Home > Supporting women with alcohol issues: what social workers need to know.

Staddon, Patsy (2015) Supporting women with alcohol issues: what social workers need to know. Community Care,

External website: http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2015/05/20/supporti...

Alcohol is a pleasurable and attractive drug, easily accessible and socially acceptable. It helps with relieving anxiety and stress, and beginning to use it is part of the process of achieving and demonstrating adulthood. It helps us to try out other ways of being ourselves, what is sometimes called ‘acting out’.

At specific times, such as Friday and Saturday evenings, or at Christmas, it is seen as an acceptable way to stretch boundaries a little – or a lot – to enjoy a sense of carnival, even transgression. These are all behaviour patterns common – though not always acknowledged as such – to all societies, and more accessible to some social groups, such as the rich, celebrities or young men, than others.

Escaping miseries
However women, in particular, may sometimes drink not so much for pleasure as to be acceptable to their peers; and, more worryingly, an estimated 50%-90% (Women’s Aid, 2005) may also drink to escape briefly from such miseries as domestic abuse and depression. Other reasons include loneliness, mental health issues and poverty, conspiring to make a woman take refuge in alcohol in the first place.

As a society we expect ‘femininity’ in, especially, young women, and drunkenness is seen as interfering with its performance. ‘Women who drink’ may be seen as greedy, immoral and shamed. It would be naïve to believe that either social workers, or those working within the alcohol treatment sector, including GPs, nurses and other specialists, are unaffected by such feelings themselves. Shame, embarrassment, and concern about professionals’ reactions are among the reasons why women may be less likely than men to admit to an alcohol problem.

From self-respect to shame
A major factor in the recovery process is regaining self-respect, thus moving away from shame. Those who work with women recovering from alcohol issues should do so ‘in a manner that is empowering, compassionate, and respectful, and to allow people self-determination and risk taking where no one else is harmed’ (Galvani, 2015, p.5). This approach is similar to the ‘unconditional positive regard’ advocated by Carl Rogers (Rogers, 1951) – but throughout the alcohol treatment sector, this is often inadequately supplied.

In addition, women benefit particularly from women-only treatment. Also very much appreciated are identification and brief advice (IBA) centres, These resources are not available in all areas, and are too little advertised, but some support on similar lines is also provided online. An example of this is the Club Soda website.......

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