Traditionally, women have faced some unique challenges when it comes to seeking addiction treatment. They might be afraid of being judged as bad mothers or of losing custody of their children because of the social stigma. But much progress has been made in this area, such as better family court procedures and nurseries at treatment centers.
However, there remain other minority groups who still feel marginalized from treatment. Senior citizens, LGBTQ individuals and younger people often feel they don’t ‘fit’ at rehab or in recovery circles. Here are some suggestions for attracting them, meeting their needs better and improving their experiences of rehabilitation.
If an older person starts drinking later in life, it is quite often because they feel lonely or isolated. Their spouse may have passed away, and their children may have moved on with their lives. They may even have debilitations that prevent them from having a healthy social life.
Caring interventions with treatment specialists could both educate older people about alcohol while providing a comforting ear. If the patient responds to this, they may well be attracted into formal rehabilitation, should they need it, or into a support group.
Often older people do want help, but don’t know how to access it. Doctors and nurses in hospitals and clinics could be trained to identify older people at risk of a substance use problem by asking a series of questions about their mood and lifestyle as well as posting tailored information in medical settings about older people and drinking.
There are some specialized fellowship groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, that cater specially to the LGBTQ population. Unfortunately, few patients know about them. Instead of just handing over a book of fellowship meetings, an interventionist should point out all the choices, including agnostic meetings, women’s meetings and those that cater to those identifying as LGBTQ.
If an individual feels uncomfortable attending a random meeting, they will often feel more at home being around other people like them. They may then decide to venture into other meetings once they have settled into the fellowship. The main thing is to show them that their needs have been considered and that there are special options to suit them.
Often people have unconscious prejudices – that goes for people in general and treatment practitioners. In order to be welcoming and fair to all types of clients, it is important that workers look at their own beliefs and biases. Many rehabilitation centers ensure this happens by sending new employees on equality and diversity courses, which can teach a lot about other cultures and their specific needs.
Youngsters are often a minority at treatment centers, because they may consider that their addiction has not become ‘bad enough’ yet. In fact, many are in denial about their problem, viewing it as a phase of partying rather than a serious addiction.
Younger people also sometimes find the thought of rehabilitation intimidating and scary, wondering what treatment will be like and how their life will change after treatment. Perhaps showing them the stories of people they admire who have become clean and sober and changed their lives could help a younger patient see that life can be great after treatment and make them more enthusiastic about trying it.
Motivational Interviewing can be a great therapeutic tool for working with younger people as it forces them to confront the truth. It can also be used with the most reluctant patients. Mentoring is also very useful, as it shows the young person that life without alcohol and drugs can be both fun and rewarding. A mentor of a similar age could even become a new long-term sober friend.
We’re All in It Together
Despite all our differences, and respecting specific needs, one of the most useful attitudes we can promote is that underneath, we are all the same. No matter what your story, culture or background, you have developed an addiction and deserve compassion and help.
There are thousands of stories of addiction and recovery on the Heroes in Recovery website from every type of person who might feel marginalized: old, young, female, LGBTQ. Pulling these stories together can help end the stigma and inspire people from all backgrounds to ask for help.
Most people with an addiction find that when they meet another addict, similar or not, they feel a connection and identify with that person. The treatment staff, and often fellow patients, will be rooting for you to recover. When patients realize they can have this type of support, suddenly rehabilitation becomes much more attractive.
The more we make the effort to not only respect specific needs, but to also promote the benefits of rehabilitation, break the stigma and pull together as a recovery community, the more we can attract people from group to treatment and the wonderful life that can be achieved in recovery.
Written by Beth Burgess