Prodependence: New Alternative to “Codependence”

I use this term to describe healthy interdependence in the modern world. Essentially, prodependence occurs when attachment relationships are mutually beneficial — with one person’s strengths filling in the weak points of the other, and vice versa — and this mutual support occurs automatically and without question. Robert Weiss, Psychology Today

Prodependence: Moving Beyond Codependency by experts Robert Weiss and Stefanie Carnes offers a new approach to helping the loved ones of addicts.

Whereas codependence “is a deficit-based trauma model that views loved ones of addicts as inherently traumatized, out of control, and overly obsessed with their troubled loved one,” prodependence “is a strength-based attachment model that views caregiving loved ones of addicts and other troubled people as heroes for continuing to love, help, and remain attached, despite the debilitating presence of addiction or some other serious issue” (Psychology Today).

Weiss’s most recent Psychology Today post “Codependence: Is It Time for a New Model?” uses this subtitle: “After 35 years of codependency, perhaps it’s time to celebrate dependence.” In other words, to support loved ones versus blame and shame.

The newly coined term prodependence, therefore, emphasizes healthy interdependence and mutual support, rejecting the pathologizing notion that caregivers are always rescuers, enablers, and/or controllers.

To treat the loved ones of addicts using prodependence, we need not find that something is ‘wrong with them.’ We can simply acknowledge the trauma and the inherent dysfunction that occurs when living in a close relationship with an addict. Then we can guide them toward loving more effectively, with better self-care and boundaries.

With this prodependence model, the attitude of therapists and other providers changes (Psychology Today):

Instead of being confrontational with spouses and others who love and care for addicts, we need to be invitational. We need to meet them where they are and teach them not to walk away, but to support in healthier, more prodependent ways. Rather than preaching detachment and distance over continued bonding and assistance, as so many therapists, self-help books, and 12-step groups do, we should celebrate the human need for and the pursuit of intimate connection, using that as a positive force for change.

From Weiss’s most recent Psychology Today piece on the subject (also mentioned above):

Interestingly, prodependence recommends and implements the same basic therapeutic actions as codependence: a fresh or renewed focus on self-care, implementation of healthier boundaries, and an ever-improving response to the addict and the addiction. But prodependence views this work through a different lens. Prodependence does not ever ask loved ones to doubt themselves, to doubt their love for the addict, or to consider some of their loving as pathological. Nor does it give them any reason to feel as if they are ‘part of the problem.’ I believe that we can create change in such partners by validating their efforts as being nothing but love — no matter how ineffective — and then shifting their efforts toward becoming more useful. We do not need to discuss enabling, past trauma, or the spouse having contributed to the problem.

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