You can be an integral tool in your partner's recovery.
Up-to-date recent research estimates that one in four Americans have a diagnosable mental illness. These illness include depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, addictions and post traumatic stress disorder; it also means many of us are married to or living with someone who suffers from a mental illness. Loving partners care about the well being of their mate; they should be involved in trying to provide the best care, and help to reduce the impact of emotional disorders.
Individual or couples counseling?
One question that frequently arises is whether or not the counseling or therapy sought should be for the individual or for the couple. Both are often appropriate, and partners and spouses should be as well educated as possible about the medical condition of their loved one. This is true whether or not the issue is heart disease, diabetes or depression. Unlike physicians for many illnesses, psychologists and other types of therapists who treat mental illness spend a considerable amount of time talking to their patients. Office visits to a psychologist are not brief interludes with no time for questions.
Your insight can help.
A spouse's input is often of great value to a treating clinician. Many of those who suffer from depression or anxiety, for example, may not be aware of the extent of their suffering — or instead, they minimize its impact. Lack of insight and awareness is frequently a problem, and in these cases, another set of eyes and ears can be invaluable in leading to an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
When relationship conflict is the problem.
If the relationship is a primary source of stress to the person with the problem, then couples counseling is very appropriate. Living with a chronic problem is frustrating, and patterns can develop that make everything worse for both partners. Having a mental illness is no excuse for mistreating a partner. The other person may be able to acquire tools in counseling that will diffuse conflict or prevent the partner's problems from interfering with their own wellbeing.
In addictions, as well as in some other disorders, enabling the bad behavior of the partner with the problems is often the path of least resistance, but it worsens problems over time. These patterns can be broken by working as a couple, or by the healthier partner receiving their own counseling. Sometimes, the healthy partner becomes too domineering and conflict develops. Anger and accusations never make anxiety, depression or other problems better.
What type of treatment is best?
Great progress has been made in the treatment of common mental illnesses, but there is still a lot of confusion about the variety of options available. Hospital programs only treat the most severe mental illnesses, now. A person is rarely hospitalized unless there is a threat to his or her own safety — or the safety of others. Inpatient rehabilitation programs for addictions are of value when substance abuse is out of control, and the addict is willing to accept help. Inpatient programs also exist for sex addictions and gambling addictions. Keep reading...
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