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Couples Rehab

In couples rehabilitation programs, both partners are seeking treatment for a substance use disorder (SUD). Couples have the option to attend treatment together in order to motivate and lean on one another throughout the process. While each individual must go through their own recovery process, embarking on the journey together can reconfirm partners’ commitment to one another as well as their commitment to getting sober. 

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The major difference between individual rehab programs and couples rehab is that you enter the program with someone you love, care about, and trust. Individual therapy is part of most rehab programs, but in couples rehab, there is also an opportunity to engage in therapy together.

Comparing the Pros & Cons of Couples Rehab 

Couples rehab programs offer many benefits to couples struggling with substance abuse. Both partners are engaged in treatment and share the common goal of achieving and maintaining sobriety. While a couples rehab program may sound like a great idea, it is important to consider the pros and cons of entering couples treatment.

Pros of couples addiction treatment include the following: [1]

  • Partner behaviors and interactions are examined.
  • Partners can reward one another for staying sober.
  • A positive romantic relationship can be a key motivational factor for maintaining abstinence.
  • Relationship issues are addressed, reducing the risk of relapse.

Cons of couples rehab can include the following:[1] 

  • If one partner is less committed to recovery than the other, progress can be difficult.
  • If the relationship is a source of trauma that triggers substance use, it can hamper recovery.
  • If there is ongoing domestic violence that has not been addressed, it can be damaging.
  • Relationship distress may increase during treatment before it gets better.

Hopefully, through an effective couples rehab program, positive communication and interactions increase. Each partner learns effective coping mechanisms to support sobriety as well as techniques to improve the overall relationship. [1]

How to Determine Which Type of Rehab Is Right for You 

Selecting the right rehab program for yourself is a personal decision, even if you are in a relationship. The best program may be a couples rehab program, or a program with a more individual focus may be a better fit. 

When searching for the right treatment program, there are many factors to consider. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers the following tips for finding the right type of rehab program for you:[2] 

  • If you have insurance, which treatment programs does it cover near you?
  • If you don’t have insurance, which state-funded treatment programs are available to you?
  • Is the program you are interested in accredited by the state?
  • Are evidenced-based treatment methods used?
  • What types of treatment, such as psychotherapy, medication management, and substance use education are offered?
  • Are co-occurring mental health or physical health issues also treated?
  • How are family members incorporated into the treatment process?
  • What kinds of continuing care services are available?

If you’re satisfied with the answers you have received to the above questions, you may have found a treatment program that’s right for you. Contact the program for more information and to confirm availability.

An additional, significant question to ask yourself is if couples or individual rehab is best for you. As previously noted, there are many benefits to attending couples rehab. When both partners are equally committed to the relationship and recovery, couples rehab may be a great choice. 

If you doubt the intention of your partner in the recovery process, or if you feel the need to focus on your own recovery alone, individual rehab may be the way to go. There is nothing selfish about prioritizing your own addiction recovery.

What to Consider Before Choosing Couples Rehab for Substance Abuse

Relationships affected by addiction have divorce rates that are four times higher than an average couple.[3] In some cases, couples rehab can repair relationship difficulties and enable couples to heal together.

Partners affected by substance use disorders often have a personal history of trauma.[3] This can complicate the recovery process, and it may be tough to navigate together when you need to instead focus on your own individual recovery process. However, for some couples, couples rehab provides a safe space to address trauma history together, and this can reduce the risk of the relationship deteriorating further.[3]

Behavioral Couples Therapy

Behavioral couples therapy is a form of addiction treatment for individuals and their partners. It can be used when both partners are in recovery or when just one partner is struggling with substance abuse and the other partner wishes to support them. It is a practical way to engage partners and other family members in the recovery process. 

Behavioral couples therapy can be provided on an outpatient and ongoing basis, even after formal rehab programs may have ended. Typical aspects of behavioral couples therapy include the following:[1]

  • Check-ins about any recent substance use
  • Creation of a sobriety contract, to encourage sobriety between sessions 
  • Homework that is assigned by the therapist for the couple to work on together
  • Discussion of triggers for substance use and any upcoming events that could be difficult to navigate

Behavioral couples therapy is most effectively given by licensed mental health professionals who are experts in both addiction and couples therapy. By working with a therapist who utilizes behavioral couples therapy, couples can gain an understanding of their individual patterns of substance use, as well as their patterns of use within the context of the relationship. In sessions, they can learn how to best support one another in sobriety. 

What Couples Can Expect When Starting Couples Rehab

When starting couples rehab, you can expect treatment to touch on relationship issues between you and your partner. Treatment will address the needs of each individual while also focusing on the dynamic between the partners. Interventions will be used to help couples recognize their triggers for substance use and then identify ways, together, to effectively manage those triggers.[3]

If both partners are fully committed to the recovery process, partners can learn to recover together. Issues that led to substance abuse, such as codependence or enabling use for one another, can be effectively addressed.[4] Once identified and understood, such habits can be replaced with healthy coping skills to support a lifetime of sobriety. 

When starting couples rehab, you are embarking on a physically and emotionally challenging journey together. Recovering from addiction is challenging, and it can be hard for two people to achieve recovery at the same time. However, with the correct supports in place, couples can motivate and support one another toward their common goal of a relationship free of addiction.  

Updated January 19, 2024
  1. Behavioral couples therapy for alcohol use disorders. Society of Clinical Psychology. Accessed January 14, 2024.
  2. Struggling with addiction? Tips on Finding Quality Treatment. Herron, A. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Published January 23, 2019. Accessed January 16, 2024.
  3. Trauma and addiction recovery: How to work with couples. National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors. Published December 1, 2021. Accessed January 16, 2024.
  4. The lived experience of codependency: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. Bacon I, McKay E, Reynolds F, McIntyre A. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. 2018;18.
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