Behavioral couples therapy (BCT) is often provided to individuals seeking help for substance abuse, if the individual seeking treatment is married or living with another person.  As part of recovery, couples will need to learn to build support with each other that reinforces both abstinence and healthy functioning.  Therapists who specialize in BCT will see the addict and the spouse or live-in, together.

Part of the BCT process is to promote abstinence through a recovery contract.  This contract involves daily rituals designed to reward abstinence.  The contract includes an agreement by the addict to not use drugs or alcohol for just that one day.  The spouse or live-in also needs to acknowledge their part by being supportive to the addict’s efforts to not drink or use drugs.  This is an important component of the recovery process for both individuals, as both need to feel supported in their efforts.

The contract also includes an agreement that neither will talk about past alcohol or drug use, nor will they talk about concerns about relapse and potential future alcohol or substance use.  Conversations should stay focused on the day or even hours of non-substance use and be positive in nature.  If one of the individuals begins to argue, they will need to set it aside and address the conflict with the therapist, as arguments can influence the addict’s potential for relapse.  This allows the couple to focus on what is important; recovery for both individuals in a supportive and healthy manner.

The non-using partner will use a calendar to track progress and overall compliance of the contents of the contract.  The non-using partner will need to ensure that the addict is attending all meetings, scheduled doctor’s appointments, and other outside responsibilities.  The non-using partner will also need to make sure they are attending all appointments and support the addict through participation at 12-step meetings.  During therapy sessions, the couple can review the progress for that week.

BCT and the recovery contract can help a couple regain trust.  There is an emphasis on the positive nature of the contract and it should not be looked at as something that is too much work or too involved to complete.  One day at a time the non-abusing partner will support the addict in recovery and the addict will support the non-abusing partner as well.  The therapist will also support both individuals and answer any questions that come up.

If you are struggling with an addiction or you are a spouse or partner of an addict, help is available for all who need it.  The addict will need support and at the same time, you will need support as well.  Please call (800) 910-9299 for help.