The Tara Treatment Center Blog

Getting Gender-Specific with Mike Denton

gender specific therapy mike denton

Valentine’s Day is Over!  

Mike Denton is a big believer in gender-specific treatment, explaining that “Early in anyones recovery, we can’t help but be distracted by the opposite sex.”  

Over the course of Mike’s long-term personal recovery and career as a professional in the field of addiction, Mike has observed the profound relationship between sex, psychology, and addiction recovery. 

Here are the reasons that gender-specific addiction recovery treatment is essential, with a side-by-side comparison of the sexes.  




Connection = Survival

Connection requires social skills

Conflict alerts that connection may be threatened

Tend and Befriend to cope with this

Self esteem = Ability to maintain close relationships

Achievement = Survival

Achievement requires competition

Conflict alerts that elevated status may be available.

Fight or Flight more likely

Self esteem = Ability to individuate from others

Gender differences are biologically and socially based

  • These differences have implications in a variety of areas including:
    • Active Addiction
    • Treatment Phase
    • Dual Diagnoses
    • Aftercare

Women more often need:

  • Teaching assertiveness and careful confrontation skills
  • Trauma informed care
    • Sexual traumas higher rates
    • Trauma leads to more trauma
  • Disordered Eating & Body Image
  • Borderline and Dependent Personality Traits

Men are more likely to need treatment including:

  • Anger Management
  • Self-esteem related to employment
  • Difficulty sharing feelings in close relationships
  • Narcisistic and Antisocial Personality Traits

Pros & Cons of Gender Separation in Treatment:


  • Fewer pairing off instances in recovery community
  • Women share more often in same sex groups
  • Men can be more vulnerable without women present (?)
  • Provides safe environment to discuss past trauma
  • Increased LOS


  • More expensive to staff and keep separate facilities
  • Lose the benefit of the perspective of the opposite sex from peers
  • Exposure to proper boundaries with the opposite sex (?)
  • More training of staff


  • Women with children are less likely to go to sober living due to work and childcare constraints
  • Women are more open to seeing a therapist
  • More difficult for any client with childcare responsibilities to attend 12-step meetings
  • Challenge of fewer women in AA makes recommendations like working steps with a sponsor more challenging