Addiction professionals discuss methods that identify the effects on a person from someone else’s alcohol use disorder to help other professionals identify the signs.
When alcohol addiction or an alcohol use disorder is present in families, everyone is affected, including the children. Non‑drinking adults often suffer from issues such as depression, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse, etc. Children and adolescents may not verbalize what is going on in the home, but there are clues that teachers, school psychologists, and others can see, such as signs of neglect, coming to school in inappropriate clothing, poor hygiene, or students may be withdrawn. Although professionals in fields such as psychiatry, psychology, and education may be able to see the signs of a family dealing with an alcohol or drug use disorder, those affected may not. Family members when asked directly about those issues may become defensive.
In order to help their patients, clients, or students see the role the family disease of alcoholism plays in their lives, professionals are trained to listen for their clients’ emotion and to stay with the client at whatever stage of insight or development they are at. Often clients readily talk about what is wrong in their lives and what they are trying to fix. The professional listens, asks questions, and moves with the patient until they are ready to breach the topic of addiction.
Some clients are referred to family counseling by drug or behavior courts due to domestic violence. Regardless of the type of abuse – physical, emotional, or verbal – it can be easier for professionals to open a dialogue about the possible substance use problems in the home. The goal is to help the patient realize that although they are not the one with the substance use disorder, they are being adversely affected, and they can experience recovery even if their loved one continues to abuse alcohol and/or drugs.
Al‑Anon Family Groups, which includes Alateen for teenagers, provide support to anyone affected by someone else’s problem drinking. *Ninety‑three percent of members report that their lives have been very positively affected by attending Al‑Anon Family Groups and 42 percent that receive professional services and attend Al‑Anon meetings feel that since coming to Al‑Anon, they have seen an improvement in their well‑being, treatment, counseling, or therapy.
*2018 Al‑Anon Family Group Membership Survey
This professional panel interview was recorded at the Al‑Anon International Convention 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. The professionals interviewed were:
Nancy Duff‑Boehm, PH.D., Clinical Psychologist, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Mintie Grienke, M.ED., Counselor/Psychotherapist, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Ann McGreevy, MA, Supervisor of Psychological Studies at FCPS, Frederick, Maryland, USA
Hugh A. King Jr., MD, Psychiatrist, Mandeville, Louisiana, USA