Research on the effectiveness of women-focused treatment paradigms requires the development of appropriate methodologies and instrumentation. The field currently lacks adequate measurements of the therapeutic and programmatic components of women-focused treatment, which are essential to empirical validation of its effectiveness and dissemination of effective treatment approaches. The development of instruments to measure women-focused treatment services and interventions that encompass the three domains described above would be a valuable contribution to the field.
In addition, women with substance use disorders are a heterogeneous population with respect to socioeconomic circumstances, cultural background, substances of abuse, family and parenting status, and co-occurring disorders. It is therefore critical to evaluate the effectiveness of women-focused treatments in various service settings with subgroups of women who reflect the diversity of this population. As women-focused treatments are delivered to diverse populations, the need to evaluate the moderators and mediators of treatment outcome, including such characteristics as severity of substance use, co-occurring psychiatric disorders, social networks and relationships, and employment and educational attainment, becomes even more critical.
Finally, within our rapidly changing health and social services system, delivery of substance abuse treatment is increasingly embedded within other systems rather than in stand-alone specialty programs. Women are often screened for substance use disorders and referred to substance abuse treatment by other service providers, including those in primary care, urgent care (such as for victims of violence), welfare agencies, the criminal justice system, child welfare and protective services, and mental health programs. The organization of service delivery and the implications of providing women-focused treatment in different service settings are not well understood, and further research is critical for successful cross-system delivery of treatment to women.