Tuesday April 25th 2017

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Is a woman’s addiction so different? Treating women with substance use disorders (BOOK REVIEW)

Are women’s addictions so different?

Yes, they are.

As we know, addiction spares no one. In fact, substance abuse disorders are a growing health problem among all people. While there are numerous treatment programs that are designed to help people live a substance-free life, women require different types of help.

In comparison with men, women are less likely to get into appropriate addiction treatment during their lifetime. Most common barriers and obstacles that occur among women who are dealing with addiction include:

  • stigma
  • lack of child care for those who are parents
  • lack of family or/and partners support
  • lack of financial resources

Additionally, women usually prefer women-only treatment, stating that such addiction treatment provides greater comfort and safety for them. So, how can we help women? A new manual points us in the right direction.

Treating Women with Substance Use Disorder – The Women’s Recovery Group Manual” is a book that presents group therapy sessions for women only… But, is this approach successful? What can we learn from this manual? Is it worth having in your home library?

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We invite you to continue reading this book review to see which topics are covered. At the end, we invite you to post your questions and comments in the designated section.

Who should check out this book?

This book is designed for therapists who treat women diagnosed with substance abuse problems. It presents an empirically supported treatment method for women with substance use disorder named “Women’s Recovery Group”, or (WRG). The WRG model was designed as a single-gender women’s addiction therapy that can be implemented in various treatment settings in both a semi-open or open rolling group format. What is WRG and why is it helpful?

Goals of Women’s Recovery Groups

Shelly F. Greenfield: The Women’s Recovery Group is an evidence-based group therapy for women with substance use disorders who are heterogeneous with respect to their alcohol or drug use disorders, presence of co-occurring psychiatric disorders, and ages and stages of life.

Moreover, this is a relapse prevention group therapy that blends a cognitive-behavioral approach for women. The main goals of the method include:

  1. Promoting abstinence from drug and alcohol.
  2. Improving the understanding of specific aspects of substance use disorders, recovery and relapse.
  3. Helping participants develop skills and strategies that will be useful in preventing relapse and promoting recovery.

What can you get from this book?

Basically, you’ll learn exactly HOW to implement WRGs into your practice. “Treating Women with Substance Use Disorder- The Women’s Recovery Group Manual” is divided into two parts:

Part I. Introduction to the Women’s Recovery Group

The first part provides a look into the background of substance use disorders in women, plus a detailed overview of the WRG and its implementation in addiction treatment. Furthermore this section includes:

  • reference tables
  • therapists examples, and
  • discussion points in text boxes

All these resources provide concise summaries of the presented material as well as clinical illustrations on how to conduct WRG.

Part II. Group Sessions

This part provides a complete therapist guide on how to conduct each group session. It covers step-by-step intervention guidelines to 14 sessions topics followed by:

  • an introduction
  • check-in
  • clinical tools
  • participant outlines
  • bulletin board materials
  • review of the previous week’s skill practice
  • …and more.

3 Take-Home Lessons

This guide is an implementable, direct clinical tool that provides direction and structure for therapists. Your female clients will find the group sessions very informative, motivational and highly useful.

There are many take-home lessons that you can not only implement in your treatment sessions, but also in your personal life. Nevertheless, if I would have to choose the three things I learned, and certainly implement in my life-path, they would be:

1. Coping with stress – As an inevitable part of life, stress can be a trigger to many emotional and seemingly unmanageable situations. Therefore, it is important to acquire and develop healthy coping skills to manage stressful situations. The workbook section of the book will give you and your clients examples of unhealthy and healthy stress coping skills, plus it helps us understand internal and external sources of stress.

2. Having fun without using drugs or alcohol – At some point, women in recovery may wonder if they ever will be able to enjoy themselves again. This book explores the balance between the work clients do in recovery with finding satisfaction. Moreover, it offers some strategies that will help your female clients enjoy their lives, relationships and social events substance-free.

3. Achieving balance in your life – In every case of addiction recovery, there can come the time when life gets overwhelming and “out of balance”. But, women can work through each difficult situation moment-by-moment and learn a new way to manage difficulties without using substances. In this way, we create new patterns that eventually feel normal over time.

This book will introduce you to 6 ways in which that balance is achieved:

  • Setting priorities in life.
  • Not using substances to manage internal and external triggers.
  • Dealing with ambivalence.
  • Learning new ways to manage triggers, urges and cravings.
  • Finding or resuming activities that clients love.
  • Practicing these new ways until they feel more natural.

Why we recommend “The Women’s Recovery Group Manual”

I could say that this manual has covered ALMOST everything you need to know about treating women with substance abuse problems. It is made for you to HAVE and to USE. Plus, the WRG treatment was developed and tested in two clinical trials that show its effectiveness. (See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25042759 )

All in all … a no brainer! If you work with women, you MUST LOOK INTO best practices in running Women’s Recovery Groups. And this books shows you exactly what, why, and how to implement such a program.

Wondering where you can find “Treating Women with Substance Use Disorders- The Women’s Recovery Group Manual”? To buy, download and read this book, check out this link: https://www.amazon.com/Treating-Women-Substance-Use-Disorders/dp/1462525768

Additionally, if you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments section below. We welcome your feedback and try to provide personal and prompt responses to all legitimate inquiries.


About the Author
Shelly F. Greenfield, MD, MPH, is Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Chief Academic Officer at McLean Hospital, where she also serves as Chief of the Division of Women’s Mental Health and Director of Clinical and Health Services Research and Education in the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Program. The Women’s Recovery Group grew out of her extensive research and clinical work in the field of substance use disorders, with a particular focus on women and addiction. Dr. Greenfield has authored more than 125 articles and book chapters. She is Chair of the National Institute on Drug Abuse Clinical Trials Network gender special interest group and past Chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Council on Addiction Psychiatry, and serves on the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry and on the Advisory Committee on Services for Women of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. A member of the American College of Psychiatrists and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Dr. Greenfield is a recipient of the R. Brinkley Smithers Distinguished Scientist Award from the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the A. Clifford Barger Award for Excellence in Mentoring from Harvard Medical School.

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