Friday, 8 June 2018

Couples Therapy: Addiction


Addiction is a worldwide epidemic. Sugars, nicotine, gambling, pornography; we humans appear to have something ingrained within our nature that makes us become compulsive, and once the habit becomes set it is incredibly difficult to move away from it. Add chemical addiction to a behavioural habit and you have a recipe for a life-threatening condition.  

The addicted individual must genuinely want to make a change. It’s a cliche we have all heard, but one very true and the first step toward making any kind of change. How one fosters that motivation is the million-dollar question. Encouragement, education, doctor’s warnings, bodily dysfunction, scientific facts, threats - each have varying levels of success. Many will just take time to process all the information until they find a point in their life where they just feel ready to change, or sometimes they sadly never will.

Hypnotherapy can’t work without motivation, and neither will prescribed medications.
With couple’s therapy in addiction it is much the same thing. There needs to be motivation to work, but if both people buy into the idea of being free from addiction then the added support that brings through companionship in the journey can be priceless. You want to be free from addiction for yourself and so your partner can be free and healthy too. Often doing something for someone else’s benefit has an even stronger motivating force.

In an ideal world couples will support one another and promote positive change, although sadly this is not always the case and is why professional help is often sought.  

Partners can negatively affect us. Imagine you are trying not to eat biscuits while your partner consumes them in front of you night and day, leaves packets around the house and talks about them non-stop. The routine of consuming sugars is triggered within you constantly by the numerous sensual and visual cues making it all the harder to escape from.

Jealous partners who can’t quit themselves try to make themselves feel better by dragging their other half down with them. At heart we like to share in our addictions, its part of the disease.
A non-addicted partner can also have a negative influence while trying to be positive. Maintaining standards that are too high or having an attitude that does not aid a progressive environment is common. Frustration in progress can manifest with comments like; ‘You will never quit!’ which can leads to self-fulfilling prophecy. Incredulous reactions; ‘I can’t believe your still drinking after what happened to your father!’ ‘You’ve just had a heart attack!’ We hear ‘No’ and our subconscious minds rebel.

That said being perfectly supportive often isn’t enough either – so what is the right approach truly?
The NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2851021/ report that couples therapy statistically works better than individual therapy. This does not surprise me, but it is fascinating nonetheless. From personal experience I have seen favourable results from couple’s therapy in the smoking cessation clinic I run, but why does this happen?

We are social creatures after all, so when we do things together they become more powerful experiences. The reflective period post session becomes greater due to the interactive nature of being able to share upon what transgressed. Perhaps witnessed therapy becomes sessions we cannot escape the truth of.    

The NCBI report talks about addiction being not an individual problem but a family one, where our social interactions reinforce addictive behaviours. Thus by having Behavioural Couples Therapy the problem is being targeted at its root in hope to making the lasting changes we aim for.

For more on couple’s therapy, and finding a therapist:

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