Why Families of Addicts Should Seek Counseling for Codependency
Relationships are complicated, but especially relationships with people who suffer from addiction. It is occasionally difficult to know when support and care become codependency. Dictionary.com defines a codependent relationship as one in which “one person is physically or psychologically addicted, as to alcohol or gambling, and the other person is psychologically dependent on the first in an unhealthy way”[i]. WebMD notes that a key sign of codependency is when someone finds her sense of purpose in making extreme sacrifices to satisfy the needs of someone else[ii]. It is sometimes said that one person in a codependent pairing is usually addicted to substances while the other is addicted to the relationship.
Why Counseling for Codependency Is Helpful
There are a number of reasons to seek counseling for codependency, including the following examples:
- Codependency often involves enabling, which can prevent addicts from accepting their need for help. When people enable others’ addictions, they protect the addicts from the consequences of drug abuse. This act can involve giving addicts money after they have spent all of theirs on drugs or alcohol; it can also involve lying to employers or teachers when loved ones are hungover or otherwise incapacitated due to substance abuse; other actions, such as cleaning up after the user or helping him to bed, also enable the addiction, which is a disease of denial due to the how drugs and alcohol affect the brain. When addicts are protected from the consequences of their disease, they are less likely to understand and acknowledge it, which means you only further drug abuse with codependency.
- Codependent people may unconsciously sabotage the recovery efforts of their addicted loved ones, because their senses of identity are tied to the role of rescuer. If there is no problem from which to rescue their loved one, then they may fear being unneeded and cast aside.
- Codependency often comes from psychological wounds, which are important to address. A 2007 study reported in the Journal of Emotional Abuse discusses questionnaires it used to determine participants’ histories of child abuse, neglect and their level of codependency. A significant relationship was found between codependency and all forms of childhood abuse, including physical and emotional abuse and neglect[iii].
- Codependent people may need help identifying and addressing their emotions. The support group Codependents Anonymous notes that people in codependent relationships often have difficulty identifying what they are feeling. They may also minimize or deny emotions that arise, but counseling can help such people become aware of their feelings and address them in a healthy manner.
- Counseling can help people in codependent relationships set appropriate boundaries. Many codependent people take responsibility for the actions, thoughts and feelings of others, and this behavior is both counterproductive and frustrating. In response, learn the difference between healthy relationships and enmeshment to restore your healthy place in a relationship.
- Codependent people often have low self-esteems. Generally, people who are codependent rely upon the approval of others for their senses of worth, but this behavior can lead to depression and difficulties making decisions without input from others.
- Codependent people may suffer from anxiety that is related to the fear of being abandoned or alone
Get help to address these problems so you can enjoy fulfilling relationships.
Types of Counseling for Codependency
Counseling for codependency can take a variety of forms, depending upon personal situations and needs. Cognitive Behavioral therapy is often used to identify the thoughts that underlie emotions and behaviors. Therapists evaluate these thoughts for validity and substitute healthier and truer options when necessary.
Additionally, family and couples therapy can also be helpful. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration notes that family therapy often involves identifying and using the family’s strengths and resources to improve functioning. It takes a systems approach to understand that a family is an interconnected system. Such dynamic, balanced continuity requires both work and change[iv].
Lastly, when beginning treatment for codependency, realize that there will be disequilibrium that may initially feel uncomfortable. As with other types of therapy, it is important to accept that relapses and setbacks are often part of the process, but these problems do not mean that therapy is failing. As enabling behavior ends, it is common to face a degree of confusion and anger from the addict who has come to expect certain behaviors. However, the end result will generally be healthier people with healthier relationships.
We Can Help
If you have questions about addiction treatment and associated counseling, then give us a call. Our admissions coordinators can help you find treatment options that meet your needs, and they can even check your insurance coverage for you if you wish. Our 24 hour helpline is toll free, so there is never a wrong time to call. Reach out for help right now to begin recovery today.
[i] Dictionary.com, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/codependent?s=t (November 20, 2015).
[ii] “Are You in a Codependent Relationship?”, FeiFei Sun, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/features/signs-of-a-codependent-relationship (November 20, 2015)
[iii] “Self-Reported History of Childhood Maltreatment and Codependency in Undergraduate Nursing Students,” Nancy Dodge Reyome and Karen S. Ward, Journal of Emotional Abuse, 2007, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J135v07n01_03 (November 20, 2015).
[iv] “Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy,” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2004, http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA15-4219/SMA15-4219.pdf (November 20, 2015).