Seven Factors that Impact the Retention Rate of Addiction Treatment for Women

Many drug and alcohol recovery programs monitor the habits of people who come in and out of their programs.  One of the things that they look into are the factors that impact the quantity of treatment a person receives or their retention rate.  This retention rate says a lot about the demographic that the information is gathered from.  According to recent research, there are a number of factors that indicate how long patients in recovery will commit to a program that offers addiction treatment for women.  While there is no indication that these factors come with hard and fast rules about how long a woman will stay in treatment, they can be good indicators.

Socioeconomic Status

Women who come from environments where drug use is the norm and violence goes unchecked are less likely to complete recovery programs.  If a program is completed, these women are less likely to continue to stay clean after their treatment as well.  The retention of women who come from high poverty level and low education level backgrounds have a much lower retention rate and a much higher relapse rate.  Aftercare seems to be essential to keeping these women clean and sober.


Women who graduated from high school are more likely to complete a recovery program than women who did not finish high school.  The education factor can be highly subjective.  Not graduating from high school can be an indication of socioeconomic status which is mentioned above as a factor unto itself.


If a woman has the support of her partner, the rest of her family, and her friends, she is more likely to stay in a recovery program for a longer amount of time.  Some studies have indicated that including the patient’s partner in treatment can help the patient feel more involved in her treatment and want to make more of an effort to stay longer.  Family therapy can also have the same effect.

Gender of Treatment Center Staff

Women show a much greater preference for having a staff comprised of mostly women.  There has been little study in the field of substance abuse into whether the gender of the staff effects the retention of the patients.  Studies have indicated that recovery patients largely prefer female counselors and that women with children or pregnant women in recovery prefer to have female staff members around.  Not enough study has been done in this area to put a number on the retention rates, but it does seem to be a factor that could require some study.


Retention rates for women in recovery who are pregnant tend to be rather low.  Pregnancy can significantly impact treatment depending upon where a woman is in her pregnancy when she enters treatment.  Often, the birth of the baby will interrupt the flow of treatment and a woman will not come back to it as she has a newborn to deal with or she was unprepared for life away from the treatment program and has quickly slipped back into addiction.  Studies indicate that women who seek treatment in their first trimester have low retention rates, but if a women in late pregnancy can complete a program before she gives birth, she is likely to stay clean and sober for longer.

Referral or Involvement of the Law

Patients who have been referred by, or are involved with child protective services or the criminal justice system in any way are more likely to stay in addiction treatment for women for a longer period of time.  While there is much evidence that mandating a woman to seek recovery treatment is not particularly effective, overall, these women are more likely to stay in treatment for longer than their counterparts who entered voluntarily.

Therapy Type

Women in recovery have been shown to benefit more from supportive therapy methods rather than confrontational therapy methods.  Studies have indicated that women are more receptive to positive treatment methods that encourage empathy, warmth, and the ability to stay connected with their support network both outside of the program and inside of the program.  For women, generally, the relationship with the therapist or counselor should be one of compassion and mutual respect in order to keep the patient in the program.  If she feels threatened or the confrontational therapy method is too much, she is very likely to leave the program.

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