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The Differences Between Co-Ed and Gender-Specific Programs

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The primary goal of substance abuse treatment is to help people stop using drugs and alcohol so they can live healthy, fulfilling lives. However, recovery works differently for different people, and everyone has their own unique needs when it comes to treatment.

Some people may be concerned about going to a program where people of the opposite gender will be present. Others may feel like that type of program wouldn’t prepare them for the real world. Understanding the differences between co-ed and gender-specific addiction treatment programs can help people make the right decision about which program is right for them.

What is Co-Ed Addiction Treatment?

Co-ed addiction treatment is an approach to substance abuse treatment that involves both men and women. Unless a rehab center specifies that it is geared toward either men or women, it is co-ed. When most people think of substance abuse treatment, they generally think of co-ed programs.

Co-ed treatment consists of both small and large group therapy and educational sessions where both genders are in attendance. This approach allows men and women to work together to solve problems, gain support, and develop healthy coping mechanisms. The only time men and women are split up is when it comes to housing. These programs usually have separate housing facilities for each gender.

The main goal of this approach is to help everyone learn how to overcome their addictions and stay sober.

What is Gender-Specific Addiction Treatment?

Gender-specific rehab programs are those that separate men and women for the duration of their care. Some addiction treatment programs may tend only to the needs of one gender, while others will have separate programs for each gender. The men stay with the men and the women stay with the women.

Gender-specific treatment aims to address the differences between men and women when it comes to addiction and recovery. They may even practice gender-matching and only match female therapists with women and male therapists with men.[1]

For men, rehab may look like:

  • Building meaningful relationships with other men
  • Learning how to get vulnerable and express one’s emotions
  • Educate men on addiction among men, common triggers, and patterns that are common among men who struggle with addiction
  • Address common issues among men such as physical health, anger management, healthy coping mechanisms, and more
  • Providing men’s health screenings and carets to low-income individuals who otherwise would not be able to afford health insurance

Women, on the other hand, have different needs than men. Women’s rehab may consist of:

  • Breaking down barriers and stigmas that women face when it comes to seeking addiction treatment [1]
  • Developing meaningful relationships with other women
  • Trauma therapy to address past traumas and other sensitive topics like sexual abuse, physical abuse, miscarriage, pregnancy, and more
  • Mental health counseling to address common comorbidities among women like depression and anxiety [2]
  • Women’s health screening services, reproductive care referrals, and basic preventative care
  • Educate women on patterns women struggle within recovery, common triggers, and other gender-specific issues such as motherhood

Pros and Cons of Gender-Specific Programs

There are pros and cons to both co-ed and gender-specific treatment programs. Since the majority of addiction treatment centers are co-ed, it’s helpful to understand the benefits and drawbacks of gender-specific substance abuse treatment programs.


Gender-specific programs can:[2]

  • Reduce sexual tensions and distraction during treatment
  • Make members of a certain gender feel more comfortable or safe discussing personal issues (i.e. sexual abuse, anger management, dating, relationships, etc.)
  • Provide an emotionally safe space for victims of domestic or sexual violence
  • Approach gender-unique issues in a sensitive, understanding way
  • Make patients feel safe by providing a private, yet inclusive environment


Gender-specific rehab programs have some disadvantages, as well. For example:

  • Treatment may not address certain misconceptions one gender has about the other
  • Treatment may not adequately prepare some patients on how to deal with co-ed situations in the real-world
  • There are few opportunities for real-world conversations involving both genders which can affect communication skills

Why Do Some People Prefer Gender-Specific Rehab?

For some people, opening up about one’s innermost feelings, beliefs, and experiences with someone of the opposite gender can be difficult. Men may feel afraid to be judged or misunderstood by women. Women, on the other hand, may not feel emotionally safe doing so around men. Men who have a history of relapsing during relationships may need to stay away from women for a little while, so they can benefit from gender-specific rehab rather than co-ed treatment. At the same time, women are more likely to be the victims of sexual or domestic violence, so many women can benefit from obtaining support in a safe environment surrounded by other women.[3]

Even though co-ed addiction treatment programs offer patients a broader range of services for each gender, gender-specific programs are able to provide highly individualized care that considers gender-specific issues.

Ultimately, both programs are effective, so it’s most important to consider a patient’s specific needs so they can choose the program that will benefit them the most.

difference between co ed and gender specific treatment

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Find The Right Addiction Treatment Program Today

If you are ready to begin your recovery but are unsure whether a co-ed or gender-specific treatment program is right for you, our team at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment can help. Pick up the phone and call now to speak with a dedicated addiction specialist who will assess your needs and help you choose the right treatment program for you.


  1. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh291/55-62.htm
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6470905/
  3. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/substance-use-in-women/sex-gender-differences-in-substance-use-disorder-treatment
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Medically Reviewed By

Inessa Maloney, MS, LMHC Clinical Director
Learn about Inessa Maloney

Inessa Maloney, MS, LMHC has been dedicated to the mental health and substance abuse field for a decade, providing her expertise to guarantee quality and accuracy.

  • Specializes in outpatient services with a focus on substance abuse
  • Expertise in reality-based therapy, CBT/DBT, and motivational interviewing
  • Holds a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling
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