Counselling on Distress Around Alcohol

We have been counselling and thinking about distress around alcohol since we convened a topic group on this at a workshop over a year ago. The topic group was well-attended. We came across many counsellors for whom alcohol was the source of considerable distress, and yet they hadn't counselled on this.

We would like counsellors whose clients are working on this material to bear the following points in mind:

Everyone has patterns around alcohol, even people who don't drink. People who do drink or whose relations drink should not be singled out. We are not "different," alcoholics, problems, etc.

Giving pet theories and opinions on alcoholism makes it unsafe for us. Let's acquaint ourselves with RC theory on addiction, but not preach it.

Discharge your disgust about people being drunk.

We have internalised the shame around drinking. Don't underestimate the amount of contradiction this needs. Communicating to the client that drinking is bad in any way often pushes the client back into the pattern. The opinions are for them to voice. The counsellor's role is to listen respectfully. Do not be goody-goody about it or take the "I'll help you cure the drinking problem of yours" line.

It is necessary to validate people who drink for how well they have survived and how much they are pushing even if it doesn't look like they're getting anywhere.

There has been a sense that if we tell our counsellors about this material we will betray our families.

Terror and confusion is installed in young people by the behaviour of drunken people. Our distress about our families drinking and subsequent drinking of our own is likely to bind into our chronic patterns; it may seem hereditary. Chronic patterns of people who drink are no different from other people's chronic patterns. If your client gives up drinking, he or she is likely to face chronic material and heavy fear which people don't normally face.

Whatever anyone may think about drinking, for many people it is the most elegant solution they have come up with so far to getting close to each other and allowing themselves to discharge in a rigid society which does not allow them to do that. For example, many people will hug each other, laugh, sing, cry, relax, and put aside their cares when they are drunk, but not when they are sober. The alternative for them has been not doing any of those things. Criticism is no help. We need alternative ways to get close, relax, etc.

We hope this will encourage counsellors to bring a few skeletons out of the cupboard. We recommend counselling in threes and fours.

Our latest direction, to be said in a cheerful voice, is ; "There is no tragedy."

Caroline Stephens and Marian Titley
London and Birmingham, England

Last modified: 2014-11-01 16:38:05+00