March 1, 2014

Couples in Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Couples in Substance Use Disorder Treatment

SAMHSA reports that almost 90 percent of those in need of substance use disorder treatment are unable to access it. This inability to access treatment is particularly true when access is sought by couples. Some programs have written or unwritten policies that do not allow simultaneous admission of both members. This inability to seek help at the same time leads to the couples either not moving forward with treatment or reduced benefit from a family systems approach to treatment. Research identified barriers include:


  • Prohibition for entering concurrently
  • Sanctions if there are public displays of affection
  • Limited communication between partners
  • Lack of coordinated treatment

Policy Statement: The NYS OASAS Medical Advisory Panel recommends that programs reevaluate their policies in regards to admission of couples and allow for admission, unless there are specific clinical reasons applicable to the individual couple to justify not admitting both. The individual treatment needs of each member of the couple and relationship (couple-specific) treatment needs must be assessed and addressed in the treatment plan.

Couples are defined as "long-term, intimate relationships" or the "relationship is the primary source of emotional support."

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