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Couples Therapy in Addiction Treatment

Written by Renee Deveney

& Medically Reviewed by Paula Holmes, LCSW

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Last Updated - 07/15/20

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Updated 07/15/2020

The use of couples therapy during addiction treatment can be beneficial. Couples impacted by addiction face several obstacles that may benefit from the professional support of a counselor.

Recovery from drug or alcohol addiction is a personal process, but for those in relationships, additional counseling with your partner may be helpful. Couples counseling can help partners relate to each other and understand the struggles they are experiencing as individuals. One important part of the work in couples counseling is to identify how addiction affects a relationship. Exploring the impact that addiction has can help guide a couple toward the areas that need healing in the relationship.

What Is Couples Therapy?

Being in a relationship with a person addicted to drugs or anyone with a serious addiction is difficult. By the time treatment has been sought, there have often been countless disappointments, episodes of dishonesty and periods of resentment. Relationship counseling and couples therapy for alcoholism and other addictions is crucial in order to heal these resentments and work through the distrust that has naturally occurred as part of the disease of addiction. A couple who have been having relationship problems and seek the professional guidance of a therapist to help them work through their challenges stand a better chance of making it through the recovery process.

Types of Couples Therapy

There are many different types of couples therapy and couples therapy techniques. The best treatment approach largely depends on the individual needs of the couple and what the counselor deems appropriate. Types of couples therapy include:

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

Emotionally focused couples therapy helps couples identify the underlying insecurities of conflict within the relationship and new ways to communicate feelings and support one another. Addiction-focused couples therapy engages couples in a similar way around the impact of addiction on the relationship.

Behavioral Couples Therapy

Behavioral couples therapy is a treatment specifically for couples struggling with addiction. The therapy centers around correcting dysfunctional relationship patterns.

Gottman Couples Therapy

Marital therapy through the Gottman couples therapy approach uses the idea of building on the basic framework of friendship, conflict management, and shared meaning to strengthen relationships.

Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy and narrative therapy techniques are beneficial in helping people separate themselves from their problems rather than becoming enmeshed with them. This can help couples in recovery to identify the issues as separate and solvable rather than being an intrinsic part of the relationship.

Positive Psychology

Positive psychology reframes the focus of the relationship from problem-centered to strengths-based. The effects of positive psychology have been vast and this has expanded the view of how therapy can be successful. Positive psychology helps couples focus on what is working well for a couple by understanding the positive traits each person brings to the relationship.

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How Couples Counseling Supplements Addiction Treatment

Couples in recovery face a long journey. The effects of drug abuse on family relationships are significant and the process of healing from these effects takes effort and commitment. Issues such as intimacy in alcoholic relationships are common and require the rebuilding of trust and connection. Even when one person has addiction issues in the relationship, both people can benefit from couples counseling to address the injuries that the addiction caused. In addition to the personal journey of recovery, the individual struggling with addiction must also work through relationship challenges. Couples counseling can help non-addicted partners learn more about addiction and ways to avoid enabling. It can also be helpful to learn ways to take care of oneself and to keep perspective on the illness.

Benefits of Involving Significant Others

The benefits of couples therapy during recovery are extensive, not only for the person recovering from addiction but for the partner who has also been injured by the effects of the addiction. Couples in recovery meetings who are dealing with alcoholism in a relationship are well aware of the challenges that lie ahead. Discussing these challenges and obtaining support gives couples an opportunity to feel connected to others and less isolated by their challenges. It also unifies the couple and enables them to have difficult conversations that might otherwise be avoided.

Is Couples Therapy Effective?

Couples addiction recovery is effective and highly recommended. Whether you’re just starting a relationship with someone in recovery or you’ve been in a long-term relationship in which addiction has been a challenge, the use of couples therapy can reduce the negative impact of addiction on the relationship. Couples counseling for people with addiction offers a safe venue to talk about the dynamics of the relationship and how to heal from the impact of addiction.

Finding Addiction Treatment

If addiction is impacting your relationship, there are many treatment and counseling options available. A drug addiction treatment center can help you or your partner find lasting recovery and kickstart a lifetime of emotional healing. The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health offers comprehensive treatment options in South Florida. A specialist at the center can help you create an aftercare plan that includes couples counseling. Reach out to The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health to learn more about treatment options today.

View Sources

Fals-Steward, William, Ph.D; O’Farrell, Timothy J., Ph.D; Birchler, Gary R., Ph.D. “Behavioral Couples Therapy for Substance Abuse: Rationale, Methods, and Findings.” The National Institutes of Health, August 2004. Accessed September 20, 2019. “The Gottman Method.” Accessed September 20, 2019.

Ackerman, Courtney. “What is Positive Psychology & Why is It Important?”, July 10, 2019. Accessed September 20, 2019.