People who come for counselling concerned about their own drinking patterns, or those of a loved one, are usually anxious to know if there is indeed a problem. “Am I alcoholic” or “is he/she alcoholic?” is usually the big worry and concern. Part of the service offered is to try to help the person decide their own risk status. In fact the diagnosis is not that important initially. The Counsellor usually sits down and carefully listens to the client’s personal history, lifestyle and patterns of behaviour. Conclusions are arrived at together over a period of time.
In olden days screening for alcohol problems used to consist of whether someone was alcoholic or not. Nowadays we try to be a little more sophisticated and talk of a continuum of risk; Low risk, Hazardous, Harmful and Dependent drinking. Such terms will be explained in detail during counselling sessions. The Audit (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test) Questionnaire, in various forms, is most effective in this regard. It is better to do this questionnaire with someone who is trained to use it and to interpret the results properly. The Audit questionnaire is only one aspect of a comprehensive assessment carried out by the Counsellor so that patients can be advised to cut down on their alcohol consumption or to abstain. Many people are unaware that their alcohol consumption is contributing negatively and often significantly to their physical, emotional and mental health. The assessment involves a discussion and exploration of other factors in a patient’s personal life. An assessment will also help family members to work out risk status of their loved ones and help is often provided for spouses and partners in their own right. In certain cases marital therapy or family work involving the children will be recommended to try to heal any unresolved issues arising from the alcohol problem.
Where might you see yourself on this chart?
In sessions this is teased out, explained further and discussed. Other diagrams and illustrations will also be presented.