Empowering Women Overcoming Treatment Stigma With Strength and Resilience

Empowering Women Overcoming Treatment Stigma With Strength and Resilience

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Overcoming treatment stigma is one of the biggest hurdles a client faces when seeking treatment for a substance use disorder (SUD). Unfortunately, women are more likely than men to face treatment stigma, which creates a barrier to seeking and receiving treatment.

This stigma may be one of the reasons that women are also more likely to abuse prescription opioids. However, there may be other factors causing women to use opioids at higher levels as well. Findings published in Current Opinion in Psychiatry reveal that:

  • 54.9% of opioid users are female, compared to 42.2% male
  • Risk factors for women include pain and psychiatric symptoms, including depression
  • Women are more likely to report lifetime opioid abuse

These are sobering statistics that should cause us to pause and take time to consider women’s opioid use and the factors that prevent them from seeking care, including unfair stigmas. At First Steps Recovery, we understand the particular barriers women face when seeking treatment for opioid and other substance use. When seeking treatment, women need to know that First Steps Recovery is a judgment-free zone. We believe that seeking help is not a weakness; rather, it is a sign of inner strength and courage.

What Is Involved in Overcoming Treatment Stigma?

There is a lot to unpack when it comes to overcoming treatment stigma, especially for women seeking help. Women are often expected to carry a disproportionate amount of the family burden, even to their detriment. When a woman seeks help for substance abuse, she is often made to feel guilty for leaving her family.

One of the ways that women can find help in seeking treatment and overcoming treatment stigma is by finding empowerment. The guilt women feel can be thrust upon them by other people around them who are making unfounded judgments. Women in treatment and recovery can learn empowerment techniques so they can resist the guilt that the outside world thrusts upon them.

A way women can learn empowerment is by using mindfulness therapies like meditation, yoga, and nature therapies. Therapies like these have the benefit of building and rebuilding confidence and resilience in women who practice them. Overcoming treatment stigma may be an obstacle to women, but empowerment paves the way for strategies to counter it.

Issues Women Face in Substance Abuse Treatment

Women face distinct challenges in substance abuse treatment, especially when they have families waiting for them at home. Beyond just guilt, the desire to please families can leave women feeling anxious and fearful of setbacks that could derail them. Mindfulness practices can help women center themselves and overcome doubts and fears through careful training.

The reason mindfulness-related therapies are helpful is that clients typically learn three distinct components to achieve mindfulness. These three components are:

  • Intention: The client learns to permit themselves to be present now and in every moment. Too often, people allow others to control their circumstances in the moment. Intention helps the client to remain present always.
  • Attention: Clients pay conscious attention to their environment, beginning with their bodies and working outward to encompass thoughts, feelings, and surroundings.
  • Attitude: Finally, adjusting one’s attitude and how the they process those things they become aware of through intention and attention. In doing so, clients learn to cease passing judgement on themselves and accept themselves in the present moment.

Women, Opioid Use, and Overcoming Treatment Stigma

Just like in most parts of life, men and women who use addictive substances are treated differently. Women who abuse drugs are more often stigmatized and are made to feel like a burden when seeking treatment. Disrupting this negative discourse is one way we can help women in overcoming treatment stigma.

In seeking new ways to help women with overcoming treatment stigma, we must also be aware of intersectionality. Intersectionality refers to other factors women may face that are discriminatory in addition to their treatment stigma. In identifying these and other factors, a roadmap can be built to help women find a way forward to treatment.

Words of Caring: Women and Overcoming Treatment Stigma

However, there is more to empowering women than just the mindfulness techniques learned in treatment therapies. Words matter, and intention matters when it comes to women being empowered to find the strength within themselves. Words convey care and empathy that should be shown to other human beings. On the other hand, words also can hurt and perpetuate stigma.

First Steps Recovery understands that to build a trusting relationship with women, words are important. When it comes to overcoming treatment stigma, it is important that words build up women and don’t tear them down. Accessing the right language helps build bridges where there are chasms so that all reach the same goal.

Disrupting Stigma at Its Source

Stigma does not just come from one source. That is part of the insidiousness of stigma. Overcoming treatment stigma can be difficult because stigma can come from both without and within each of us. A few examples include:

  • Structural stigma: This occurs when laws and policies created by someone lead to outright or subtle discrimination. This can either be intentional or an unforeseen consequence. Regardless, structural stigma hurts those affected by it.
  • Public stigma: This often occurs when the outright beliefs and ideologies of groups stigmatize other individuals or groups. Usually, this is an emotional reaction of fear and/or hatred. An example is believing that people with addictions choose to be addicted.
  • Self-stigma: This is the guilt or shame we put upon ourselves for doing what we think is unacceptable.

No matter where the stigma comes from, no one can overcome it without giving themselves permission to be forgiven. Trauma-informed therapy allows individuals to face these circumstances and grow from them. At First Steps Recovery, clients discover many therapy options and find the ones that are the perfect fit for them.

Women are statistically more likely than men to engage in the abuse of prescription drugs, including opioids. Unfortunately, oftentimes societal stigma keeps women from seeking treatment. At First Steps Recovery, you will find a caring team ready to help empower you to find a way out of the darkness of addiction. First Steps Recovery provides a safe space that is free from judgment. Here, women are empowered to become their best selves with holistic therapies and techniques that prioritize healing by overcoming trauma. The journey to recovery is one of the most transformative journeys you will ever undertake. If you are thinking about seeking treatment, call First Steps Recovery today at (844) 489-0836 and discover your many options.

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