Child with alcohol dependent parent

Behavioural Couples Therapy for Alcohol Dependence is a behaviourally-based couple therapy designed to treat alcohol dependence in couples where there is also relationship distress.

The therapy works to:

    • reducing damaging interactions between couples,
    • building emotional openness and closeness,
    • improving communication and behaviour,
    • changing unhelpful cognitions and perceptions, 
    • targeting behaviour/maintaining factors in alcohol dependence,
    • establishing and maintaining behavioural change and relapse prevention.

Does it work?

A meta-analytic review of studies of Behavioural Couples Therapy (Fals-Stewart, 2004) concluded that ‘this intervention produces significant reductions in substance abuse, improves relationship satisfaction, and also has very important secondary effects, including reductions in partner violence and improvements in children’s psychosocial adjustment’. 

A later study concluded that couples therapy is a good option relative to other therapies, and one whose benefits are more likely to extend to the whole family (Powers, 2008).

This approach is recommended by NICE guidance for harmful drinkers and people with mild alcohol dependence who have a regular partner who is willing to participate in treatment.

Risk assessment around domestic violence is a central element of this approach, in order to ensure that it is safe to work the couple.

Training and delivery

Tavistock Relationships has a team of practitioners trained in delivering Behavioural Couples Therapy for Alcohol Dependence.

We offer a 5-day training in this intervention (for mental health and social care practitioners without who have not yet undertaken any couple training) and a top-up training for practitioners (such as IAPT practitioners or Relate counsellors) who have either undertaken the 5-day training in Couple Therapy for Depression/Behavioural Couples Therapy or who are experienced in working with couples.

If you would like to find out more about commissioning Tavistock Relationships to deliver Behavioural Couples Therapy for Alcohol Dependence or train practitioners in it, please contact Kate Thompson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 020 7380 8286.

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