Many teenage girls and young women initially greet the idea of attending a girls school or girls residential treatment center with nothing short of horror: “No guys? No way!”
But in my experience running girls residential treatment centers, these objections are all but forgotten soon after enrollment. Girls who have not experienced a single-gender setting often discover that the benefits outweigh the temporary sacrifices.
It’s not unusual to hear girls express that they can finally let their hair down and be themselves. They are able to develop deep, healthy friendships with other girls–often for the first time. They also report being better able to focus on their academic and therapeutic work without the distraction of boys.
Many girls, of course, still openly pine for boys and most plan to return to a co-ed setting after treatment. But there is undeniable gratitude for the temporary reprieve from the distraction of the opposite sex.

How All Girls Residential Treatment Centers Work

Research is clear about the value of single-gender programs. But research just affirms what common sense already tells us. Temporary single-gender experiences work primarily because:

  • Girls communicate and process differently from boys (this is brain-based as well as socially driven), so an all-girls’ environment makes for more efficient, more effective communication, and communication is the key to good therapy
  • When treatment touches on sensitive issues such as sexual acting out, trauma, and abuse, a single-gender environment can feel safer and embarrassment is less of an issue
  • Girls tend to speak less in the presence of boys, perhaps due to a more dominant male communication style and/or because of a higher level of self-consciousness
  • Girls and boys alike tend to be more distracted from academics, therapy, and same-sex friendships when in the presence of the opposite sex
  • Old patterns of unhealthy romantic involvement are tougher to interrupt and correct in a coed setting

While girls often balk at the prospect of a single-gender treatment experience, a little time in that kind of setting generally wins them over. An all-girls treatment experience often results in more confidence, better boundaries, and a clearer sense of self, all things that help immensely when they transition back to a coed environment.