Psychology, Professional

Date of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Kurt Gehlert, Jason Reed


Being in a relationship with someone diagnosed with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) has shown to be distressing for both the individuals with AUD and their partners. Most research focuses on the individual impacted with AUD and less attention has been placed on the impact of the affected family members. This study sought out to capture the lived experiences for partners of individuals with AUD through hearing their stories. A phenomenological qualitative method was used to capture the partners’ perceptions of their experiences and what it means to them on an individual level. This study included 10 participants with an average relationship length of 25.15 years. Using the consensual qualitative research approach to analyze the data, themes emerged in four different areas: factors for the individual with AUD, factors for the partner, relationship factors, and potential resources for the partner. Factors for the individual with AUD include positive qualities, additional problems (e.g., mental health problems, health problems), and various treatment programs utilized with various treatment outcomes. Factors for the partner include experiencing painful emotions (e.g., shame, doubt, self-blame, guilt) and growth factors (e.g., coping skills, resilience, self-acceptance). Relationship factors include experiencing a love/hate relationship, challenges within the relationship (e.g. trust, intimacy, boundaries), and concerns about how to respond to the drinking behaviors and whether to stay or leave the relationship. Various resources used by the partners include family and friends, counseling, and Al-Anon. Overall, the partners described that every relationship is different and there is no “one-size-fits-all” recommendation or advice. Their advice is to listen and hear one’s story. These results are a beneficial starting point for clinicians to better understand the partners’ experiences, what they may benefit from in therapy, and how we can be advocates to support the partners.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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