Couple in codependent relationship fighting

Therapy for Codependency

4 min.

We explore codependency therapy and how it can help youth improve self-awareness and build healthier relationships.

By: Alex Bachert, MPH

Clinically Reviewed By: Don Gasparini

April 25, 2023

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Table of Contents

Codependency is a pattern of behaviors that prevents a person from being part of a healthy, two-sided relationship. Sometimes referred to as relationship addiction, codependent individuals will forsake their own mental health and needs in order to prioritize someone else’s. Many codependent relationships are romantic in nature, but codependency can also occur between friends, colleagues, and family members.

Below, we share the most effective forms of talk therapy for codependency, as well as tips for improving self-awareness and creating more balanced relationships. 

Three types of therapy for codependency

If you think that you might be in a codependent relationship, are struggling with codependent behavior, or have noticed that your relationship is impacting your mental health, it’s best to seek professional support. There are several forms of psychotherapy used to help people process and heal from codependent relationships. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that’s used to help people understand how their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors impact their overall mental health. CBT is a well-regarded codependency counseling modality. It teaches people to recognize codependent patterns and offers the problem-solving skills to re-evaluate those habits and behaviors in a more logical way. Some important skills taught in CBT are learning how to spend time by yourself, being comfortable asking for what you need, and understanding that you can’t change other people. CBT also helps people to develop a greater sense of confidence. 

Family therapy

Codependency is often a learned behavior that’s passed down through generations. It sometimes affects people who have a family member who’s suffering from substance use or a chronic mental health condition or parents who prioritize their child’s needs above their own.

One way to help end the dysfunctional family dynamic is family therapy. Family therapy is a type of talk therapy that’s used to help people learn how to better relate to and understand their family member’s emotions, behaviors, and problems.

Other goals of family therapy are to:

  • Identify and address codependency issues
  • Learn to self-regulate and gain a sense of ownership over emotions
  • Build stronger, more balanced relationships
  • Promote individual growth
  • Enhance problem-solving skills
  • Improve communication skills 

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Group therapy

If you’re interested in exploring talk therapy but aren’t ready for one-on-one treatment, then group therapy might be a good place to start. Group therapy offers people a chance to grow and heal through shared learning and increased accountability. 

It can be difficult to find your own voice when in a codependent relationship, but group therapy gives people a platform to speak up and begin to build their confidence in the relationship. It also offers a chance to hear diverse perspectives, which can help shine a new light on your relationships.

In addition to groups-based programs like Charlie Health’s virtual IOP, there are organizations such as Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA). CoDA is a group recovery program for individuals in codependent relationships that focuses on behaviors such as denial, low self-esteem, compliance, mutual substance abuse, and avoidance.

Other tips for reducing codependency

Although psychotherapy is considered to be the best form of treatment for codependency, there are other tips to improve self-awareness, end codependency, and enjoy healthy relationships. 

Do your research

The first step to overcoming codependent tendencies is to understand it. By educating yourself on what constitutes a healthy versus unhealthy relationship, you’re better prepared to set boundaries and create healthier habits. If you’re looking for a place to start, Mental Health America has a comprehensive list of characteristics of codependent people, as well as signs that you’re in a codependent relationship.

Set healthy boundaries 

Setting clear boundaries is important for creating and maintaining healthy partnerships, especially when in a codependent relationship. Boundaries offer you a chance to openly communicate your needs and limits, while allowing both partners to feel heard and understood. Examples of boundaries are saying no to requests or habits that drain your energy, and saying yes to hobbies or passions that are important to you. It’s also helpful to practice saying “no” when you’re alone so that you feel more confident saying it to your partner later. 

Practice self care

When you’re focused on other people’s needs, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. Self care is a valuable tool for coping with stress, building resilience, and making yourself a priority. Even simple habits — such as a balanced diet, consistent sleep, and positive self-talk —  can make a big difference in your mental and physical health. If this feels tough to do, start with one healthy habit and check in regularly to see how you feel.

Codepedent couple arguing

Benefits of healing from codependency 

When you’re in a codependent relationship, it can be hard to recognize and prioritize your own wants and needs. That’s where talk therapy can help. Therapy offers people a chance to become fully-functioning individuals who feel empowered to express themselves. 

Other goals of talk therapy for codependency include:

  • Creating more self-awareness 
  • Learning how to love and respect yourself
  • Healing your relationship with yourself –– this might mean anything from fostering new hobbies to simply allowing yourself time to process and heal 
  • Healing your relationships with others
  • Learning how to set healthy boundaries and be more assertive 

Do you need more support with
your mental health?

Charlie Health can help.

End the codependency cycle with Charlie Health

Charlie Health connects adolescents, young adults, and families with evidence-based mental healthcare. Our intensive outpatient program (IOP) combines one-on-one therapy, groups, and family therapy to help you build resilience, begin healing, and break free from codependent relationships. 

Learn more here

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