Couples therapy for alcoholism- the benefits & whether it could be ideal for you
Alcohol addiction and substance abuse can put a huge strain on a relationship. Whether excessive alcohol consumption is a problem for one partner or both, knowing where to turn for help can be tough. Treatment for alcohol abuse and drug abuse is complex and often involves multiple interventions. Therapy can be a great tool for anyone suffering from the mental health problems that often come with addiction, or being the partner of someone suffering from alcoholism.
Couples counselling can provide an open, non-judgmental platform for discussion and assist both partners in dealing with the impact of alcoholism. Here, we explain the key benefits of couples therapy and whether it may be ideal for you.
We answer common questions on getting couples therapy for alcoholism.
How does addiction impact intimate relationships?
Alcohol addiction can impact intimate relationships in many ways. Partners with drug abuse and alcohol dependency may only show affection when they are under the influence of the substance. Their problems may also cause arguments about money due to the amount they are spending on heavy drinking. The partner affected may experience problems with performance at work, or they may lose their job, which can cause arguments at home and affect the mental health of both partners.
Someone with an alcohol problem may cut themselves off from friends or family and isolate themselves to hide their alcohol consumption and the issues relating to it. Communication in an intimate relationship can quickly become damaged, and problems can escalate further. Although not everyone with a drinking problem will become violent, domestic violence can be a problem. Studies have shown that alcoholism can be a risk factor for domestic violence in some cases.
What are the benefits of couples therapy for alcohol addiction?
Couples therapy can help both partners understand the impact problem drinking is having on their relationship. Having both partners involved in the treatment process can increase the likelihood of success regarding abstinence and recovery. Motivation to recover can increase in someone with addiction issues if they feel their partner is supporting them through their journey. It’s important to understand the withdrawal symptoms that come with recovery and the complexities surrounding it. Supporting someone through recovery is an intense process, so both partners understanding what the other is going through is key.
How do you know if couples therapy could benefit you?
Sometimes it can be hard to take the step and commit to couples therapy. It may benefit you substantially if you find yourself regularly arguing with your partner about alcohol-related issues. If you find yourself arguing over financial issues relating to your partner’s substance abuse or about your partner’s health, then therapy will likely be beneficial. Find out more about couples counselling for financial issues here.
It is common for an individual with an alcohol problem to be unaware of the impact their addiction is having on their partner and family. Couples therapy can provide a space where these issues can be discussed in greater detail and provoke a better understanding. If you think your communication in your relationship is suffering because of your partner’s substance alcohol consumption, then this can also be a sign that therapy is ideal for you and your partner.
Are you considering couples therapy to help you and your partner deal with alcoholism? All members of The British CBT & Counselling Service are Doctors of Clinical or Counselling Psychology or Psychotherapists. Our psychologists have spent between seven and nine years training to enable people to overcome their emotional difficulties via CBT Counselling. In addition to practising privately, many hold (or have recently held) senior positions in the NHS. Read more about our couples therapy service here, or contact us.
What methods of therapy are commonly used in couples therapy for alcohol addiction?
The methods used in couples therapy for alcohol addiction have been specially selected to be beneficial to those with alcohol problems. The therapy is emotionally focused and often takes a behavioural approach. This helps the individual to understand their drinking triggers and situations that may influence their alcohol consumption and provides skills to help them cope with these. The Gottman Method is also often used in couples therapy as it provides both partners with a deeper understanding of each other. It involves the therapist evaluating the relationship and providing interventions that will help the couple to work towards a healthy and happy relationship.
Narrative therapy is also helpful for those with alcohol abuse problems. This is because it helps an individual recognise their positive attributes, values and skills and work towards overcoming problems by drawing from these. This intertwines with positive psychology approaches that focus on the individual using their inner resources to tackle problems and recognising areas of growth and achievement within themselves.
Exercises that might be provided to you by your therapist
A therapist focusing on alcohol dependence may recommend cognitive behavioural therapy exercises that focus on negative behaviours and thoughts and help you to reframe these into positive thoughts and behaviours. They may also choose to focus on dialectical behavioural therapy exercises that help you to live in the present moment and not dwell on what has happened in the past. This is often based on mindfulness and allows individuals to accept the past and move towards a more positive future. The therapist may also use exercises to enable the addicted partner to understand the effects of their alcohol addiction in greater detail. This can sometimes be a gradual process with the goal of the individual making a commitment to change and combat their addiction.
Commonly asked questions about alcoholism and considering therapy
What should I be looking for in a couples therapist for alcoholism?
You should look for someone that has an understanding of substance abuse and alcohol addiction, and couples therapy. A good therapist will also provide a range of therapies, as sometimes, what may work for one person won’t work for another.
What are the most common signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction?
An individual with an alcohol addiction may become distant, they be drinking alcohol secretly or make excuses for their drinking, they may have mood swings and be irritable, and they may choose to drink over doing other activities or dealing with their responsibilities. They may also experience memory loss and temporary blackouts, be hungover often and start showing physical signs relating to alcohol abuse.
How do you know if you have an addiction to alcohol?
Someone with an addiction to alcohol will normally have an overwhelming desire to have an alcoholic drink, be unable to control their drinking and experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking. We recommend talking to a Doctor or GP first if you suspect you have issues with alcohol addiction.
What medications are used to treat alcohol use abuse?
There are several medications that may be used, including Acamprosate, Benzodiazepines, Disulfiram and Naltrexone. Please contact your Doctor if you feel a medication could be beneficial.
Can you save your relationship with an alcoholic?
Many people have successful relationships with partners in recovery. If your partner commits to abstaining from alcohol and you both learn techniques to advance your relationship, then saving it is entirely possible.
Would it be helpful for me to meet with a professional experienced in alcohol treatment?
Yes. Meeting with a professional that understands the complex nature of alcohol addiction is essential if you want to move forward and recover.
What are the most common signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction?
Alcohol addiction may display several common symptoms. These include high blood pressure, anxiety, nausea, heavy sweating, body tremors and an irregular heartbeat. There are also many other symptoms that affect your entire body.