How You Can Help Clients Manage Codependency

By Kevin Petersen MA, LMFT.

Chances are that every person reading this blog post knows someone directly or indirectly who is struggling with addiction and codependency. If it isn’t an immediate family member, you likely have a friend, a friend of a friend, a coworker, a boss, a neighbor, or someone else. Read the news and you’ll find that fentanyl overdose numbers are at record highs; the mental health challenges that accelerated during the pandemic are still going strong; many of us have been pushed to the edge of our mental and emotional wellbeing. All of this to say: it isn’t a surprise that addiction and codependency are very common and likely more common than one would expect.

Notice how I always phrase it as “addiction and codependency,” not “addiction or codependency.” After all, they don’t exist without each other.

Yet, another thing that few people realize is that addiction and codependency don’t work in a silo: it isn’t just about the individual person who is struggling, but the entire family.

Pivot focus toward the family:

Many therapy practices today provide an individualized approach to managing addiction and codependency. And it isn’t surprising why. In today’s graduate schools, instructors minimally teach therapists about families and their experience with addiction and codependency. Instead, coursework places a heightened emphasis on the individual’s experience with addiction and codependency.

Codependency is an imbalanced relationship where one person in the relationship works harder on the other’s problems or takes care of the other in a detrimental, self-sabotaging way. It stems from the mentality of “I’ll work harder on your problems than you will.” It leads to a downward spiral of frustration and resentment, and coupled with that other person being an addict, it’s a challenging situation to manage.

But since addiction and codependency can’t exist in isolation, treatment isn’t as effective when it’s just focused on one person. The entire family needs to be addressed. The family’s dynamics, behaviors, reactions, roles they play and more, are all critical inputs that feed into a proper treatment plan for managing codependency.

Consider additional training on families:

In today’s evolving environment with many unknowns, stresses, economic uncertainty, financial hardship and more, many individuals will continue to turn to negative coping mechanisms, such as substance or alcohol abuse, to deal with the stress. This means that therapists can expect even larger volumes of clients and their loved ones in need of help.

Your portfolio of clients is already large, but to help them more effectively manage codependency: address the entire family. And if your area of expertise isn’t on the family system, it’s time to learn.

At The Chronic Hope Institute, we train industry professionals – from individual professionals to a full staff at treatment centers – on how to work with families that are struggling with addiction and codependency. You, too, can become well-equipped with how to work with families and help your clients better manage codependency.

If you’re interested in learning, contact us to learn more about our upcoming online trainings. Onsite trainings at treatment centers are also available.

Kevin Petersen MA, LMFT, Founder of The Chronic Hope Institute. Learn more about Kevin’s method for healnig families from addiction:

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