Updated on February 3, 2023
8 min read

Drug and Alcohol Rehab for Couples

Couples and Drug Addiction

Alcohol and drug addiction can damage relationships. Romantic partners may also find it difficult to achieve and maintain sobriety if they struggle with substance use disorders.

Couples rehab helps intimate partners deal with substance abuse. It is addiction treatment for couples where one or both members misuse and abuse drugs or alcohol. Besides treating the addiction, it can reduce its negative impact on your relationship and family.

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How Can Couples Rehab Help?

Drug and alcohol abuse leads to psychological, economic, and social consequences. A couples rehab program treats the addiction and its effects. It can help addicted couples:

  • Overcome drug abuse and addiction
  • Repair relationship problems that resulted from drug use
  • Establish healthy coping mechanisms to prevent relapse
  • Successfully quit drugs and stay sober

Attending Drug Rehab Treatment Programs Together

Couples rehab requires partners to attend treatment sessions together. Several treatment facilities offer it as an option. For treatment to be effective, couples should be willing to rebuild their strained relationship.

Partners must be equally committed to their recovery — both as individuals and as a couple. The recovery process will not be easy. So you should also be motivated to complete rehab despite its challenges.

Warning Signs of Substance Abuse in Couples

Addiction affects relationships in different ways. Some factors that influence its effects include the nature of the relationship, severity of substance misuse, the role each person plays, and if you have children.

For example, a parent who loses their job from alcoholism might fail to provide for their family. A normally caring person may neglect their partner's emotional needs if they develop a drug or alcohol addiction.

Children whose parents have substance use disorders (SUD) are more likely to develop symptoms themselves.1 If you and your partner show the following signs, you may need addiction treatment:

  • One or both have a problem with addictive substances
  • Turning to drugs and alcohol after an argument
  • Fighting about drinking or drug use and its effects
  • You spend time together drinking excessively or doing drugs
  • Domestic violence and abuse while under the influence
  • Increasing isolation from friends or family
  • Having the need to use drugs or alcohol to be intimate

In relationships where only one person is addicted, codependency may develop. Signs of codependent behavior include covering for a partner and making excuses for their substance abuse.

Couples rehab is a good option for lifelong partners and parents troubled with substance abuse, but want to stay together and work on their relationship.

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Addiction Treatment Programs for Couples

Couples can choose from inpatient and outpatient rehab programs. Below are their key differences:

  • Inpatient rehab: Also known as residential treatment, requires couples to stay in the facility for at least 28 to 30 days. Some facilities provide mixed-gender housing where you can stay together.
  • Outpatient rehab: You can undergo treatment and keep up with your daily life, such as work, chores, and childcare. Unlike inpatient programs, it allows for some flexibility.

Inpatient rehab is excellent for couples who can dedicate themselves completely to recovery. It is the treatment of choice for people with severe substance addiction. Outpatient treatment is better for couples with demanding lifestyles. It can treat mild to moderate cases of drug and alcohol abuse.

Intensive outpatient rehab offers a middle ground. It works for people who need intensive treatment but want the flexibility of an outpatient program.

Below are the different types of inpatient and outpatient treatments available:

Behavioral Couples Therapy (BCT)

Couples therapy⁠, also called behavioral couples therapy (BCT), is the mainstay of substance abuse treatment in couples. It is a psychology-based approach that helps with both drug and alcohol addiction.

BCT is designed for married couples and cohabiting partners who live together. The treatment involves a "recovery contract" where partners complete daily tasks and reward abstinence.

Couples therapy requires a lot of communication. This is probably why it promotes abstinence and improves relationships better than individualized treatment. Studies further show it reduces domestic violence and the emotional stress of a couple's children.2

Overall, behavioral therapy helps couples establish healthier relationships. This enables you to stay sober and better manage your issues.

Couples Detox and Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms can appear within hours of quitting substance use. Detoxification is advised for couples who experience withdrawal.

Detox is an inpatient treatment that lasts for as long as you have symptoms. Usually, it takes 7 to 10 days before symptoms subside. Though it depends on the type of drug and how long you have been taking them.

The goal of detox is to prevent relapse by making withdrawal more comfortable. Doctors will provide medications to ease your symptoms. They will monitor your progress to ensure your comfort and safety.

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Couples with more severe SUD's may be given medications to control their cravings. Examples include naltrexone, methadone, buprenorphine, and naloxone.

Medication assisted treatment (MAT) is not something you take alone. Doctors often prescribe it with counseling and behavioral therapy. This is because it cannot treat substance use problems. It only lessens cravings so you can avoid relapse.


Psychotherapy or talk therapy involves therapy sessions between a licensed therapist and individuals. It can also be performed on couples seeking treatment for substance use disorder.

Sessions are usually held once a week and take up to an hour. The whole treatment can last several sessions (short-term) or for months or years (long-term).

According to studies, psychotherapy is linked to positive changes in the brain. It has also been shown to improve a person's behaviors and emotions.3 Both can help create happier and healthier relationships.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Couples struggling with both substance abuse and mental health have a co-occurring disorder. It requires dual diagnosis treatment, which provides specialized care for both conditions.

Dual diagnosis treatment is proven to be more effective than treatments that address these problems separately. Unfortunately, very few treatment centers offer it.4

How to Reinforce Sobriety After Couples Rehab

In addition to rehab, you can take more measures to keep each other sober. You can start these steps while in couple's addiction rehab or after you complete treatment.

Twelve-Step Recovery Groups

Couples can choose from a number of 12-step programs but the premise remains the same. Members must help one another achieve abstinence and maintain it throughout recovery.

Often, these programs are based on the belief of a higher power. Although they tend to be welcoming of people with different belief systems.

Recovering Couples Anonymous (RCA) is perhaps the most popular 12-step recovery model for couples. The group's philosophy is that relationships need constant nurturing and care between partners.

Both partners must be mutually responsible for the challenges of the relationship. But they must also understand that individual development is important to recovery and a healthy relationship.

Couples Sober Living

A sober living facility is a safe and structured home environment that promotes sobriety. There are house rules and a schedule that you need to follow. Drugs and alcohol are also not allowed in the premises.

You can choose from co-ed sober homes and homes that only cater to couples in recovery.

Relapse Prevention Programs

Some rehab centers offer relapse prevention (RP) programs. It is an education-based psychotherapy designed to help you avoid relapse and stay sober. These programs teach you to:

  • Learn the difference between a "judgment lapse" and a relapse
  • Identify personal triggers that may cause you to relapse
  • Plan positive activities that you can do instead of using drugs or alcohol
  • Change unhealthy habits for healthier ones

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The Benefits of Couples Drug Rehab

Couples who undergo rehab together learn coping skills. These skills are not only essential to recovery. They also aid couples in improving their relationship.

Here are the things you can learn from couples rehab:

  • Communication skills: Communicate your thoughts and feelings clearly and effectively, so you can avoid misunderstanding.
  • Anger management skills: Learn to manage negative feelings such as stress and frustration without resorting to anger, emotional outbursts, and violence.
  • Conflict resolution: This helps you address misunderstandings, disagreements, and opposing opinions in a calm and rational way.
  • Stress reduction methods: Learn different ways you can reduce stress.

Knowing how to deal with relationship problems is the most important aspect of couples rehab. Being in a healthy and happy relationship is key to preventing relapse.

When Couples Treatment Isn’t Recommended

Couples drug rehab is not for everyone. There are instances where treatment has to be delayed. For others, it may not be recommended because other issues are present.

Here are some cases where couples rehab is not advised:

  • One or both partners have needs requiring a special treatment facility
  • One partner is diagnosed with an antisocial personality disorder
  • If domestic abuse is an ongoing issue in the relationship
  • Only one partner has a desire to enter rehab
  • One or both partners do not want to continue the relationship after rehab
  • One or both partners need to work through past trauma or abuse
  • One partner is forcing the other partner to go against their will
  • When the couple cannot decide on the end goal of therapy

Choosing to enter treatment, with or without your partner, is a difficult choice. When both partners are ready to recover, couples’ drug rehab can be an effective tool and can help to strengthen a relationship long-term.

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Updated on February 3, 2023
10 sources cited
Updated on February 3, 2023
  1. "Children Living With Parents Who Have A Substance Use Disorder." Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  2. "Behavioral Couples Therapy for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse." National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  3. "What is Psychotherapy?" American Psychiatric Association.
  4. "Dual diagnosis capability in mental health and addiction treatment services: An assessment of programs across multiple state systems." National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  5. Romantic Relationship Status and Alcohol Use and Problems Across the First Year of College." National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  7. O’Farrell, T J, and W Fals-Stewart. “Behavioral Couples Therapy for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, vol. 18, no. 1, 2000, pp. 51–4, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3215582/
  8. Epstein, Elizabeth E, and Barbara S McCrady. “Behavioral Couples Treatment of Alcohol and Drug Use Disorders: Current Status and Innovations.” Clinical Psychology Review, vol. 18, no. 6, 1 Sept. 1998, pp. 689–711, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0272735898000257, 10.1016/S0272-735800025-7
  9. “Recovering Couples Anonymous.” RCA, recovering-couples.org/
  10.  Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. “Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy.” Nih.Gov, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US), 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64265/

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