Why Might a Person Want Male-Specific Rehab?
While gender is very societally influenced, it is still something that impacts us in a variety of ways and that many people put significant importance on.
Culturally, men and women are often viewed and treated differently, sometimes in an active, codified sense, such as in the law, and other times in a less concrete but still very real sense, such as in the way other people talk to and about them. While fully exploring these differences is beyond the scope of this article, it’s important to acknowledge that gender can significantly impact a person’s life experiences.
As for why a man might want a male-specific rehab treatment, they may have had negative experiences with women in the past. For example, some people have been the victims of trauma, especially sexual trauma, which can make their interactions with people of certain genders much more difficult.
Even if we acknowledge it is important to work through those feelings with a mental health professional and develop a healthier way of viewing people of other genders, that isn’t the role of addiction rehab. Drug rehab treatments are specifically about helping a person detox from drugs and then recover from their addiction, and the treatments used should maximize the chance of a successful recovery.
It’s also possible a man may want a rehab treatment program tailored specifically to issues men tend to deal with more or in significantly different ways compared to women.
What the Evidence Suggests
It’s first worth noting that most research on this subject has an inherent cisgender, binary, man-or-woman approach. While this doesn’t generally seem to be intentional, it does mean people who aren’t cisgender or otherwise exist outside that binary may go ignored by researchers.
It’s also important to note that someone being a man only means they’re more likely to have certain traits and preferences. Men are obviously a very diverse, large group of human beings to discuss.
General Treatments Work for All Genders
Available research suggests that many available substance abuse treatments we might consider useful for men are the same as would be considered generally useful. At the same time, men seem to have certain preferences, such as often preferring instrumental approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Why Male-Specific Treatment Might Help
Men can benefit from all-male treatment options if they might otherwise be uncomfortable opening up around women or be distracted by women, such as engaging in behaviors meant to impress them.
Culturally, men often feel a strong desire to have autonomy and can benefit from an approach to treatment that makes them feel they are maintaining their autonomy and are entering treatment voluntarily. This isn’t to say that only men value this approach, but it is often especially important to male patients.
Differences in Biology
Research does make it clear that differences in the brain related to biology exist, but that don’t mean people of different genders, even when only discussing cisgender people, are necessarily hardwired to be significantly different from each other. With that said, there are some differences in the way men tend to use drugs and experience addiction.
Even more complexly, these differences also seem to be changing. According to current research, adolescent boys and girls seem to be showing much more similar rates of drug use than seen with previous generations. This may have to do with the way we have culturally progressed toward a greater sense that males and females should be treated equally not just under the law but also socially.
To simplify the complexities of current research (especially considering this topic warrants more research than is currently available), the available evidence seems to suggest that at least some men can benefit from a different approach than might work for a mixed or women-specific group.
Through a combination of both biological and cultural factors, men can have subtle and less subtle differences in the way they experience addiction that may change what the ideal treatment looks like for them. At the same time, few if any of these differences are universal among men, even if we only consider cisgender men that are biologically similar. These differences can also change and warp depending on the environment a person grows up in.
Pros & Cons of Inpatient Rehab for Men
A primary benefit of a male-specific rehab treatment program is that the program can be more customized to the patients, focusing on issues that are more common with men than women or other groups. This may be especially helpful for men with a “traditional” view of masculinity and who may have difficulties acting a certain way (or not acting a certain way) around people of different genders.
It’s also important to note that even as we strive for an equal society, it needs to be acknowledged (because it is supported by research) that the general habits and experiences of men and women are different and that can affect their needs.
The cons of male-specific rehab are that many men may significantly differ from what the “conventional” man may most benefit from in treatment. Many more men likely won’t see a significant difference in male-specific or mixed treatment settings. Some men may be less comfortable in a dominantly male environment, especially if the treatment is designed based on certain assumptions that don’t apply to them.
If you’re deciding whether you want to enter inpatient rehab designed for men specifically, there are some important considerations to make.
The first is the quality of the program you’re considering. Make sure any treatment option you’re considering is going to be provided by trained experts knowledgeable in the latest addiction treatment research. Try to learn what their male-specific treatment program is like and how it differs from a mixed gender treatment program.
Second, consider why you might want a male-specific treatment. If you genuinely think it will help you be more comfortable and more easily continue the addiction recovery process, it may be worthwhile.
Also consider if you want only men involved in the treatment, or if you are okay with female counselors and staff members, as different programs can have different policies on that matter. Only some have an all-male pool of clients, and others also have an all or mostly male team of treatment professionals too.
- Addressing the Specific Behavioral Health Needs of Men. (2013). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Sex Differences, Gender and Addiction. (July 2017). Journal of Neuroscience Research
- Gender and Use of Substance Abuse Treatment Services. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.