Whilst many people are of the physical damage alcohol can have, it is easy to forget that it will also have a psychological impact on both the person drinking, and the people around them. This is where alcohol counselling comes into play. At this point it is important to make it clear that anyone who is physically addicted to alcohol needs to have a medicated detox. Physical addiction occurs if a female is drinking more than 70 units a week, if a male is drinking more than 100 units a week, or if withdrawal symptoms are experienced when the person goes for a period of time without alcohol. Immediate alcohol withdrawal can be fatal in some cases and so the physical side of the addiction must be addressed. The safest way to complete a medicated detox is in a residential rehabilitation clinic.
Once the physical side is being treated, the psychological side of the addiction must also be addressed. This will cover things such as helping the person to identify the triggers that cause them to drink, looking at any underlying issues that may be the reason the person is drinking, and teaching the person coping strategies to live a life free from alcohol dependence. Alcohol counselling can take place on either a one-to-one basis or a group basis. Both types of session are equally helpful; whilst it is important for the person to look at things that are personal to them, it is also useful for the person to learn to identify with other people again. Alcoholism can be an isolating disease and so interacting with other people who have been through the same situation can be an empowering thing to do.
There are also some myths about what an alcohol counsellor will and will not do, so in order to clear that up: An alcohol addiction counsellor will not tell a person that they should stop drinking – it is the choice of the individual whether they stop completely or whether they decide to try and cut down, an alcohol counsellor is there to support the individual on the path they choose. However, it must also be said that an alcohol counsellor will never tell someone that they are “cured” or that they can start drinking again. This is something that family members are often told, and confidentiality prevents them from being able to ask the counsellor whether this was said. Unless the counsellor is highly unprofessional, they will understand that alcoholism is something that a person lives with for the rest of their lives; it never goes away, but it can be controlled.
Whilst Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are not actually alcohol counselling, the nature of the group setting means that a person can often gain a lot of insight from speaking to others and also listening to other’s stories. What it is important to remember is that many people when they first attend AA will listen for the differences between themselves and others; if they were to concentrate on the similarities, perhaps in the way they feel or actions they have taken, then it reinforces the fact that the person is not alone, but shows them that there is a way out.
Whether counselling is done on a one-to-one basis, in a group, in an outpatient setting, or in a residential rehabilitation clinic, it is important for the person to know they have someone that will not judge them for their actions, but will support them in achieving long-term, successful recovery. Alcohol help is available, seek help before it’s too late.