The purpose of Marital Therapy as part of alcohol and substance addiction treatment is that rehabilitation has a greater chance of success when there is support, especially from the partner. In addition to substance abuse treatment for both members, marital therapy is also an important therapeutic process for those relationships in which one member suffers from addiction and decides to enter therapy. The difficulty faced by the remaining partner, and addressed in therapy, is how to best to assist the recovering partner, and how to adjust to the changes that will accompany recovery.
A simplistic view is that ending addiction returns life to normal. Unfortunately, in many situations, the addiction problems have existed for so long that what is “normal” has become distorted. Marital therapy is designed to prevent a relapse into the life patterns of both the addict and the addict’s partner. Treatment helps the participants reconnect to a long forgotten way of life.
In a relationship where one of the partners suffers from addiction, roles shift and power structures change. While entry into recovery programs begins to restore balance, this power redistribution has potential for problems, and threatens the support network that must be in place when the patient leaves treatment. Some of the roles of therapy are to help partners adapt to the challenges and changing responsibilities brought by this power shift, and to help build a strong foundation for recovery.
In addition to regularly scheduled joint therapy sessions, the partner not in rehab is encouraged to participate in support programs, such as Al-Anon, to help with the transition. Since the underlying goal is the recovery of the addict, marital therapy targets helping both people in the relationship.