Trusted Content

Drug And Alcohol Rehab Programs For Women With Children

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

April 9, 2019

There are many reasons a drug-addicted individual doesn’t seek treatment, but for a woman with children, one of the most frequently cited barriers are childcare concerns. Many individuals may not have close friends or family who can care for their children in their absence. Fortunately, a growing body of inpatient treatment programs exists which allow a woman’s children to accompany her to treatment.

Integrated addiction treatment programs for mothers, such as those which offer on-site pregnancy-, parenting-, or child-related services, have been shown to increase treatment outcomes for the mother. Further, these programs also improve measures of stability and well-being for the child.

Substance abuse doesn’t have a singular effect, that is, the damage extends far beyond the individual using the substance to their family. This impact is particularly felt by children who live with a substance-abusing parent.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a sobering perspective on this. They report that of children aged 17 or younger, roughly:

  • 1 in 8 (8.7 million) lived in a home where at least one parent had a past-year substance use disorder (SUD).
  • 1 in 10 (7.5 million) lived in a home where at least one parent had a past-year alcohol use disorder.
  • 1 in 35 (2.1 million) lived in a home where at least one parent had a past-year illicit drug use disorder.

For these children and their families, addiction treatment programs which offer individualized services for both the parent and child provide greater opportunities for sobriety and stability of the family.

For example, one review of 13 different scientific studies found that integrated treatment programs “are associated with improvements in child development, growth, and emotional and behavioral functioning.”

Children-Friendly Treatment Programs

Drug and alcohol addiction treatment for women with children may be offered in either a traditional 12-step program or in a non-12-step program. In addition to treatment for the addiction, the primary goals of these programs are to remove dysfunctional behaviors from the parent-child dynamic, to facilitate bonding and healing between the mother and her child(ren), and to increase healthy parenting skills.

virtual care

Get treatment when
and how you need it.

It can be an intimidating prospect to leave the comforts and familiarity of one’s home and community. This is especially true when a person is tasked with caring for their children while receiving treatment for addiction.

A number of facilities offer apartment-style living, providing comfortable, furnished living arrangements which offer many of the amenities of living at home. This setting can help ease the transition for both the mother and children while creating an environment which facilitates healing and family growth.

Treatment Services Provided For Women With Children

The best treatment programs for mothers offer evidenced-based treatments which target the biopsychosocial causes and effects of addiction. This means that the physical, psychological, and social components of addiction should be addressed and treated accordingly.

Substance-abusing women face unique risk factors for addiction. In turn, they have distinct needs which are further complicated by the pressures and challenges of motherhood.

These women may have histories of domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse, mental health problems, and relationships issues. Many face job or educational challenges and have little to no social support.

Treatment needs to be sensitive to these needs with a focus on rebuilding a woman’s resilience, confidence, and ability to care for herself and her children. The demands of a mother are great, and a good rehabilitation program should work to enhance a mother’s parenting and self-care skills.

Treatment services and supports will be administered by a highly-trained and compassionate staff, which could include physicians, trauma specialists, nurse practitioners, nutritionists, licensed therapists, and counselors.

Examples of services provided for mothers include:

  • anger management classes
  • child development education
  • communication and interpersonal skills training
  • dual diagnosis treatment
  • education about addiction as a family disease
  • holistic therapies (yoga, meditation, acupuncture)
  • life-skills training
  • medical care
  • “Mommy and Me” classes
  • new mothers’ support groups
  • nutritional guidance
  • parent coaching
  • relationship support or therapy
  • treatment for postnatal (postpartum) depression
  • vocational and job-skills training

Behavioral therapies and counseling help mothers to build a stable and resilient foundation for a sober life. These sessions are typically offered in an individual, group, and family setting. Parenting can be stressful, and without the proper set of coping skills, a mother may be tempted to return to drug or alcohol abuse.

Ample time will be spent on recovery training, including the development of relapse prevention skills. The best programs also offer aftercare support and services to help ensure a woman and her family have the most successful transition to a sober life.

Peer support programs are a valuable resource both during and after treatment. These groups provide a therapeutic community where a mother is supported by other women who face similar struggles. These sessions provide encouragement, accountability, and a forum by which to discuss useful coping methods and parenting skills.

Recreational activities which nurture the mind and body may also be available, including art, gardening, and gym and personal fitness classes. Certain facilities offer spa services so that mothers can take time to rejuvenate on an individual level. These may include massage, facials, or salon services.

Treatment Services And Supports Offered For Children

The aim of these facilities isn’t just to alleviate a woman’s childcare needs, they’re designed to deliver focused care for the child in a nurturing environment. This emphasis helps the child to heal from the impact of the mother’s addiction.

To ensure that the child’s needs are fully met, a facility may employ pediatricians, pediatric nurse practitioners, and child and adolescent psychologists. Children’s services should address any medical, developmental, behavioral, or social needs.

Examples of children-centric services and programs which may be offered include:

  • evaluations
  • the Families in Transition (FIT) program
  • medical care
  • immunizations
  • on-site daycare and nursery services
  • play therapy
  • postnatal care
  • tutoring and curriculum-based educational programs
  • 12-step based programs for children
  • well-baby check-ups

Some facilities may provide mothers with the opportunity to enroll school-aged children in the nearest school district.

Living in a household with a substance-abusing parent can be traumatic to a child on many levels. The best programs recognize this and provide age-appropriate therapy and counseling sessions for the child. These may include playing therapy or sessions which integrate art, journaling, music, recreation, role-playing, or storytelling to help a child process and cope with feelings relating to their experience.

Treatment Options For Pregnant Or Breastfeeding Mothers

Expectant or breastfeeding mothers also obtain better outcomes with specialized addiction treatment services. These programs are designed to address the unique physical and mental health concerns a woman faces at these times. These programs typically offer parenting instruction, medical care, prenatal services, well-baby checkups, and, for nursing mothers, access to lactation consultants.

Using drugs during pregnancy is linked to behavioral problems, growth, and developmental delays, learning disabilities, low birth weight, neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), premature birth, and even future substance abuse. Seeking treatment while pregnant helps to reduce the potential for these risks.

The Risks Of Maternal Substance Abuse

When contemplating treatment it’s imperative that a mother consider the impact that her drug or alcohol abuse has on the child.

According to SAMHSA, children who live with a substance-abusing parent are at increased risk for child maltreatment and child welfare involvement compared to those who don’t live in this environment. These children are also more prone to develop mental health disorders down the road, including substance use disorders.

Parents who habitually use drugs or alcohol have a more difficult time providing for their child’s most basic needs. Money that should go to food, clothing, or shelter is often spent on drugs and alcohol.

While a parent is under the influence, a child’s safety is frequently compromised. Research also shows that these children face higher instances of medical, psychosocial, developmental, academic, and behavioral problems.

Pursuing addiction treatment gives a mother and her family an increased likelihood of better health and stability. Seeking treatment at this time can also help protect any future children a woman may have, should she obtain and maintain a sober state.

Finding A Drug Or Alcohol Treatment Program For Mothers With Children

Selecting an inpatient, residential treatment program typically provides individuals with a greater opportunity for successful rehabilitation from drugs or alcohol.

Many women with children may be tempted to pursue outpatient treatment due to the flexible format and ability to return home after treatment sessions. Despite these perceived benefits, outpatient treatment frequently doesn’t provide the intensive care and services required to build a stable recovery. Further, triggers for relapse and the opportunity to use drugs or alcohol are much higher with this format.

Inpatient residential programs provide individualized services, an approach that is especially important for women facing the demands of recovery and motherhood. Certain individuals may require a medically-supervised detoxification program prior to enrolling in rehabilitation.

Contact to learn about addiction treatment options for mothers with children.

AAP News & Journals - Families Affected by Parental Substance Use

ScienceDirect - Integrated Programs For Mothers With Substance Abuse Issues And Their Children: A Systematic Review Of Studies Reporting On Child Outcomes

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Children Living With Parents Who Have A Substance Use Disorder

Want to get help, but not ready to talk?

You can receive 24/7 text support right away and at your convenience. There is no obligation to enter treatment and you can opt out at any time.

Sign up for text support to receive:

✅ Resources about addiction and recovery

✅ Info about our treatment process

"*" indicates required fields


Let Regard Healthcare walk you through the treatment process. We're here to help.
For 24/7 Treatment Help
100% Free and Confidential. Call 888-341-4325

For 24/7 Treatment Help Call:


For Immediate Treatment Help Call:
(888) 979-9592