Couples counseling and Addiction, everything you need to know!
Updated: Apr 8
Couples counselling is a kind of treatment in which both spouses meet with the same therapist together for psychotherapy. Couples counselling aims to resolve difficulties in the relationship which can include issues arising from an addiction or drug use problem that one or both partners have. Couples therapy may be utilized for a variety of situations and can still be beneficial when couples are in extreme conflict or contemplating divorce. Even in situations where a couple is uncertain of their future and contemplating separation or divorce, counselling can still provide enormous benefits in aiding you with feeling confident with your ultimate decision.
This therapy method entails both parties in a romantic partnership to build a therapeutic connection with a therapist (typically during one-hour sessions) and work with them collaboratively. While there is no set time that one is supposed to attend therapy, we find that couples therapy is most beneficial for its participants when couples meet regularly (weekly, bi-weekly) for a period of 3-6 months (depending on the original goals and issues they are bringing with them). Couples therapy can be intense, however, the long term commitment to it can be extremely beneficial. Initially, the couple will make an appointment with the therapist to discuss what led them to treatment, their aspirations, goals for counselling, and the circumstances they’ve experienced together that have led them to where they currently are. Your therapist will help you access your goals and objectives and come up with a blueprint of what kinds of conversations and treatment you need to approach in order to obtain your goals in therapy.
The next steps in therapy then involve the therapist assisting the couple in establishing objectives for upcoming sessions. Both spouses will also have the chance to express themselves, share their own points of view, hear each other’s opinions, and the therapist will give comments and, on occasion, homework and assignments for the couples in between appointments. This might include practising a specific form of communication or taking or rejecting activities that have caused problems in the past (i.e. setting up ground rules for communication and conflict). Because the couple and therapist must work together to solve the difficulties in the relationship, identifying the correct therapist for the couple is essential. It’s imperative that the couple feels comfortable and trusts the therapist to hold a safe environment for them to talk about difficult situations. We often recommended utilizing the free consultations that all therapists offer to have a preliminary chat so that you can access your level of comfort working with the clinician.
A therapist may opt not to provide counselling to a specific couple at times. For example, a therapist may believe that if one or both spouses are abusive and the couple doesn't view this as an issue, or simply there is such a breakdown in communication and build-up of resentment, conversations between the spouses are no longer safe. In these cases, a couples therapist may ask the partners to do some individual work prior to moving forward with couples therapy, sometimes a couples therapist will recommend separate therapists for this case and refer out, in some cases, the couples therapist will ask to meet each person individually for a few sessions prior to coming back together for a joint session. There are lots of different approaches to building up safety in couples therapy. Again this is something that a quick consultation with the clinician will help answer. It might be disheartening to hear that individual work must be done prior to couples work together, however, try to remember that these steps are meant to help create success in couples work and that in many cases trying to ‘rush’ through the therapeutic process may sometimes make the progress slower than taking it one step at a time.
How Does Couples Counselling Aid Addiction?
Relationship issues can sometimes underpin or exacerbate addiction disorders – even if the relationship troubles associated with the addiction date back to childhood, they can still manifest in romantic relationships. Similarly, addiction issues constantly have an impact on the quality of a relationship. Unpacking some of these connections and traumas can make the environment for both spouses safer. Having a neutral safe space in couples therapy to explore these realms also adds another opportunity for building safer communication, thereby helping to reduce triggers or events that lead one to cope with substances.
Couples counselling can be a crucial component of effective addiction treatment; however, not all treatment facilities include it, therefore it is typically advisable to seek out additional couples work even when you are taking steps to approach your own work in individual addictions therapy. In many cases, it can also be a good idea to notify your addiction therapist so that the two therapists may collaborate to work on complementary goals.
Building on communication in relationships, and also the process of battling and overcoming an addiction is a long term process. Because overcoming an addiction can be difficult for an individual and the relationships they are part of, regular check-ins are strongly suggested, which couples counselling can help aid, this type of follow-up care can be essential in the maintenance of a safe environment and make it easier for those overcoming an addiction to better protect themselves through stressors and triggers.
Substance abuse treatment
Counselling may assist both partners in being aware of these relationship patterns and learning new ways of talking and behaving that support one other in living a life free of addictions.
Couples therapy can assist many partnerships, including married couples, couples planning for marriage, cohabiting couples, dating couples, separated couples, couples in open and/or polyamorous relationships and couples preparing for a divorce. Ultimately the goal is to enhance the quality of the relationships, open communication, create safety and honesty, and ultimately feel safe to navigate the shared responsibility, commitment, and mutual support that is essential in building a good foundation for a relationship.
Sometimes one or both spouses opt to forego relationship counselling. This might be due to a variety of factors. For example, one spouse may be open to counselling while the other is less enthused, in these cases the therapist will work with you to determine whether individual or couples work will be the best first step in seeking support. Ultimately, all of us deserve to seek help and support when we are struggling and doing our best. It can be scary to reach out for help, but you might be surprised at how much of a difference psychotherapy can make. Take advantage of the free consultations that therapists offer and don’t hesitate to take the first step and just reach out, you’ll be surprised at how much less scary and daunting it is once you take the first step.