Counseling Helps Marriages in Trouble With Addiction

Couples Counseling

Counseling Helps Marriages in Trouble With Addiction

Couples counseling, also called couples therapy or marriage counseling, is a type of psychotherapy that helps partners in an intimate relationship better understand their problems and resolve conflicts. Couples counseling can help partners make important, informed decisions about the goals and future of their relationship.

What Is Couples Therapy?

Couples therapy helps partners of any marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity strengthen their relationships. Participants in couples therapy may include couples who:

  • Have a desire to better understand the needs of their partners
  • Plan to marry and wish to pre-emptively work on conflicts
  • Wish to understand their own needs
  • Want to work on problems that have surfaced in their relationships

Common issues addressed in couples therapy include:

  • Desire to improve communication
  • Imbalance in needs for sex or intimacy
  • Infidelity in the relationship
  • Managing emotions anger or fear
  • Conflicts in managing responsibilities, such as child-rearing or meeting financial obligations
  • Addiction or substance use in one or both partners
  • Mental health conditions in one or both partners

In certain situations, couples therapy can help address intimate partner (domestic) violence. However, if you are afraid in your relationship or fear for your safety, it is important that you seek help from police, crisis centers or other local authorities.

Couples will work with a licensed therapist who has specialized training in identifying and treating relationship problems. The therapist is usually a marriage and family therapist (MFT), but some may have trained as a social worker or clinical psychologist.

What to Expect in Couples Counseling

Before beginning therapy, it is important that participants have a reasonable sense of what to expect from couples counseling. Couples can prepare for counseling either as individuals or together by:

  • Making a brief inventory of what they feel should be addressed in therapy
  • Finding a therapist (through referral from a primary care provider, insurance provider, employee assistance program or by word of mouth)
  • Interviewing the therapist and asking about:
    • Background (expertise, experience and education)
    • Rates (fees per hour and insurance coverage)
    • Treatment timeframe (length of each session and total length of treatment)
    • Logistics (location of office and emergency availability)

In most cases, couples attend sessions with the therapist together. In these sessions, couples will discuss what is working in the relationship and what isn’t. Couples will also learn how to make necessary improvements and have productive, honest and open discussions without shaming or blaming one another.

Couples therapy might not be easy. You may be asked to complete work outside of the sessions. The therapy may uncover deeper issues with one or both partners that require work in individual therapy. You will be asked to discuss problems and situations that may be embarrassing, frustrating or unhealthy.

You may be asked to talk about your (or your partner’s) reactions and behaviors that you consider ugly or unsavory. You and your partner might have sessions where you experience anger, resentment or silence. This is a normal and necessary part of identifying problems and finding healthier ways of communicating about them.

Benefits of Couples Counseling

Couples counseling can be difficult, but the benefits of couples therapy can be substantial and lasting. Those who experience the benefits of couples counseling are clients who:

  • Increase their ability to express emotions in a productive way
  • Deepen understanding of their internal motivations
  • Increase problem-solving skills
  • Have fewer communication pitfalls
  • Experience deeper understanding of their partner’s needs
  • Resolve differences in a constructive manner

Goals of Couples Counseling

Couples counseling can significantly change the flight path of a relationship. UCLA psychologist Dr. Lisa Benson and colleagues described the core principles and goals of couples therapy as:

  • Changing the view of the relationship
  • Modifying dysfunctional behavior
  • Decreasing emotional avoidance
  • Improving communication
  • Promoting strengths

While the specific goals of couples counseling do not always include salvaging a relationship, one goal is to help participants arrive at honest, productive and informed decisions about their relationship. As part of the core principles of therapy, couples counseling treatment goals may include:

  • Creating an environment of mutual respect and empathy
  • Strengthening bonds and intimacy
  • Learning effective problem-solving strategies
  • Reducing power struggles
  • Creating and fostering healthier relational patterns

Couples Counseling in Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

The presence of addiction or a mental health condition will have an impact on the health of an intimate relationship. The reverse is also true: The quality of an intimate relationship has a direct effect on the recovery prospects of a person suffering from an addiction or mental health condition.

Strength of Addiction/Mental Health Condition ⇆ Vulnerability of Intimate Relationship

Addiction Recovery  ⇆ Enhanced Relationship Function

When one or both parties in an intimate relationship suffer from an addiction or a mental health condition, a therapist can help improve the outcomes of both the relationship and the mental health condition or substance use disorder.

Couples therapy can help clients understand how unhealthy patterns can develop in addiction and mental health conditions and show how those patterns may be manifesting in a relationship.

As couples develop more awareness around their patterns, they can learn healthier, more supportive ways of communicating with each other.

Treatment programs for addiction or mental health conditions sometimes have couples addiction counseling as part of a larger family therapy component.

Other times, couples therapy can be pursued in addition to a treatment program.

In those instances, it is best to inform the program of the outside therapist so that the therapists can work with each other to maximize understanding and communication.

Couples counseling for sex addiction and love addiction is especially beneficial. Relationships affected by these addictions can display patterns of codependence, passive-aggressive behavior,  infidelity and other difficulties.

When sex or love addiction is involved, the partners in a relationship often cannot see the problematic behavioral patterns of the addiction until the behaviors have already manifested. If they do see it, they may feel powerless to stop it.

When a relationship has been affected by infidelity, couples therapy can help partners reestablish trust and accountability and communicate more productively.

If you or your significant other has been affected by addiction or a mental health condition, The Recovery Village is here to help. We can provide you with valuable recovery resources, including on-site couples therapy with licensed and experienced clinicians. Connect with us today.

  • SourcesKarakurt, Gunnur, Whiting, Kate, Van Esch, Chantal, Bolen, Shari and Calabrese, Joseph. “Couple Therapy for Intimate Partner Violence: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, July 2016. Accessed May 14, 2019.Benson, Lisa A., McGinn, Meghan M. and Christensen, Andrew. “Common principles of couple therapy.” Behavior Therapy, March 2012. Accessed May 14, 2019.Fals-Stewart, William, O’Farrell, Timothy J.  and Birchler, Gary R. “Behavioral Couples Therapy for Substance Abuse: Rationale, Methods, and Findings.” (2004). Science and Practice Perspectives. Accessed May 14, 2019.

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Couples and Addiction Recovery — Professionals | The Gottman Institute

Counseling Helps Marriages in Trouble With Addiction

Statistics show that 1 in 10 people who enter a therapy office or clinic have an addictive disorder, yet only about 10% receive treatment.

While addiction is often referred to as a “family disease,” current approaches in recovery do not provide treatments that address or account for the relationship between the person with an addiction and their partner. It’s time to change how we treat couples in recovery.

To help move our clients from addiction to recovery, we need to know how to assess and treat addictive disorders, and to feel comfortable using tools and strategies to help couples address addiction and support recovery. Outcome research informs us that couples counseling is more effective than individual therapy in identifying addiction and in moving the person with the addiction and family into recovery.

Training Description

Couples and Addiction Recovery is a groundbreaking new training for therapists, counselors, and professionals who work with couples struggling with addiction as well as couples in recovery from alcohol, drugs, and/or behavioral addictions. This workshop draws from the fields of addiction treatment, mental health, and couples counseling, and integrates current research findings with knowledge from clinical practice.

It integrates more than a decade of research by Dr. Robert Navarra with the Sound Relationship House model, developed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman. Dr. Navarra has worked in addiction recovery for over 25 years. He holds an Advanced Drug and Alcohol Certification and a national certification as a Master Addiction Counselor through the Association of Addiction Professionals (NAADAC).

This training provides interventions and tools for a relational approach to healing that addresses three different but overlapping recoveries to include: the person with the addictive disorder, the partner, and their relationship.

What will I learn?

You will learn a research-based approach to help couples:

  • Identify addiction
  • Break through denial
  • Navigate the challenging road from active addiction to recovery
  • Improve conflict management skills
  • Learn the difference between “codependency” and “interdependency” and how to identify and set appropriate boundaries
  • Develop a relationship recovery, while supporting their partner’s recovery and strengthening their own individual recovery
  • Heal from the aftermath of addiction
  • Move toward wellness as individuals and as a couple

The tools and interventions taught in this workshop are adapted from Gottman Method Couples Therapy to help develop a Couple Recovery plan through increasing communication and understanding, establishing appropriate boundaries, and healing from the impact of addiction and recovery. Participants will be provided with tools to use immediately in their offices or clinics to work more effectively with individual couples and/or with small groups of couples.

Who is this training for?

This workshop is for mental health therapists, counselors, social workers, clergy, military family life chaplains, life coaches, recovery coaches, professors, students and professionals who work with couples affected by alcohol, drugs and/or behavioral addictions.

No prior experience or training in the Gottman Method is required; however, therapists who work with couples will greatly benefit from having at least completed Level 1 Gottman Method Couples Therapy.

What is included in the price?

Each participant will receive materials designed to help therapists and counselors effectively facilitate assessments, interventions, and exercises with their couples that can be used immediately following the workshop. All addiction assessments and exercises may be photocopied as handouts for couples.

  • 170-page Couples and Addiction Recovery Training Manual
  • Couples and Addiction Recovery Training Certificate of Completion
  • 4 Card Decks
    • My Recovery
    • Your Recovery
    • Our Recovery
    • Developing Rituals of Connection
  • Up to 6 CE Hours available for the live training

Training Objectives

At the completion of this training, you will be able to:

  • Summarize three assessment techniques for identifying addiction
  • Apply therapeutic techniques to help break denial of addiction
  • Describe and apply two techniques for helping couples in addiction recovery manage conflict
  • Practice techniques designed to help couples develop or strengthen a relational approach in addiction recovery
  • Describe the three components of the Couple Recovery Development Approach
  • Analyze demonstrations of Gottman Method Couples Therapy techniques adapted to assist couples in addiction recovery

Training Reviews

Thousands of clinicians worldwide have completed Couples and Addiction Recovery. Here’s what some of them have said about the workshop.

“Couples affected by addiction are hungry for a framework to help heal their relationship. I highly recommend this important training for addiction treatment centers running family programs. It provides new research, insights, clinical structure and effective materials that can be used by therapists and staff to help couples build new relationship bridges.”

– Courtney Strong, Clinical Director, Edgewood Health Network

“Since I am already trained in the Gottman method, it was really helpful to learn new, yet similar, interventions that can be applied specifically to couples working through addiction and recovery.”

– Anonymous evaluation from Berkeley, CA

“We needed this – I see so much substance abuse and addiction in the couples I work with. It’s nice to have a strategy.”

– Anonymous evaluation from Seattle, WA

  • Do I need previous Gottman training to attend?

    Specific interventions will be taught at the workshop, many modified or adapted approaches from the Gottman Method.

    While previous Gottman training is not required to attend this workshop, counselors, therapists. and recovery professionals who have completed Level 1 Training will find previous training helpful and relevant to both the theory and interventions covered in this training.

  • What if I haven't had any couples therapy training?

    This training offers service providers of all types, the concepts and skills needed to help couples understand and talk about recovery so that recovery does not replace addiction as the “new elephant in the room.”

    Participants interested in receiving the introductory training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy may purchase an online course or attend a live two-day workshop.

  • Isn't working with couples who have less than a year of recovery too soon?

    There is no empirical evidence that working with couples in early recovery is contraindicated.

    In fact, there is growing evidence that early intervention with couples is associated with better treatment outcomes.

    Couple recovery does not replace individual recovery; rather, this approach supports individual recovery and provides tools for couples to integrate both individual and relationship recovery concurrently.

  • Does this training address behavioral addictions?

    We cover approaches relevant to behavioral (process) addictions as well as addiction to alcohol and other drugs.

  • Do you offer a program for couples?

    We also offer a two-day workshop for couples called “A Roadmap for the Journey.” For more information, visit here.


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