Mothers of Addiction – Women Influence Treatment Outcomes

mothers of addiction 3 generations women

Healthcare decisions often fall to (busy) women …


According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women make 80 percent of health care decisions in the United States. I’m not surprised. As a mother of grown children, I can attest to the fact they never really leave the nest. And women still take on the primary role of caregiver in families, even if they also hold a prominent position outside of the home.


Women have a leading role in the majority of families’ health care. Most caregivers are women, and mothers in particular are the primary health care decision makers for their children. Therefore, women need adequate knowledge and tools to satisfy their multiple roles as decision makers and consumers of health care.

U.S. Department of Labor – Employee Benefits Security Administration Fact Sheet


Mothers of Addiction

Women are also more likely to discuss preventive health topics with health care providers. This might include conversations about smoking secession, healthy eating habits, or misuse of drugs and alcohol. And women take the information they receive back to the family to improve overall health within the family system.


How does addiction treatment fit into health care decisions?

It follows, that if women make the majority of the decisions about health care, and are most interested in talking to providers about preventative medicine, they are also more watchful. In other words, women are looking for those things that negatively impact the extended family. And they prepare a strategy to put the family back on track.


When a family member is misusing drugs or alcohol, it is often the matriarch who makes the call to a treatment hotline. And when they call to ask about treatment for themselves, an impediment to treatment includes concerns about who will manage the at-home tasks. In fact, Sanford Admissions Specialist, Marrissa Sheehy says, “When women call us, one of the barriers to treatment they verbalize is childcare. When men call, they rarely mention childcare concerns.”


Health Care, Women, and Positive Outcomes

One of the most important factors for women in making the correct health care decisions, is to have a strong relationship with a provider they trust. When it comes to addiction treatment, trust is a key component. No two families are alike, and a family program that considers the unique background and makeup of each family, can directly target their needs. And in so doing, impact successful outcomes.


Mothers were significantly more likely than fathers to identify internalizing, externalizing, and substance use-related behaviors in their adolescent children.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – TIP 39


mothers of addiction

Women make decisions about healthcare and follow through.

Addiction Treatment Centers Address Women Influencers

It is time for treatment providers to address their primary influencers, by directing educational efforts toward female consumers without gender stereotypes. Giving them the knowledge (and confidence) to make informed decisions.


Treatment providers address women influencers by:

  • Understanding that busy women need concise information on treatment options. Providing written materials, updated information, and an admissions staff who will take the time to discuss the myriad courses of action.


  • Providing information via social media, or through testimonials. Word-of-mouth recommendations are particularly utilized by women tasked with treatment recommendations.


  • Addressing childcare options for women in treatment. Or providing Outpatient/Telehealth treatment that allows for at-home participation.


  • Providing gender-specific treatment. Understanding that looking at an individual’s unique identity is the best way to prepare them for long-term recovery and a healthy sense of self-worth.


  • Employing women in management, and medical and clinical positions within the treatment center.


  • Providing ongoing Family Programs. And working with all members of the family system to help them define their new roles as they move forward.


  • Understanding that women will continue to take on the primary roles of homemaking and childcare duties, while also making up 50% of the workforce.


Mom’s usually know their children in painstaking detail and can often intuit things about their health and behavior that others do not notice. And mothers are frequently the key person in providing strategic oversight. When choosing the appropriate treatment, it’s important for the advocate (mom) to know whether services can be accessed at a reasonable cost, or if they will receive unexpected bills that they will be unable to afford. It is fair to say most people are unfamiliar with the complexities of insurance policies. Particularly in the area of behavioral health. Thus, it is incumbent on healthcare organizations and their admissions departments to light the way. 

Rae Green, JD, LPC, CAADC, Sanford Founder and President


Thanks to Moms…

Now might be the time to say, “Thank you.” To all the women out there, all the mothers, who make the tough decisions regarding addiction treatment and health care. Those who identify problems within the family (however it is defined) and seek solutions. It’s a big job. With far-reaching positive outcomes.



after marilyn head shot bio

Marilyn Spiller is a viral writer, recovery coach, and recovery advocate. She is the Marketing Director at Sanford, responsible for written and creative content, website design, new media, promotions, subscriber outreach, and SEO. Excursions Magazine is a particular source of pride; it serves a wide range of readers, and “excursion” has become part of the company vernacular, describing Sanford’s signature experiential outings for those in treatment. She also developed and hosts the podcast Anatomy of Addiction and is Vice President of the Board of JACK Mental Health Advocacy.