Behavioral couples therapy

Build Deeper Intimacy with Behavioral Couples Therapy

If you’re currently experiencing some difficulties with your partner due to an addiction to alcohol or drugs, there are techniques that can help improve the situation and create greater intimacy in your relationship. Behavioral couples therapy is one example of how you can begin to overcome your issues together as a team, so both of you feel more satisfied and happy in the relationship.

We all want to be happy in our relationships, but it’s inevitably easier said than done. Read on to learn more about how behavioral couples therapy can help if you’re struggling with substance abuse that’s affecting your relationship and need some guidance from a skilled therapist.

What is Behavioral Couples Therapy?

First, let’s discuss what behavioral couples therapy is. This is a type of therapy that may focus  on improving a couple’s relationship when one of them is seeking help for an addiction. It also provides support for the individual who is struggling with abstaining from drugs or alcohol.

In this therapeutic setting, the couple gains new insight and tools to help manage conflict more effectively and support one another. The therapist will work with both partners to explore their individual behavior and how this behavior may impact the  f relationship dynamic as a whole. They’ll also provide guidance and goal-oriented techniques to get to the heart of the couple’s main issues as they relate to alcoholism or substance abuse.

Behavioral couples therapy can help build a deep, intimate relationship, but it takes time and dedication to doing the work. Research has shown that BCT can improve commitment to the relationship, as well as empathy, and also help couples to rebuild their trust in one another. Overall, this type of goal-oriented treatment also helps people feel closer and more supportive of each other, which can lead to a healthier relationship all around.

How Does it Work?

The first step is that the partner who is suffering from an addiction needs to want help. If your loved one is struggling, it’s important to remember that you can’t make them seek help.

Generally, behavioral couples therapy has a set time frame of 12-20 weeks, making it a goal-oriented option for couples. If you and your partner are trying to decide if therapy is right for you, you can expect BCT to span a 3 to 6 month period.

Some of the main goals of behavioral couples therapy are to focus on healthier activities, improve communication as a couple, and commit more deeply to the relationship. Working alongside an experienced therapist, you’ll learn new techniques that you can use to strengthen your connection. For example, you will likely practice new ways of expressing and listening to emotions without becoming defensive, as well as how to negotiate requests so your partner feels invited to support you, instead of like they’re being attacked. Couples are also given appreciation exercises and other “homework” to practice outside of the sessions. This helps to integrate your new dynamic beyond the therapy office, so you learn to use new skills in daily life.

Creating a Contract

Another popular hallmark of BCT is creating a recovery contract that the couple commits to honoring, often along with daily goals to help them stay on track.

Possible Aspects of a Recovery Contract

These are some things that may be included in a recovery contract:

  • Affirming on a daily basis the intention to abstain from drugs or alcohol
  • If medication was prescribed, it’s taken in the presence of the supporting partner and verbally reinforced
  • Weekly screenings for substance abuse (if relevant)
  • An agreement to attend peer support groups
  • Engaging in healthy activities that support recovery
  • Taking note of your progress on a shared document

Rebuilding Trust

One of the toughest things about recovering from any addiction is allowing trust back into the relationship. It can be scary—for both sides of the partnership, to try again. This is one of the many ways BCT can help build deeper intimacy with your partner. Trust is the cornerstone of all healthy relationships. Without it, emotional distance and conflict are inevitable, and resentment builds up over time.

It may seem impossible to imagine a way forward right now, but trust can be rebuilt over time if both people are willing to do the work and not give up on each other. Of course, that’s easier said than done, and the way forward is seldom straight, but an empathetic therapist can offer guidance.

The Theory Behind BCT

Behavioral Couples Therapy began with the idea that our behaviors don’t simply exist in a void. They’re the result of negative consequences or rewards that serve to reinforce those behaviors. In this way, behavior can be shaped or interrupted.

Unfortunately, dysfunctional relationship dynamics can actually reinforce problematic behaviors like substance abuse, but these patterns can be addressed through therapy and brought into the light in a safe environment. Long-term abstinence from a substance usually means that harmful patterns first need to be interrupted so that the couple can interact in new ways. It’s not about blame, but rather coming together to intentionally change.

Is There Evidence BCT Works?

You may be wondering if there’s any evidence that BCT is effective. In fact, there are many randomized clinical trials that demonstrate behavioral couples therapy is an effective therapeutic intervention when compared to a placebo or no treatment whatsoever. It has also been shown to be more beneficial for couples than individual-based therapy sessions.

Schedule Behavioral Couples Therapy

Have you been struggling to rebuild intimacy in your relationship due to alcohol or substance abuse? If so, you aren’t alone. A skilled therapist can help you move forward. At COPE Psychological Center, we provide holistic, evidence-based mental health care that considers the whole person. If you’re having trouble with your relationship dynamic and need some guidance from a professional, appointments are available by phone or video, as well as in person. We also provide teletherapy sessions for California residents who don’t live close to our office in Los Angeles.

Do you have questions? We’re here for you. Contact us today by calling 310-453-8788 or use the email form below!

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