Our partners offer substance abuse treatment programs that are specifically designed for couples in which both people are struggling with addiction, as well as for couples where just one partner is battling addiction. Relationships that took years to form often are worth saving. A relationship where both partners are using can be just as toxic as relationships where one partner is using. It is important for a non-using partner to remember that treatment is anything but a blame game – their loved one is suffering and needs support, not judgement.
On the same token, we understand that sometimes a non-using spouse feels broken. Maybe they are blaming themselves for their partner’s addiction. They may feel as if they stuck their heads in the sand when the writing was on the wall. They also may be badly bruised, emotionally, by their partner’s previous drinking or drug use. In fact, sometimes a partner gives another an ultimatum: “It’s me or the (fill in your substance of choice).” Such ultimatum’s rarely work, especially when presented in a confrontational manner. It may lead to an unpleasant fight and even your partner saying, “To heck with it” and throwing in the towel on any desire to get sober or save the relationship.
But if the ultimatum is given in the context of doing everything they can to support their partner, with reassurance that they love them so much they are willing to put great effort into saving the relationship, it demonstrates true partnership.
Couples behavioral therapy is for those kids of couples.
These programs are tailored to help each person recover and heal to a healthy individual, but also grow and heal together as a couple. It is important that both of these steps be taken during recovery and to not just work on the romantic relationship. An individual must be in a total healthy state; emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically, to be a member of a functional romantic relationship.
DEFINING HEALTHY IN RECOVERY
For an addict or an alcoholic, healthy may have been so long ago they forget what it’s like. Many people new to recovery ride upon what’s known in 12-step groups as “The Pink Cloud.” Some rewards of recovery are rather immediate. Physically feeling and looking better often can be pronounced in as little as a few months. As a result, the person in recovery feels total elation. This tends to be enhanced while, around town, they soak in compliments from all they encounter.
But while they feel elation from all of the attention (most alcoholics, for example, will tell you they are egomaniacs once they are in recovery), they still are a toddler as far as the development of a sober person goes. This means they don’t have the emotional intelligence or the intellect yet of an experienced person in recovery to know danger when they see it. Danger meaning threats to sobriety, which are plenty even for those not in a relationship. Relationships are work even when both partners are mentally and physically healthy. So, it’s critical that those in recovery truly are ready to return to a partnership.
Once an addict has become more balanced and functional as in individual, then it is time to work on rebuilding their romantic relationship through couple’s behavioral therapy. Couples behavioral therapy is offered as a part of a comprehensive treatment plan. This type of therapy will help to heal and grow the relationship that was once tainted with addiction.
Couple’s behavioral therapy: WHAT TO EXPECT
Couple’s Behavioral Therapy will start soon after the addict starts treatment. It is part of their comprehensive treatment program, and will be used in combination with other treatment modalities. Typically, it requires that the client and their partner be seen for 15-20 sessions. With both partners in attendance it will give the client’s partner a chance to build support for sobriety. Typically, a session will begin with the client stating their intent not to use drugs or alcohol, and then their partner expressing support for abstinence. The client and partner will continue with this sobriety contract daily at home, and record their progress. They will then discuss this daily performance log with their therapist. Another important aspect of CBT is that the client and their partner not discuss past substance abuse issues, or fears about the future outside of therapy. This could cause conflicts that could lead to a possible relapse, and these concerns will be addressed my healthcare professionals eventually in the recovery process. We are committed to making sure you and your partner stay sober.
HOW Cognitive behavioral therapy CAN HELP A COUPLE
Cognitive behavioral therapy takes a behavioral approach and assumes that a partner can reward an addict’s abstinence, and that clients in a happy and healthy romantic relationship will have a lower chance of relapse. During therapy sessions, the couple will work to rebuild the healthy factors of their relationship that help to maintain long-term sobriety. CBT works to increase positive feelings, shared activities, and healthy communication between the client and their partner.
Therapy will focus heavily on teaching positive communication skills that will allow the client and their partner to handle stressful situations in a healthy way. Communicating in healthy ways and the ongoing support from a partner really helps the client to reduce the risk of relapse. Through motivational interviewing and other skills possessed by trained professional therapists, the positive aspects of what brought the couple together in the first place can be emphasized.
For example, maybe the couple met at an amusement park and had great fun. These kinds of special moments can fall by the wayside when addiction grips a couple. The memories can be all but lost in the face of addiction, leaving the couple scratching their heads about how they go together in the first place.
The last stage of cognitive behavioral couple’s therapy is for the client and their partner to come up with a recovery plan that will continue to keep the couple on the right track. This plan is reviewed at follow up visits for another year or two just to make sure that the couple is still in a healthy place and on track.
The term codependency comes up a lot when dealing with recovering couples in therapy. Enabling, caretaking, and denial are frequent behaviors seen in relationships where addiction is involved. When a person is codependent, especially surrounding addiction, it can negatively affect a newly sober relationship and the individual successes of the couple. Cognitive behavioral therapy will allow the couple to recognize and correct the enabling behaviors that are present in their relationship. For example, in some cases, a non-using spouse actually can become lonely and resentful when a partner attains sobriety and is not as available around the house as they once were. They may even tire of you attending AA meetings, many of which are closed to non-users. In an effort to get a partner’s attention focused back on them, it’s not unheard of for a spouse to say, “Honey, you’ve been doing so well. Why don’t you come to dinner with me tonight? I won’t tell if you have a glass of wine.”
Alcoholics committed to recovery quickly learn there is only one outcome when returning to the bottle. Many people actually look upon relapses as an important reminder of this if they are lucky enough not to lose everything when a relapse happens. Spouses and partners must also understand that relapse only leads to one outcome. Of course, if they are accompanying their spouse to rehab, whether they use or not, they obviously already do.