Long-term residential substance abuse treatment for women: lessons learned from Israel
Maayan Schori1, Yaffa Sapir2, Eli Lawental3
1School of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA; 2Central School for the Training of Social Welfare Workers, Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services, Tel Aviv, Israel; 3Department of Social Work, Tel-Hai College, Upper Galilee, Israel
Background: Policymakers and treatment providers must consider the role of gender when designing effective treatment programs for female substance abusers. This study had two aims. First, to examine female substance abusers' perceptions regarding factors that contribute to their retention (and therefore positive treatment outcomes) in a women-only therapeutic community in Northern Israel. Second, to explore pretreatment internal and external factors including demographic, personal and environmental factors, factors associated with substance use and with the treatment process, and networks of support that contribute to retention and abstinence.
Methods: The study was a conducted using a mixed methods approach. Semi-structured qualitative interviews examining perceptions towards treatment were conducted in five focus groups (n = 5 per group; total n = 25). Intake assessments and a battery of questionnaires examining pretreatment internal and external factors related to treatment retention and abstinence were collected from 42 women who were treated in the program during the 2 year study period. Twenty-three women who completed the 12 month program were compared to the 19 women who did not, using chi-square for categorical variables and t-tests for continuous variables. Nineteen of the 23 women who completed the questionnaires also completed a post-treatment follow-up questionnaire.
Results: A content analysis of the interviews revealed five central themes: factors associated with treatment entry; impact of treatment in a women-only setting; significant aspects of treatment; difficulties with the setting; prospects for the future. Analysis of the questionnaires revealed that compared to non-completers, completers had fewer psychiatric symptoms, higher levels of introverted behavior in stressful situations, a better sense of coherence, and less ability to share emotions. No significant differences were found with regard to demographic and substance use factors. All 19 women who completed treatment and the follow-up questionnaire remained abstinent from illicit drugs for 18 months following the end of treatment.
Conclusion: Results indicate that women see the women-only treatment setting as extremely significant. Also, there is a profile of psychiatric co-morbidity, extrapunitiveness, and fewer personal resources that predict a risk for attrition. Thus, women at risk for attrition may be identified early and treatment staff can utilize the results to assist clients in achieving their treatment goals. Results can inform policymakers in making decisions regarding the allocation of resources, by pointing to the importance of long-term women-only residential treatment in increasing positive treatment outcomes.
Keywords: gender, drug abuse, therapeutic community, mixed methods, program evaluation
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