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How Does Your Gender Identity Factor Into Addiction Treatment?

addiction treatment gender identity

There are many resources available for addiction treatment—what some people may not know is that there are different inpatient programs available depending on your needs.

In Nova Scotia, for example, Ledgehill has two gender-specific facilities, with gender-specific addiction and recovery treatment options.

When an individual is referred to, or calls Ledgehill, they can choose a facility and treatment option based on the gender they identify with. 

Additionally, options are made available to individuals who may require a private room. For example, an individual who is binding or undergoing hormone therapy may want the privacy of their own accommodation. 

Cara Vaccarino, Chief Operating Officer at EHN Canada, says staff receive Rainbow Training; a standardized cultural competency training that clinicians go through to understand the nuances of working with members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

The training also teaches staff about minority stress: it is estimated that 20 to 30% of the LGBTQ+ community experience a substance use disorder, while the rate in the general population is 9%.

Addiction Treatment for the LGBTQ+ Community

Cara says EHN has seen the need to have a specialized, inpatient program for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Edgewood Treatment Centre in British Columbia offers a unique LGBTQ+ ALLIANCE program.

Highlights of the program include: 

  • A curriculum that’s based on Project AFFIRM methods created by Dr. Shelley Craig from the University of Toronto
  • Clinical and peer support from LGBTQ+ members and allies 
  • Evidence-based therapies including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing (MI) to cultivate healthier habits of mind 

Ryan Slobodian, a clinical counsellor and the lead of Edgewood’s ALLIANCE program, says Dr. Shelley Craig’s work helps illustrate how broader messages in society trickle down to inform policy, and how friends and family buy into these messages and contribute to minority stress. 

For example, Ryan says a family member’s off-hand remark about all-gender restrooms being “ridiculous” is not an isolated instance—it’s part of a larger mosaic of messaging that LGBTQ+ individuals do not belong. 

“That kind of thing really impacts a person. What we know is that enough of these instances can create very near to a PTSD diagnosis.

“When we think of PTSD, we think of big events or big T traumas. I was in a car accident, or I went overseas and saw some really horrible stuff. 

But we don’t really think of the repeated traumas of being misgendered or hearing a lot of negativity, and stigma, and discrimination.”

Ryan says the Alliance Program aims to restructure an individual’s relationship to these core messages they have received about their gender identity. 

The investigation can yield positive results. 

“When we look at the negative core beliefs, it really affects that aspect of ‘I’ve never felt like I belong,’

Working through that is powerful. It can give them a new outlook on life.”

Regardless of How You Identify, There is a Treatment Program Available 

Individuals can go to Ledgehill to receive addiction treatment in any program they would like—through Ledgehill for Men, or Ledgehill for Women. 

EHN staff are trained to cultivate safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community and have an understanding of minority stress and the types of experiences this community has gone through. 

Cara emphasizes that if an individual feels that the addiction issues they are struggling with are specific to their LGBTQ+ status, the ALLIANCE Program at Edgewood is available as well. 

We Can Help You

Ledgehill’s two facilities in Annapolis County, Nova Scotia, provide gender-specific treatment for men and women who need to heal in a peaceful, supportive environment free from fear or distraction. If you’d like to learn more about the addiction and mental health treatment programs provided by Ledgehill, enrol yourself in one of our programs, or refer someone else, please call us at 800-676-3393.

An Important Update About the Omicron Variant

We are open and accepting patients. 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been dedicated to keeping our patients safe as they recover from addiction or mental health disorders.

As the situation continues to evolve, as do our protocols and practices at each EHN Canada facility. And recent news of the highly-infectious Omicron Variant is no different. Please know that we continue to implement the highest standards of infection prevention in accordance with our local health authority.

If you have any questions about your or a loved one’s care and the protocols we have in place for staff, patients, and visitors, please contact us at 416-644-6345 or email at [email protected] 

Thank you and stay safe,
The Healthcare Team at EHN Canada