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Women’s Trust in Substance Abuse Disorder Treatment

A recent article in Substance Abuse by Cockroft et al. explored several ways that women experience distrust towards healthcare providers when seeking treatment for substance abuse disorders. In this small study, several themes emerged as common barriers blocking patients’ perception of trust toward their healthcare providers. 

The data collected showed that the female participants in this study listed several areas of distrust of addiction treatment providers. Past experiences, such as previous negative experiences with previous diagnoses and outcomes and prior encounters with stigma, contributed to a general lack of trust. Healthcare administration issues also affected patient trust, including payment and reimbursement schedules and clinic resources such as time constraints or understaffed facilities. Concerns about breaches of confidentiality and patient rights raised further concerns. Finally, participants in this study blamed the medical system for causing and enabling addiction in themselves or loved ones through irresponsible prescribing practices. 

These responses do not, initially, seem to be gender-related; these categories of reasons seem to cover all the bases when it comes to explaining potential patient distrust toward addiction treatment. The authors do note, however, that there are statistical differences in factors that affect trust between male- and female-identifying individuals with substance abuse disorders, specifically related to the higher percentage of women with substance abuse disorders who have experienced sexual and physical abuse. This small study opens up an important conversation about how addiction treatment programs can be more effective in treating female clientele by increasing an atmosphere of trust and removing trust barriers. We look forward to further research to identify factors that impact client trust in treatment as well as solutions to eliminate the ways that gender differences (and all experiences of otherness) are not adequately addressed in many treatment programs. 

There are ways, however, to foster trust from the start, no matter what previous experiences an individual has had before seeking treatment. At New Paradigm Recovery, our comprehensive addiction treatment program includes trauma treatment and family counselling, so that our clients can heal from past trauma and build positive support systems to allow them to recover from addiction in a supportive, safe, and stigma-free environment. Our comprehensive and holistic addiction treatment allows each individual to flourish in their own personal way— mind, body, and spirit— under the care of a kind and knowledgeable team who knows them by name. We earn respect by being respectful, and we foster trust by trusting. 

While this particular study was limited in scope, we believe there is more to be said and more to learn about making addiction treatment more welcoming, more effective, and more safe for all people seeking treatment.

Cockroft, J. D., Adams, S. M., Bonnet, K., Matlock, D., McMillan, J., & Schlundt, D. (2019). A scarlet letter: Stigma and other factors affecting trust in the health care system for women seeking substance abuse treatment in a community setting. Substance Abuse, 170-177. doi:10.1080/08897077.2018.1544184

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