Marriage counseling can be helpful in situations where substance abuse is an issue but the role and progression of counseling may be different than what you expect.
When substance abuse infiltrates a relationship the fallout can be devastating. Trust is broken. Relationships are fractured. The risk for violence increases. Living situations become unstable. If children are involved, everything is multiplied times 100.
The most important thing to know going in is that marriage counseling is not a substitute for nor an appropriate treatment for an addiction. Someone in the midst of an intense, active addiction is often unable to fully and authentically engage in couples counseling.
Substance abuse causes damage to relationships and unless those issues are addressed, the damage continues to occur. Your therapist’s first order of business will be to assess the extent of the substance use. Occasional, recreational use is vastly different from a full-on, life-threatening addiction that may require a medically monitored detox and intensive treatment. In any case, substance abuse causes damage to relationships and unless those issues are addressed, the damage continues to occur.
Your therapist may deem couples counseling appropriate. The focus may be on motivating the person using to seek abstinence while strengthening the rewards of doing so and working on relationship issues.
The therapist may recommend a substance abuse treatment program to address the substance abuse issue. The good news is that most treatment programs recognize the importance of involving partners and family in the treatment process. Couples therapy is often a significant part of treatment. Once the program is completed, additional couples counseling may be recommended as part of the recovery process.
Couples therapy can also be helpful when past substance abuse issues are present. The stressors in relationships can be triggers to relapse. Maintaining the health of your relationship can help you or your partner maintain control and help to prevent relapse.
What if the person using refuses counseling? Counseling can still help. A therapist can help the non-using partner to work on setting boundaries, safety planning, recognizing enabling behaviors and ways to positively motivate their partner to seek help.
Substance abuse in a relationship doesn’t have to mean the end of the relationship. A skilled therapist who understands the dynamics of substance abuse and addictions can help you and your partner find a plan of treatment that works for you.