A look at the treatment of codependency in rehabs

What is codependency and can treatment in rehabs be effective?


Receiving treatment for codependency in rehabs can be extremely beneficial. However, it would be important to make sure that rehabs employ qualified and licensed clinical staff that have experience with the treatment of codependency. Reading this article will take you about five minutes and will answer some questions that you might have, such as:

What is:

  • Codependency?
  • The root causes of codependency?
  • Codependent behaviours?
  • The treatment for codependency in rehabs?


“Relationships are like a dance, with visible energy racing back and forth between the partners. Some relationships are the slow, dark dance of death.”

(Colette Dowling)

rehabs- hands-in-a-chain-min

Treatment for codependency in rehabs: What is codependency?


A codependent is someone who is in a relationship with another, but focuses on that person to a point of chronic self-neglect. In other words, they have let another person’s behaviour affect them and are obsessed with controlling that person’s behaviour.


Therefore, the heart of recovery from codependency in rehabs lies not in the other person getting better and changing, but in YOU. In rehab, you will need to work on the ways you allow other people’s behaviour to affect you, and the ways you try to affect them. As a result, we would focus on behaviours such as obsessing, controlling, helping/ caretaking, rescuing, benevolence, denial of your own self-care and self-worth, and ultimately abandoning your own needs.

Codependent behaviours become habits. So your behaviour becomes a pattern or habit that is continuously repeated without you realising it. As a result, these behaviours become self-destructive if they are not modified and corrected. This is why receiving treatment in rehabs is necessary. Rehab will help you to identify these behaviours and work with you to change them.

Treatment for codependency in rehabs: What are the root causes?


Your very first relationship in life is one of total dependency. As a child, you are dependent on your caretaker for all your needs to be met. Then, as you develop, you learn new skills and depending on your experiences of caretaking and the environment, you slowly shift from a state of total dependence to a state of interdependence. If your experience was of being nurtured, loved, taken care of, believed in, supported, challenged in a positive way, etc. you are more likely to acquire the necessary developmental skills and grow into a mature, healthy and functioning adult.


But for some, things are not quite that simple. You may have grown up in a dysfunctional family, experienced trauma, neglect or abuse, or had more subtle experiences that made you feel that you are not OK. As a result, you may react to these experiences through various unconscious processes such as compensation, avoidance, denial, and trying to control your environment and others.


Once the behaviours of compensation, controlling, avoidance, denial, etc. become the norm, you tend to repeat these behaviours in relationships. Your life can become an exhausting cycle of repetitive dysfunctional patterns of behaviour in relationships such as: trying to rescue, take care of, control or avoid situations. An example of this is where a child feels responsible for an alcoholic parent and the roles in the relationship become so dysfunctional that the child takes care of the parent’s emotional and sometimes even physical needs. As an adult, this person may enter into relationships where they have to rescue the partner and take care of them to the extent that they deny their own needs.


Treatment in rehabs will help you to explore the roots of your codependent behaviours and how they manifest in your current relationships.



Treatment for codependency in rehabs: What are codependent behaviours?


It is important to note that some of the behaviours described in this article can be seen as positive in certain situations but can be unhelpful and destructive when it fulfils a certain need, and can result in feelings of emptiness and even depression.


Here is a list of some codependent behaviours that you will explore in treatment in rehab. Your counsellors in rehabs will help you explore and identify these behaviours.


How many of these behaviours can you identify?

  • ‘Your wish is my command’
  • Taking care of others needs to the detriment of your own needs and wants
  • Thinking and feeling responsible for others feelings, actions, choices, well-being
  • Feeling compelled to help others solve their problems
  • Being attracted to someone who needs help and/or is needy
  • Abandoning your routine to respond to or do something for somebody else
  • Feeling good and positive only when you help others
  • Feeling angry, victimised and used at times


Rescuing / enabling 
  • Engaging in behaviour that prevents others from facing consequences of their behaviour
  • Taking care of others responsibilities for them because we cannot tolerate the discomfort of them being in trouble or facing their own consequences
  • Doing for others what they should be doing for themselves
  • You rescue them, and then become resentful and angry because of what you had to do, and then persecute the other person.
  • This is often followed by us feeling used, sorry for you, and victimised.


  • Trying to control events and others through guilt, coercion, threats, manipulation or domination
  • Doing things for others that they can do for themselves
  • Becoming resentful when others don’t appreciate your efforts or don’t do what you want them to do


  • Seeking love and affirmation from people incapable of giving it
  • Centring your life around others and only focusing on their needs
  • Worrying that others will leave you and remain in relationships that are unhealthy
  • Leaving a ‘bad’ relationship only to end up in another one


Poor boundaries
  • Being unable to identify healthy boundaries
  • Saying you won’t tolerate certain behaviours from others but then do
  • Letting others keep hurting you
  • Becoming so enmeshed that you cannot separate your own needs from taking care of others


Treatment for codependency in rehabs: What needs to change?


By now you have some idea of what codependency is, where it originates from, and what are some codependent behaviours. So what needs to change and how can treatment in rehabs help?


Let’s take a look at how BOUNDARIES AND DETACHMENT will be worked on in rehabs:



What are boundaries?


Boundaries are limits. They separate one person, place or thing from another. That is to say, boundaries are necessary divisions that separate your identity, responsibilities, feelings, needs, and issues from other peoples. Boundaries help you to clarify where your responsibility ends and another person’s begins. Therefore, by establishing healthy boundaries, you allow others to take responsibility for their own behaviour. To this end, there are essentially eight categories where you need boundaries: physical, emotional, spiritual, social, intellectual, financial and sexual.


Establishing internal boundaries


You need to learn to limit your obsessive thoughts, worries and other feelings. By establishing healthy internal boundaries, you will gradually find relief from compulsions. As you develop a heightened awareness of your inner world, you can listen to and trust your own intuition.


Treatment in rehabs will help you to identify what emotions and thoughts are most problematic for you. While in rehab, you will learn distress tolerance, distraction techniques and how to affect regulation.


Establishing healthy external boundaries


While in treatment in rehabs, you will need to establish new boundaries in your relationships and this will also help you with any future relationships. Therefore, ask yourself if you are: 

  • Trying to control this person and their behaviour
  • Obsessing and worrying about them
  • Caught in rescuing, enabling or caretaking behaviour and neglecting my own needs


Assessing boundaries


You will need to determine whether you have healthy boundaries or not. Therefore, treatment in rehabs will include assessing your boundaries:

Ask yourself:

Do I feel used?

Am I angry?

Do I feel violated?

Am I resentful?

Do I feel isolated?

Am I frightened?

Do I feel like a child in the relationship?

Are my boundaries or lack of boundaries allowing me to maintain healthy relationships with others and myself?


Establishing boundaries during treatment in rehabs


Establishing healthy boundaries while in treatment in rehab is essential to your recovery.


When you are ready to set a boundary, you may want to consider the following:

  1. Determine what the boundary or limit should be. Think about this carefully first because it is important that you are able to maintain the boundary
  2. Write out your boundaries and practice saying it out loud
  3. Let someone you trust know what the boundary is so that you can have a sense of being accountable. In rehabs, your counsellor will help you with this
  4. Implement your boundary, no matter the consequence


While treating codependency in rehabs, you will experience situations where your codependent behaviours will be acted out. Your counsellor and peers will help you identify these situations. Then the next phase of your treatment while in rehab will include practicing newly established boundaries and learning to tolerate the initial discomfort that you may experience.


Here are some healthy boundaries that are practiced during treatment in rehabs.

I will not: 
  • Be disrespected or intimidated and I will practice speaking up
  • Engage in behaviour that prevents others from experiencing the consequences of their behaviour
  • Do anything for others that they are capable of doing for themselves
  • Try to make others feel better
And I will:
  • Make my own needs known
  • Say how I feel
  • Take time to focus on my wants and needs




‘It is not detaching from the person whom we care about, but from the agony of involvement’


Most codependents struggle with creating and maintaining healthy attachments. You become hopelessly over-involved and entangled in relationships.


Unhealthy attachment behaviours include:
  • Becoming excessively worried about, or preoccupied with, a person or problem. This can continue to the point where you think and behave irrationally. For example, you cannot function if you don’t know where the other person is or what they are doing.
  • Thinking about the other person in the relationship all the time
  • Becoming obsessed with others well being
  • Becoming emotionally dependent on people around you
  • Engaging in rescuing, caretaking and/or controlling behaviours


Worrying about others and problems can even make you sick. For instance, you may experience panic attacks, gastric disturbance / nausea, weight loss or weight gain, smoking excessively or use medication to try and reduce anxiety. You may even turn to alcohol or other drugs to try and numb the feeling.


Obsession with another person or problem can consume all your energy and time. You may think about nothing else. Even though you may be in a conversation with someone else or doing a minuscule task, your thoughts and feelings are still with the other person or problem. So you’re on an endless merry go round of compulsive thoughts.


Whenever you become attached in the ways described above, you detach more and more from yourself. You therefore lose touch with yourself, your own needs and wants. You forfeit your power and ability to think, feel, act and take care of yourself to the point of losing control.



Treatment in rehabs will help you identify your unhealthy attachment behaviours and how to work on establishing healthy relationships. In rehabs, you will learn that detachment involves releasing, or detaching from a person or problem. Most importantly, you need to mentally, emotionally and sometimes even physically disengage from unhealthy and painful entanglements with another person’s life and from problems that you cannot solve and are not responsible for.

Rehabs will teach you to adopt a policy of keeping out of others’ problems that aren’t yours to solve and that worrying about it doesn’t help. As a result, you will learn to identify, focus on and tend to our own needs instead.


Likewise, you will learn how to focus on living in the moment while in rehab. You will learn to love and care in ways that truly help yourself. Your counsellor will help you to learn to continuously take a personal inventory of how you are doing. 

Rehabs teach you to ask yourself a few questions on a daily basis:

‘Is what I am doing right now meeting my own needs?’

‘Am I more focused on others’ needs and problems and neglecting my own?’

‘Am I engaging in rescuing, caretaking, controlling or enabling behaviour?’

‘Is my behaviour really going to help the other person?

‘Am I caring for myself?’


Above all, treatment in rehabs will help you learn that YOUR behaviour needs to change. It could begin with simply engaging in self-care and self-nurturing behaviour. For example, you don’t get up in the morning and make coffee for others or tidy up after others. You get up and first take care of yourself. Perhaps you go for a walk, meditate, listen to music, etc. You focus on you! 

Treatment in rehabs will help you experience a new way of life. Above all, you will begin to experience serenity, a deep sense of inner peace. You will also learn to give and receive love and care in a healthy way. Rehab will help you find real, rational solutions for your problems. You will find freedom to live life without excessive worrying, obsessions and guilt. Similarly, your self-worth and self-esteem will begin to improve. Ultimately, your relationships will improve as you continue to focus on you and learn to set healthy boundaries.

Rustenburg Addiction Care provides an excellent rehabilitation programme to help you through every step. So take a look at our treatment programme, or contact us directly if you have any questions. 



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