Just as addiction is unique to every person who experiences it, treatment should be tailored to the individual, too. Fortunately, there have never been so many options for treatment geared toward the specific needs of groups of people who share similar life experiences, background, language or beliefs. By choosing a treatment program designed especially with your needs in mind, you’re likely to feel a lot more at ease. When you feel comfortable in a treatment program, you’ll be able to focus completely on the task at hand: your recovery. Here are some options tailored to address the unique needs of special groups when it comes to treating addiction:
If You’re an Executive/Professional
Treatment for high-achieving executives is typically tailored to the needs of each individual and conducted in the company of other experienced professionals. These programs often emphasize effective communication, teamwork and goal-setting. You’ll work with skilled clinicians and clients to address not only your addiction(s) but also mental health issues, pain management and sleep and other lifestyle problems (including stress), if any. In choosing a treatment program with executives in mind, you’ll learn more about your addiction and work toward recovery with the help of both individual and group therapy. You may find there’s more emphasis on learning to balance work with the rest of your life; you’ll also learn to sidestep triggers, using effective coping strategies that will be helpful in managing your recovery in the midst of whatever the demands your professional and personal life may bring.
If You’re 50+
Substance use disorders are on the rise among Baby Boomers. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 6.2% of those 50-and-over had substance use disorders in 2009 compared to 2.7% of those in that same age group in 2009. And with over 76 million Boomers in the U.S. and their typically more tolerant attitudes toward drug use, it’s easy to see that there’s more need than ever for treatment programs for those over 50 struggling with addiction. By choosing treatment with those who are roughly your age and generation, you’re likely to find a powerful community of like-minded supporters to help you reach recovery. They, too, may be facing other health conditions or chronic pain common to getting older. As with most treatment programs, you should expect education on substance abuse (this will help you learn how to recognize and identify triggers to using), one-on-one therapy and group counseling and possibly medication to help with withdrawal symptoms and cravings. To prevent relapses, you’ll learn coping skills to help you reach sustained recovery.
If You’re a Woman
Addiction doesn’t discriminate, of course: It touches people from every walk of life, age, race and ethnicity and certainly both genders. But that doesn’t mean that women and men can’t benefit a lot from participating in single-sex addiction treatment. That’s because there tend to be some important differences in how men and women are affected by or deal with addiction. When it comes to seeking treatment for alcoholism, for example, women, on average, seek help four years earlier than do men. What’s more, addiction has other social and health concerns for women, including the problem of substance use in pregnancy, and the fact that women who seek treatment for drug abuse are more likely to have a history of physical and sexual trauma as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Women often have different emotional and health side effects from these, too, which can include more intense withdrawal symptoms.
Seeing addiction through the lens of its impact on a woman’s body, mind and life can create the right climate for change for you. A history of rape, trauma, neglect or abuse is a contributing factor to many addictions, as are relationship difficulties, body image and self-esteem issues and depression and anxiety, among other mental health issues. Treating these in concert with the addiction tremendously benefits women. For some, simply being among other women while in treatment can provide a non-threatening environment of support and caring.
If You’re a Teen or Young Adult
Adolescence through young adulthood is often a tumultuous time of life, not least because of the increased risk of drug abuse. In fact, it’s during these years that people are most likely to begin abusing drugs, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Because the needs and perspectives of younger people aren’t necessarily the same as those of older adults dealing with addiction, treatment programs should also be different. First and foremost, treatment is a safe refuge for an adolescent (defined as ages 13 to 17) and for his or her family. Second, a teen-focused program allows a younger person to benefit from being in an environment with their peers; adolescents, after all, are not mini-adults — their brains, bodies and identities are still developing. Substance addiction in particular is more problematic in adolescents because it disrupts normal brain function, which in turn affects motivation, memory, learning, judgment and behavior, says NIDA. Adolescents, who are hard-wired to be risk-takers, also tend to abuse different drugs than adults, experience withdrawal symptoms to a lesser extent, are more apt to hide their use and are less likely to seek treatment on their own. Treatment may also vary in another way: Many medications that are FDA-approved for addictions are not approved for adolescent use, another reason adolescents need a setting all their own.
If you attend a treatment program specifically for teens or for young adults, you can also expect to find an emphasis on academics; that may mean you’ll attend on-site education in core courses for three to four hours a day, so you can continue working toward recovery while not missing out on your diploma. Similarly, young adults may choose day or outpatient treatment so they can continue attending college classes. Adolescent programming is often gender-specific, with males and females housed and treated separately. In treatment, teens learn to overcome destructive behaviors and practice the coping and communication skills they’ll need to live happy, productive lives and sustain their recoveries.
If You’re a Christian
If your faith is at the center of your life, you may want to choose a spiritually-based addiction treatment program that allows you to be led to recovery in a religious-minded environment. Bible teachings and passages are used to inspire change and to encourage the finding of strength and support through Christ, giving over your burdens to the Lord. Through Bible study, prayer and meditation, treatment will focus on strengthening your faith and your resistance to temptation, along with traditional methods for treatment, which may include a combination of medication, counseling (individual, group and/or family therapy) and/or 12-step or other mutual-support self-help groups.
If You’re a Spanish Speaker
Talking about addiction is rarely easy. Then imagine trying to do so in a language that’s not your own. So it makes sense that more treatment centers are offering programs that cater to the needs of the Hispanic/Latino population, and more specifically, offer counseling, education and other treatment resources in the native tongue of the person going through treatment. These programs also strive to take into account the cultural differences that may affect attitudes and awareness about addiction, treatment and recovery. You should expect that all classes and written material will be in Spanish, so that language is never a barrier to your recovery. Because the family is so vital in the Hispanic community, Spanish-speaking treatment programs make the most of these close familial ties, traditions and, where applicable, religious beliefs. Many Spanish-speaking and multicultural programs offer families the opportunity to work with the addict throughout the treatment process and into the first year of recovery. In short, these programs typically make it easier for family members to offer the daily, ongoing support their loved one needs.
If You’re LGBTQ
If you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ), you may want to be in treatment with others who understand something about your experience. To that end, a LGBTQ program should provide you with a supportive group of peers and health care providers who are sensitive to homophobia, trauma and any other issues personal to you that may underpin your addiction as well as any accompanying mental health issues. Cases of substance abuse and addiction are higher within LGBTQ community; statistics show that LGBTQ individuals are less apt to abstain from alcohol and drug use and are more likely to continue drinking heavily into later life. Your treatment providers may factor in any family or social pressure you’ve felt over the years as well as any self-esteem issues you may face.
If You Also Have a Mental Disorder
An estimated one in five Americans suffers from a mental health disorder, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Grappling with one can seriously unsettle your life, undermining your ability to be happy, productive — and sober. Mental illness affects people no matter their age, race, culture, religion, gender or income. You should know you are not alone. An estimated six in 10 people with a substance use disorder also have a mental health issue. Fortunately, treatment helps a lot; according to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, an estimated 70% to 90% of those with mental illnesses who got help report their symptoms and overall quality of life improved. Today, addiction programs routinely treat both addiction and any mental illness, what’s called a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders.
If You’re Looking for a 12-Step Alternative
If you know that you don’t want to follow a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or one of the 12-step spin-offs, you’re not alone. While millions have found them useful over the decades, there’s no right path to recovery that works for everyone. You may want to pursue individual counseling and/or group therapy, or maybe you’re looking for a completely different approach to getting sober. When it comes to psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) remains the leader in addiction treatment, but you may also want to try the BRENDA approach, which is a method that involves direct advice and counseling and the use of non-addictive prescription medications to help patients overcome addictive behaviors. Or SMART Recovery, which teaches self-empowerment tools and uses mutual-help support groups, may be right for you. These two newer methods offer a clinical approach, free of the 12 steps and spirituality.