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The Role Of Couples Therapy For Alcoholism

Couples therapy connects the couple together through diving into the psyche of each patient to resolve conflict. In addition, therapy can uncover motives for alcoholism, or an alcohol use disorder (AUD), and help loved ones empathize with the other. Every couple has difficult moments and challenges; however, therapy may be needed if:

  • There is poor communication.
  • The relationship has caused mental health challenges (anxiety, depression).
  • There is a lack of trust.
  • Substance abuse is present.
  • Financial or emotional instability has occurred due to relationship problems.
  • Boundaries are constantly crossed.
  • The relationship seems emotionally or physically unsafe.
  • The relationship is becoming toxic.
  • Infidelity occurs.
  • There is little to no emotional or physical intimacy.

While this is not a comprehensive list, therapy can help in cases where individuals want to fight for the relationship or feel unable to leave due to perceived roadblocks like joint finances and custody of children, but believe their issues can be reconciled.

Benefits Of Couples Therapy For Alcoholism

Loved ones can learn healthy coping skills and can learn to develop boundaries. If they have been enablers, they can determine if they need to make changes in their behavior to discourage drinking. In contrast, if the relative who drinks too much makes too many excuses, they can be held accountable for their avoidance. Moreover, they can discuss and confront difficult emotions like anger, frustration, guilt, grief, hopelessness, loneliness, resentment and work through it in healthy ways. Any damage to the relationship, such as abuse, trauma, or infidelity can be addressed with constructive alternatives, accountability, and open honest communication. However, it is important to put your personal safety as the first priority when it comes to cases of domestic violence. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1 800-799-SAFE any time.

Traditional therapy involves a therapist and the couple, as they are guided to reflect and discuss the topics at hand. This can include the therapist offering insights and strategies for improved behavior, intimacy, and communication. Couples receive encouragement to openly discuss any challenges or problems needing assistance, thus attempting to rebuild connections. Lastly, those who attend couples therapy have the chance to change their lives for the better and opt to get treatment if necessary or achieve lower rates of relapse with Behavioral Couples Therapy.

Challenges In Couples Therapy For Alcoholism

Despite the option to attend couples therapy for alcohol abuse, there can be common challenges one may expect to face. In some cases, individual’s may be too resistant to get feedback from their loved one and the therapist. Defense mechanisms for resistance can include being combative, shutting down verbally or emotionally, becoming passive-aggressive, contradicting new insights, or opposing new ideas to resist growth or accountability. Secondly, other challenges can occur like aggression and blame that can arise when being vulnerable or avoiding being vulnerable. Fortunately, a licensed therapist is trained to break down barriers to create communication and connection.

Alcohol’s Effect On Relationships And Families

Alcohol has several effects on families, friendships, and the individual facing alcohol abuse. It is common for individuals facing alcohol abuse to have strained relationships with friends or loved ones. Loved ones of those dependent on alcohol go through challenging emotions like frustration, mistrust, and poor or unhealthy communication. Furthermore, feelings of safety both the individual with alcoholism and the loved one may feel can become compromised. The individual battling alcoholism may form unhealthy relationships outside the home, can spend money supporting their alcoholism, or can become aggressive and engage in violent or aggressive behavior (or domestic violence) at worst.

Additionally, children can also feel impacted by the instability of seeing loved one’s drink, argue, or in some cases, engage in abuse due to alcoholism. As a result, the child is more likely to grow up repeating patterns of alcohol abuse or unhealthy relationship patterns. Lastly, the effect of alcoholism on the individual can be a complex one that damages or worsens mental health (depression), increases health challenges (withdrawal, organ damage, cirrhosis, and changes in brain chemistry) and impacts everyday life. Without treatment that includes counseling, individuals may remain largely unaware of how their alcoholism affects others.

Couples Therapy In Rehab

Alongside detox and medications used to reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms, patients can access group therapy and one-on-one therapy in some facilities. This helps the individual become more self-aware. Additionally, some facilities offer family or couples therapy in order to help individuals and their loved one’s better cope with addiction and relationship challenges. Contact a treatment provider today to discuss treatment options.

  • Author: Krystina Murray | Last Updated: October 4, 2021

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    Krystina Murray

    Digital Content Writer

    Krystina Murray has received a B.A. in English at Georgia State University. She has over 7 years of professional writing and editing experience, and over 17 years of overall writing experience. She enjoys traveling, fitness, crafting, cooking, and spreading awareness of addiction recovery to help people transform their lives.

  • Medical Reviewer: David Hampton

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