The course material was developed by SAMHSA by bringing together a 16-member Expert Panel on Core Competencies for Women and Girls in Behavioral Health to identify and document competencies and to develop this report. The Expert Panel included professionals and consumers representing diverse cultural and geographic backgrounds and with combined expertise in prevention, substance use disorder treatment, and mental health services for women and girls.
The success of mental health and substance abuse services is directly tied to the abilities of the workforce to implement effective practices. Although research and evidence based practices have resulted in significant improvements in services, this knowledge can be effective only when an available, qualified workforce delivers those interventions.38 Identification and use of competencies can assist in the recruitment, training, and evaluation of service staff members.
There are both sex and gender differences between men and women that impact mental health and/or substance use conditions/disorders. Sex differences are biological in nature and include differences related to reproductive organs and functioning, as well as physical differences in body size, bone mass, and bone structure determined by DNA. Gender differences are part of a person’s self-representation. Roles and expectations are constructed by culture and by social norms. For the purposes of the Core Competency Report, women and girls includes anyone who individually identifies as a woman or girl. Multiple government-funded research studies show that because of both sex and gender differences, men and women experience the same diseases at different rates or with different symptoms, or they may experience different kinds of illness altogether. However, the development and implementation of mental health and substance abuse services and the training of staff members have been based primarily on health research that has ignored sex and gender differences.
This course is appropriate for beginning, intermediate and advanced level practitioners who wish to develop their knowledge of core competencies needed for working with women and girls in substance abuse treatment. It also contains important information that can be used in other clinical settings when working with women and girls. This course is especially useful for licensed practitioners who require clinical continuing education courses for license renewal.
This course contains additional material excerpted from recent research from the Surgeon General’s Report on addiction published in 2016.
Authors: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Learning Objectives: This course will provide the practitioner with detailed information regarding core competencies for working with women and girls. Specifically, a professional will:
Identify symptoms of mental health and or substance use conditions in women and girls.
Distinguish the complex needs of women and girls that make diagnosis and treatment challenging.
Recognize the different priorities, methods and relapse factors that are needed for effective interventions for women and girls.
Citation: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2011), Addressing the Needs of Women and Girls: Developing Core Competencies for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Service Professionals. HHS Pub. No. (SMA) 11-4657. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Additional information added: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Surgeon General, (2016), Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Washington, DC: HHS.
Reviewed and updated with additional material on 11/15/2017 by DiDona, PhD.