Learn about the 4 steps of codependency recovery as well as available treatment options and support groups.

Codependency can hinder a loved one’s sobriety because it often involves enabling behaviors, which can make it easier for a loved one to continue using drugs or alcohol. When a person who is addicted never faces the consequences of abusing substances, they may never develop the motivation to change.

Many codependent people enable their friends or family members because they believe that they’re helping them. However, enabling can perpetuate the addiction and lead to more severe long-term consequences.

The Four Steps of Codependency Recovery

While codependency and addiction are typically treated in an addiction treatment center, there are also steps a person can take on their own to break unhealthy patterns and overcome codependent tendencies. Following these four steps is a good starting place for both the codependent caretaker and their loved one:

1. Abstinence

Sobriety is essential for significant changes in a codependent relationship. When one or both parties are engaging in self-destructive drug or alcohol use, there will be little opportunity to improve the relationship.

2. Awareness

Important and lasting changes begin with the awareness of a problem. Though it may be challenging for someone to acknowledge that they’re in a codependent relationship, it is necessary for making positive changes in the relationship.

3. Acceptance

Both parties must accept that the current state of their relationship causes them unhappiness and suffering and that they both have played a role in that suffering. After accepting these realities, both partners must understand the work and changes that must occur for a healthier, happier life.

4. Action

Acceptance and awareness can only go so far. To change the relationship, there must be changes in behaviors. Such changes include improving communication, decreasing behaviors that enable addiction and increasing behaviors that support a healthy relationship.

Therapy for Codependency

The best treatment for codependency for both parties is psychotherapy. Therapy focuses on understanding behaviors and changing reactions to lead to positive outcomes. Some of the most successful interventions for codependency include cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy and group therapy.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy can help individuals recognize and change negative, codependent patterns of thought and beliefs to change their behaviors. This treatment aims to teach the codependent person how to recognize personal problems and separate them from those of the addicted individual.
  • Family Therapy: Family therapy can interrupt dysfunctional and unhealthy interaction patterns between people in a codependent relationship and teach family members new ways of interacting. It can also reduce the impact of codependency on parents, children and extended family. Couples therapy is a more focused form of family therapy for individuals in codependent marriages or intimate partnerships.
  • Group Therapy: Group therapy provides codependent individuals with a safe and appropriate space to express their feelings, learn communication and problem-solving skills and discuss their experiences with others who understand.

Codependency Support Groups

Once a person is nearing the end of treatment for codependency, becoming a part of a support group can help them stay on track. One of the most popular support groups for people living with codependency is Codependents Anonymous (CoDA), a 12-step program that can help people struggling with codependency learn healthy habits and behaviors from other people dealing with similar issues. CoDA meets in many communities across the country and is free to join.

If you or a loved one is living with co-occurring codependency and addiction, The Recovery Village can help. To learn more, call The Recovery Village today to speak with a representative.

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Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Krisi Herron, LCDC
Krisi Herron is an Adjunct Psychology Professor, a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor and a freelance writer who contributes to several mental health blogs. Read more

Mental Health America. “Co-Dependency.” (n.d.) Accessed March 19, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.