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My Experience Working with Women and Substance Abuse

 

I want you to picture in your mind the last time you faced a difficult obstacle in your path through life. An obstacle that made you really angry because you could not move it and you did not have the resources or power to solve it.

Now, let’s raise the stakes even higher. Let’s suppose you face the same obstacles, but this time, you are a woman with no insurance, no job, lack of childcare, and a fear of losing your children. Oh, and on top of that, you have a drug addiction. Scary situation, right?

I have learned a few things about this vulnerable population over the last eight years in my counseling practice, and they’re growing. The resources to help these women, however, have not increased and this population continues to struggle and suffer.

My Story

I receive much energy and vigor when working with women with substance abuse issues. I love their stories. More than that, I want to be a partner in their journey. In my practice, I see a wide range of individuals, all at different stages in the recovery process. Some individuals are in denial that they have a problem, while others are in sustained recovery and are working on identifying the person they want to become (a loss of identity is common when in recovery).

My initial interest in treating substance abuse started when I kept seeing the same women come through the doors of the hospital I worked in. They would be admitted for health complications due to substance abuse, detox, and then leave only to return within the next 30 days. Thus, the revolving door continued.

Women and Drug Addiction Treatment

Women have different needs than their male counterparts when it comes to substance abuse treatment. Women with substance abuse issues are less likely to initiate and complete treatment compared to men. This is due to social stigma, childcare issues, and custody issues; women simply have different needs and barriers to overcome when accessing treatment. Thus, research suggests that the initiation of treatment is gender related. This fascinates and irritates me. Why is there a lack of gender-specific treatment programs in the 21st Century? Why is the social stigma ever-present for women?

Children as a Motivation For Sobriety

Research suggests that children are viewed as providing as much sobriety support for parents as their adult support networks. This finding is consistent with many studies suggesting that children serve as catalysts and motivators for women entering treatment and completing treatment. I have known several mothers who were addicted to drugs and they tell me the only reason they stay sober is for their children. So I wonder, what if more facilities allowed children to stay with their parents during treatment?

My Personal Calling

I do not believe my story as a clinician and advocate for gender-specific services is that different from others in the counseling field. I do feel that I have a personal desire and duty to spread the message to help my fellow women overcome addiction and achieve sobriety. I stand with them in solidarity. My advocacy and work has been and will continue to focus on women and mothers who are addicted to drugs and other substances.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse or drug addiction, let your voice be heard.

Adina Silvestri, EdD, is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a member of the American Counseling Association and specializes in treating women with substance abuse issues. Learn more at http://adinasilvestri.com.

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