without the obvious distractions and spend less time ‘behind the mask,’ which equals more time ‘getting real.’”

—Patti Zielinski

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