Prodependence chooses to celebrate and value a caregiving loved one’s willingness to support and stay connected with a troubled loved one, while promoting healing for the entire family. Though Prodependence was initially formulated to help people in relationship with struggling loved ones, the principles are applicable to everyone. After all, none of us lives in a vacuum, and no relationship is ever perfect.
How does Prodependence view the problem behaviors acted out by a struggling person’s loved ones, such as enabling, overzealously caretaking, and even raging at the struggling individual?
Prodependence views all such activity as the caregiver’s best attempt (given the circumstances) to save a troubled loved one. Prodependence sees these behaviors as loving—though often less than ideal—efforts to save someone. These behaviors are viewed as problematic only due to their ineffectiveness and potential to escalate the problems they were intended to solve. That said, Prodependence does not ever label or judge the loved one who engages in such behaviors. Instead, as stated above, Prodependence views these actions as the caregiving loved one’s best effort to stay connected and help despite extremely difficult circumstances.
How does Prodependence tackle typical challenges to treating loved ones of addicts, including emotional reactivity and enabling?
Prodependence considers the fact that loved ones usually lack the specialized education and training that would equip them to work with an out-of-control, addicted, or otherwise troubled person. It also recognizes the immense pain and fear that comes along with witnessing a beloved family member fail. These loving individuals often compensate for their lack of expertise with passionate attempts to help their struggling loved one, but, because of the lack of proper training, their efforts are not always useful and can at times be counterproductive.
In Prodependence, we do not pathologize attempts to heal a troubled person. Caregiving loved ones are not regarded as anything but loving, even when their attempts fail. The goal of Prodependence is to support and validate caregiving loved ones while simultaneously helping them develop skills that will make their loving more effective and useful. These skills include, but are not limited to, setting boundaries, caring for oneself, and, when useful, detachment.
Does Prodependence say that there is nothing wrong with the loved ones of an addict, even when that person exhibits problematic traits?
Prodependence implies that loved ones of addicts and other troubled people are caught up in circumstances, such as witnessing the emotional decline of a beloved family member, that would naturally overwhelm anyone. Thus, there is nothing wrong with them in terms of relating to the struggling person, regardless of their personal history. They are simply trying to survive and to help their loved ones survive extraordinary, overwhelming circumstances. What these caregivers require from treatment and 12-Step healing is validation for the love and care they have given, in addition to supportive and clear directions about loving the troubled person in healthier ways. That said, caregiving loved ones may in fact have underlying trauma, depression, anxiety, and other issues that they might eventually want to address.
What kind of healing is appropriate for loved ones of addicts and other troubled people? Don’t they still need help with boundaries, self-care, and managing their situations?
Any loving person in a meaningful relationship with an addicted or otherwise struggling person is, by definition, in need of support. He or she likely needs encouragement toward both greater self-care and establishing healthy boundaries with their troubled loved one. However, no loving person in a meaningful relationship with a troubled individual should be asked to doubt the nature of his or her love, or to question his or her own emotional stability, in order to be taught such skills and to be given the support that he or she deserves.