The Impact of Stress in the Workplace


Stress can be defined as our body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event. Stress can often result from experiencing something new or unexpected, or an event which you feel you have little control over or something that threatens your feeling of self.

Research and reports on illnesses relating to workplace stress have found that stress, anxiety or depression account for around 40% of all staff absences, which has cost an estimated £1 billion every year to the UK economy.


Stress Health Impacts
Stress: Health Impacts

Stress has been widely discussed in the last couple of years especially as our lives have become busier. and as new technologies are introduced into workplaces, one of the most cited reasons for workplace strain was overwork.

This is not surprising as many people are finding that their job tasks have increased and that they can find themselves working from home, for example, answering emails and researching online using personal devices.

Research has shown that 6 in ten employees experience stress within their job roles and have suffered work-related stress, with some of the most stressful job functions being identified as sales jobs and various jobs within the finance sector.


Stress and employee health
Stressed out.


Reluctance to Own up About Stress

Many people who have taken days off work due to experiencing stress have given another reason to their employers for their absence, such as having the flu, having a stomach upset or having measles. This might suggest that employers do not accept stress as a reasonable reason for taking time off work or/and that employees and employers do not perceive stress as a real illness.

However, the health impacts of stress on employees is well documented and shows significant negative physical and psychological health effects on individuals and has demonstrated a significant financial cost to many businesses and economies.


Short-term Health Effects of Stress


Stress and Health
Stress and Physical Health


Increased stress within the workplace, from feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope with pressures, can cause an employee to have negative physical and mental health effects.

Some of the physical effects of stress include the following:

  • Elevated blood pressure.
  • Problems sleeping.
  • Headaches.
  • Heart problems and
  • Skin conditions.


Some of the psychological effects of stress include anxiety, depression and mental health problems..

People who experience short-term stress may find that they suffer from digestive problems and stomach aches, have poor or interrupted sleep patterns are off sick more often from work and are more likely to stay absent from their workplaces.

Long-term Health Effects of Stress



Stress and long-term effects
Stress over the long-term


Long-term exposure to stress is found to exacerbate or cause many serious health problems some of these are as follows:

  • Mental health problems like anxiety, depression and personality disorders.
  • Cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, heart disease, abnormal heart rhythms, strokes and heart attacks.
  • Obesity and eating disorders.
  • Skin and hair problems.
  • Menstrual problems.
  • Gastrointestinal problems.



Stress psychological and physical health effects
Stress: Physical and Psychological Health impact

The negative impacts of stress on employees suggests that this is a health concern that employers should seek to address, as the effects can be harmful for employees and for the employers business. Of course, knowing where to start with tackling work-related stress can be challenging for employers. However, having meetings to raise awareness and having an open and understanding workplace culture could be a good start.

Having policies and implementing appropriate measures to reduce and manage stress could result in a more motivated workforce, increased productivity, reduced mistakes and reduced levels of absence as a result of stress. It could also improve the employers reputation and demonstrate that they care for the health and wellbeing of their employees.


I hope you all enjoyed this article.

If you have any views or opinions on this subject-area then please leave these in the comments section below.

Thanking you kindly

Ian Morrison, InstituteofCounselling

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How Does Social Media Affect Our Mental Health

Social Media and Evolving Technology



Social Media Mental Health
Social Media Use


It has been argued that advancements in technology have improved the lives of millions of people, for example, Smartphones are an item that many people especially within the UK and US cannot envisage living without.

Many teenagers have grown up in a world that has become more and more reliant on digital technology. This reliance and incorporation of digital technologies into our lives has resulted in performing tasks, such as social networking to be second nature to us, to such an extent that social networking does not now necessarily refer to what we do but can instead refer to what we are.



Social Media Mental Health
Social Media Teenage Usage


Many people’s usage and the extent of their usage of social media platforms can result from social pressure, due to the high number of people using these platforms. These platforms will often be used to communicate, learn about and keep updated about events and share information. Therefore, many people will feel a strong need to be part of this online community in order to meet these practical and psychological needs, this feeling has frequently been termed as FOMO, which is the abbreviation for ‘fear of missing out’. Therefore, people can feel that joining social media is a way to prevent them from missing out and connecting more with others around them.

Some have argued that this herd mentality and the need to be part of the group/community has an evolutionary basis, as for hundreds, if not thousands of years being part of and aligned with the group/community was often important for increasing an individual’s chances of survival.


Social Media belonging
Social Media and Belonging

Teenagers and Social Media Usage


What Effects do Social Media Interactions Have on Teenagers?

Studies have also found that teens between the age of 13-18 that receive a high number of likes on photos show increased activity in the reward centre of the brain, with many teens using the number of likes and comments they receive as a feedback mechanism on how well they have performed and their level of acceptance.

Productivity and Daily Life Tasks

Many studies have demonstrated that significant social media use can result in brain atrophy in grey matter areas of the brain, grey matter areas of the brain. Grey matter areas of the brain are the ‘sections’ where processing occurs, for example, planning, organising, impulse control and prioritising, if these areas of the brain become impaired than we can experience problems with getting things done and thus our productivity and possibly daily routines, can become negatively affected.


Many studies have also shown that those who receive a ‘like’ on a post can receive a rush from receiving this ‘like’, especially if the person is waiting in anticipation to see if their post will receive a ‘like’, this is due to experiencing a dopamine release, often being tied more to anticipation than to the actual reward , in this case, the anticipation of receiving a ‘like’ on their post.



Social Media and Mental Health
Social Media: How Many Likes



Social Acceptance

Other studies have found that teens were influenced to like photos, regardless of content if these had received a high number of likes, demonstrating the heard mentality on these platforms, the use of social media interaction as a feedback mechanism – tied to self-worth and acceptance and the need to feel aligned with the group/community.

So how has meeting these human needs affected their growth and usage rate?


Growth of Social Media Usage and Platforms


Social Media Usage and mental health
Social Media Bar Chart


Many of the social media platforms that people now use have grown exponentially, for example, social media platforms such as Facebook now have around 2.2 billion monthly active users. Twitter has around 335 million monthly users. The platform Snapchat reached 166 million in the first quarter of this month. The number of users of Instagram is set to surpass 111 million and the video sharing platform Youtube, now has over 2 billion users. This demonstrates the significant influence that these platforms have upon our day-to-day lives.

One study found that we spend around 50 minutes of time on social media platforms every day.

Social media usage from teenagers, according to previous research, is as follows, 66 percent use Facebook, 76 per cent use Instagram, 75 per cent use Snapchat, 47 per cent use Twitter and 30 per cent use Tumbler or Linkedin. Trends in teenage usage of social media has seen a move from Facebook to platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram, however it is also worth noting that Instagram is owned by Facebook.

Social Media and mental health
Social Media Platforms


Most communications by teenagers on these platforms are carried out through text-messaging and for many adolescents, text-messaging is now more likely than person-to-person interactions.

Some of the reasons argued for the popularity and extensive use of these social networking platforms are there ability to meet certain fundamental human needs such as social support and belonging, these are often considered fundamental human needs as for much of human existence social support from the group/community was important for survival.

Another way in which social media is often utilised is to use this platform for self-expression, self-expression on these platforms would enable the person to form an identity and get feedback from the group/community, as feedback would be an important variable in formulating an online social identity.


Social Media Effects: Differences Between Adults and Adolescents

Recent research has shown that sharing information on social media increases life satisfaction and decreases loneliness for adolescents but yet sharing on social media has the opposite effect for older adults, suggesting the impact of social media use on individuals can vary, based upon age and a person’s stage of life.

So what are the documented physical and psychological effects on people of using social media frequently?


Effects of Social Media on Mental Health.


Social Media and Health
Social Media Impact Upon Psychological Health


There have been a number of studies and reports showing that high usage of social media can lead to mental illness, while in contrast there have been many other studies and reports that have shown that the effects of high social media usage on mental health are minimal.

Some studies that have focused on mental health have found the following mental health related issues regarding social media use these are anxiety, decreased self-esteem, feelings of inferiority, eating disorders and declining focus on work. Other studies argue that at the very least, high social media usage can lead to dysfunctional and negative impacts upon daily living. One study found a negative correlation between time spent on social media and negative body image feedback, it found that those who spent more time on social media had a much higher risk of reporting body image and eating concerns when compared to peers who who did not spend as much time on social media.


Social Media Mental Health
Social Media and Mental Health


As was previously mentioned a frequent term used regarding social media use is FOMO, which is an abbreviation for ‘fear of missing out’ and is defined as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent, FOMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.”


Social Media mental health effects
Social Media FOMO

Higher levels of FOMO have been associated with lower general mood, lower life satisfaction, lower wellbeing and increased engagement with Facebook Some studies have found FOMO to be associated with social media addiction

This would suggest that FOMO could become a predicator or potential component of social media addiction and could potentially impact negatively upon a users daily functioning.

Other studies have found that young adults who spent a lot of time on social media were more likely to have sleep problems and develop symptoms of depression. Poor sleep has also been attributed to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression and physical problems such as, but not limited to, a weaker immune system.


Social Media Sleep and mental health
Social Media and Sleep


So what are the individual and societal advantages and disadvantages of frequently using these social media platforms?


Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media Usage




Face-to-face social skills and social anxiety: Many adolescents are hardwired for socialisation, social media makes the ability to socialise very efficient, convenient and easy.  People who suffer from social anxiety or feel that they have poor social skills could benefit from using social media as these people may avoid, and not have much, face-to-face contact with others, so social media platforms may give them an opportunity, which previously did not exist, to socialise with others.

People who suffer from social anxiety disorder may not experience the same levels of anxiety, when communicating on these platforms, as they do when they communicate face-to-face with others, therefore this may offer them an opportunity to communicate with others and express themselves through using this online platform.

Marginalised Groups: People within marginalised groups, such as people who experience mental health issues, could find that they are able to express themselves more often and have greater opportunity to communicate and interact with others through using these online platforms.

Communication Efficiency: Regardless of location people can instantly communicate with another using social media. It can also be used to communicate with several people at once by using Facebook Groups. This efficient way of communicating with others from any location at any time, enables people to share their thoughts, find out useful information and learn from others in a short space of time.

Good Causes: Social media groups or pages can be used to promote good causes and share information with others to spread awareness of societal issues and topics that are important to people or that may better their lives. Due to most social media platforms usage being free, other than paid ads, social media can be a cost-effective way to spread and share important messages with others.

New Information: The latest updates on an issue, news story or trend can be shared instantly on social media with others. This enables people to be quickly informed, updated and act quickly on events that they deem important.

On occasions where news channels may edit a news story to convey a certain message or interpretation, social media can be used to provide the truth about an event, for example, through someone uploading or live streaming the event directly from their Smartphone to a social media platform.

Helping People: Sometimes social media can be used to reach out and ask for help from others, examples of this could be when a person wants other people’s opinion on something before they proceed to take action or when someone in your community or near by have lost something such as a phone or have a lost a family pet such as a dog or someone has been missing for a period of time. These can often be posted to social media to ask for peoples help and assistance. One example of this is that the police will now often use social media as part of their strategy in appealing for and obtaining information about a crime or a suspected crime.

Education: People can use ‘Groups’ created on social media that are focused upon certain topics in order to not only socialise, but to educate themselves on a topic. People can educate themselves within these groups from having conversations with other group members and from reading articles and information posted within these groups.



Addiction: This can be described as the dark side of social media. Teenagers are found to be the most effected by social media addiction. Their extensive use of social media platforms to communicate and interact with others can result in them cutting themselves off from society. Social media addiction can also take time away from productive tasks or relationships with others within their households and daily lives, therefore affecting the persons close relationships, productivity and wellbeing.

Physical Health Issues: Excessive use of social media can result in people spending a lot of time sitting in the same position on their computer, this results in them not getting much exercise, such as walking and exercising. Social media can therefore distract people from exercising and doing other physical activities that can be beneficial for their physical health.

Negative body image problems:

Professional Reputation: Someone can impulsively post a comment or image on a social media platform that they later regret and which may impact upon their professional or personal reputation. Also, people can create false stories about others on social media platforms and have this shared with thousands of people. Businesses can also be affected by posts or comments which can harm their brand image/personality and reputation.

Cyberbullying: Many children and adolescents have been victims of cyberbullying. The relative ease in creating fake social media accounts has made this quite extensive. Threats, intimidation, rumours, slanders can be sent to hundreds if not thousands of people in a short space of time

Security Problems: Various security agencies have been found to have access to many people’s personal accounts. Many people have also had their accounts hacked into by hackers and by people attempting some type of fraud.

Less Face Time: Social skills require practice, it may be hard to build these social skills if people spend most of their time communicating and interacting online, rather than communicating face-to-face.


The previous research suggests that there are advantages and disadvantages to the widespread use of online social networking. There is a wealth of studies suggesting that there can be detrimental effects both psychologically and physically to excessive social media use. However, the key is learning to use social media in moderation through balancing communications online with face-to-face in-person communications and balancing social media usage with productive daily tasks. The wealth of information from previous research and reports published should help us to understand and have greater awareness on social media addiction and also to get a better understanding on when social media might be negatively affecting a person’s daily functioning, wellbeing and mental health.


I hope everyone enjoyed this article.

If anyone has any thoughts or opinions on this subject area then please leave these in the comments section below.

Thanks everyone.


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For Relief From Addiction, Tap Into Your Creative Side

Hello everyone,

Here is an article by a guest blogger.

I hope you enjoy.

It’ll make you feel better in so many ways, and that’s why therapists are adding a bit of creativity to their addiction recovery programs: to help patients achieve a greater sense of well-being that goes beyond abstinence. Whether it’s a strum of the strings or a brush to the canvas, the arts heal your damaged psyche and enrich your life physically, mentally and spiritually. Here’s how.


This is the basis for good health. Difficult situations in life, such as being laid off, getting dumped or struggling with an addiction, can lead to stress, which has physical effects such as high blood pressure. That, in turn, causes even more stress. Creativity ends this vicious circle, as it brings peace of mind and helps you become energetically engaged with your body, according to A Lust for Life, a website devoted to well-being.


When you play an instrument, you focus your ears and eyes on what your hands are doing to produce a specific sound. This is a form of mindfulness, or being in the moment, in which nothing outside of you and your music matters, and that includes those worries and anxieties that you’ve been dragging around all day that are compounded by the pressures of readapting to a sober life. You can gain the same benefit from the visual arts.


Artistic expression allows you to let go of the troubles that have been weighing on your mind. Painting is especially therapeutic for some people in addiction recovery. The Treehouse points out, “Whether it’s watercolor, acrylic, or oils, painting is a wonderful way for those suffering with addiction to cope. Not only is painting a quiet, soothing activity, it allows an artist to bring out whatever emotions they’re dealing with onto the paper or canvas and leave it there. Because drugs and alcohol can dull a person’s emotions, painting can bring you back to yourself, little by little.”


Start with plucking a string while you tap your foot to the beat. Now, add another string to the mix. Then, place your fingers on the fingerboard, and add new notes to the composition. The next session, you’ll build even more complexity, and as your skills grow, you’ll learn to play songs in their entirety. Do you see how that works? Little by little, you become better and better. That’s how you accomplish things, and accomplishment is how you build your self-esteem.


Imagine yourself in front of the canvas for the first time, making your first tentative brush strokes. Seeking the same release of negative energy, you come back to the same place at the same time the next day to add to your budding work of art, but this time, with a steadier hand. You’re gaining skill, but also creating a routine, one that’s invigorating to your mind and spirit. This adds structure to your life, which you need to overcome the negative habits you developed in your previous life.


“Express yourself in some way you enjoy on a regular basis, just once a day, and benefit from a more positive state of mind,” says a doctor writing in Psychology Today, citing research in which over 600 people were surveyed on their artistic endeavors and the positive and negative emotional responses they felt. The study also revealed that creativity increased happiness in their relationships as well as positivity in the workplace.


There was a time when you were full of hope, before the weight of the world came crashing down on your shoulders. That child is still there inside you, waiting to reconnect. Art offers a way to reach them. Children are masters at creativity, naturally diving into lumps of clay and pots of fingerpaint to bring their imaginations to reality, and here you are doing the same thing, adding a dash of playfulness to your life. “Nothing is more important than creative play through imagination. Never stop playing, and never stop imagining!” says writer Carmela Dutra.

Painting, sculpting, music – any of these creative arts can be added to your recovery efforts, whether in-patient or outpatient, 12-step or holistic. Talk your therapist for some suggestions, or begin your personal vision quest with a trip to the music or art supply store. Either way, it starts with you.

Image via Pixabay.

I hope you enjoyed this article.

You can post any questions or thoughts in the comments section below.

Thanks everyone.

Ian Morrison, Marketing Manager, Institute of Counselling. 

Alternative Treatments for Addiction Recovery

Hello everyone,

The following is an article by Kimberly Hayes.


This article discusses alternative treatments for addiction recovery.

I hope you enjoy this article.


Determining the most effective treatments for addiction recovery isn’t easy, because not all methods work for everyone. Many experts agree that treating the body and the mind effectively helps people focus their minds and relieve stress and anxiety—triggers for substance abuse which often lead to relapses during recovery.


You’ll want to explore different methods with your doctor after you evaluate the holistic, non-traditional therapies available. The benefits they offer include:


  • A comprehensive approach that addresses your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.
  • A more natural approach to healing by using the body’s ability to heal itself.
  • Accessibility for people who are intimidated by or uncomfortable about the more traditional treatment options.
  • An increased possibility that you’ll uncover underlying issues that talk therapy might not discover.
  • An opportunity to learn new skills and ways to exist happily in the world. You’ll increase your ability to maintain your recovery and more successfully and healthfully handle future challenges.
  • Less emphasis on religion; these alternatives don’t bash religion, but do provide a more secular approach, which increases their appeal for those who don’t follow a Western or Christian religion.
  • More emphasis on self-empowerment by encouraging recovering addicts to channel their own strength to overcome their addictions.
  • A willingness to stay updated with current research in evidence-based approaches, like cognitive behavioral therapy, to treat addiction and incorporate those techniques into their systems.


Mental health disorders are often intertwined with substance abuse disorders (SUD), and provides a comprehensive breakdown of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) used in combination with traditional methods to treat mental health and SUD.


Alternative recovery methods

If you’re exploring other possibilities besides the traditional 12-step programs to aid in your addiction recovery, this list—while by no means exhaustive—is a good place to start.


Yoga. Often partnered with meditation, yoga gently improves your flexibility and helps your body to heal physically from the effects of substance abuse.


Meditation. Focusing on inner strength, peace, and connectedness, meditation helps you to narrow and focus your thoughts, block out negativity, and quiet your mind. By increasing your self-awareness, you learn how to embrace that inner strength and reduce cravings.


Exercise. Daily exercise, even if only 20-30 minutes a day, boosts your mood and releases endorphins, which increase feelings of well-being and happiness. Exercise improves the functions of your endocrine, pulmonary, and cardiac systems; improves oxygen and nutrient delivery; and positively affects your brain’s executive control processes, which include memory, multitasking, and planning or strategizing.


Healthy eating. Healthier food choices can control cravings, depression, anxiety, and other factors that trigger addictive behaviors. This food chart provides a roadmap of options that address nutritional deficits by incorporating more proteins, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals, omega-3 essential fatty acids, and fibers into your diet.


12-Step group alternatives. There’s no doubt about the efficacy of 12-step group programs; however, not everyone benefits from participating—for many different reasons. Other nationwide programs have existed for decades, including:


  • Women for Sobriety (WFS), a national self-help program geared toward women recovering from addiction.
  • SMART Recovery, which uses cognitive behavioral approaches in its 1,200 groups worldwide.
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety, founded by a recovering alcoholic in the mid 1980s as an alternative to AA.
  • LifeRing Secular Recovery (LSF), which focuses on human efforts and individual motivation to maintain addiction recovery.


Regardless of where you are in your addiction recovery, experts agree that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. Recognizing their effectiveness when partnered with more traditional treatments, many treatment centers have embraced alternative therapies. More recovering addicts are using these holistic treatments in conjunction with more traditional methods. While not a panacea for treating SUD, these alternative treatments do have a profound, positive influence on the recovery process—and beyond.


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I hope you enjoyed Kimberly’s article on alternative treatments for addiction recovery.

You can leave any questions or/and contributions in the comments section below.




The Missing Piece: How Alternative Treatments Might Be the Key to Your Addiction Recovery

Hello everyone,

The following is an article by Kimberly Hayes.

This article is based upon Kimberly’s work and research on alternative recovery methods.

Kimberly is currently working on a book about when addicts should seek alternative addiction treatments…and when they should be avoided.

I hope you enjoy this article.


Each year, millions of Americans have to contend with addiction to drugs or alcohol. You never think that addiction will happen to you, until it does, and then who’s left to pick up the pieces. Everyone’s recovery story is unique. Sometimes you never lose that safety net of a family to catch you and help get your life back in order. Sometimes you are left alone, after addiction has created a rift between you and the people you love. Sometimes there is counseling, group meetings, traditional 12-step programs and on-campus rehabilitation.


Even after taking all of these steps to get life back in order, you can still feel incomplete and normalcy can seem so far away. Perhaps it’s time for you to consider alternative addiction treatments to help you find that missing piece. Here are a few treatment alternatives to help get your life back on track.


  • Sweating it Out


Addiction recovery can be found in a variety of places, one of which can be your local gym. You’ve probably been told many times how a healthy lifestyle can transform lives, and maybe even seen it firsthand in friends or family who started eating better foods, or began training for a marathon. Well, diet and exercise can benefit more than just people looking to shed a few pounds. In fact, many recovering addicts have rediscovered that putting an emphasis on their diet and fitness routine has done wonders for helping them get through the turbulence of addiction and find the silver lining in their life after drugs and alcohol.


Exercise on its own is known to reduce stress and anxiety, while eating better foods gives us more energy, and can improve our overall mood. Beyond the immediate effects of healthy living, you’ll also benefit from a more structured routine that balances your fitness with everyday life. After seeing and feeling the results of diet and exercise you might notice that piece you have been missing is finally filled, and you are finally back to living your best life.


  • Expressing Yourself


Another alternative that may supplement your current addiction treatment can be found on the page, or in the studio. Expression is a powerful form of release. It allows you to get all the thoughts and feelings that have been bottled up inside of you out and in the open air. This is why so many recovering addicts turn to the arts as an outlet for their troubles and past traumas.


When expressing yourself, there is no right or wrong way to go about it. Find a medium that speaks to you, be it painting, or singing, or dancing. Start investing in old hobbies like writing or drawing, and harness your emotions as you go about your work. You’ll feel a million times lighter once you’ve put what your feeling into something you made, and you might even discover something about yourself along the way.


  • Giving it Back


Another way you can assist your addiction recovery is by reaching out and giving yourself back to others. In the past few weeks or even months, you’ve spent a lot of time focused on yourself and your needs. Looking inwards is important to understand who we are and figuring out how to make ourselves better, but sometimes we need more. The answer lies in looking beyond ourselves.


Volunteering in the community is the logical next step for recovering addicts who have dealt with their own issues, and are in need of some perspective. Serving people in need is a great way to see the bigger picture and find a deeper meaning and purpose for your life now that you’ve overcome addiction. You may find that your experiences are not mistakes, but valuable lessons that you can pass on to others so that they can live fuller, happier lives and in the process you, too, will feel proud and satisfied.


These are just a few alternative treatment ideas. By choosing to quit giving in to your addiction, you’ve already proven that you have what it takes to fulfill your recovery. It’s not if you will find that missing piece, but when.


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I hope everyone enjoyed Kimberly’s article.

If you have any comments about this subject then you can post them in the comments section below.

We would be happy to hear from you.

Thanks everyone

Warm regards

Institute of Counselling

Write an article for our Journal

Hello everyone

Would you be interested in writing an article for the Institute of Counselling’s journal called The Living Document?

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counselling therapy article writing

We are looking for people to contribute articles for publishing within our quarterly journal ‘The Living Document’.

We accept a wide variety of topics and subjects, with many of our previous contributions being focused within the areas of spirituality, personal reflection, personal development and counselling and therapy.


We do not require articles to be a certain length as we accept short articles for inclusion.


We adopt an open approach to publishing within our journal as we are more than happy to cover a wide range of topics and subject areas.

If you are interested in contributing an article for our journal you can contact us by email at


or by telephone at 0141 204 2230. We are located in Glasgow, Scotland.

We would be happy to hear from you.

Thanks everyone


Ian. Marketing Manager, Student Services


Alcohol Abuse And Domestic Violence (Part 2)

Hello Everyone,

Here is the second part of Alana Fraser’s article ‘Alcohol Abuse And Domestic Violence’. This article was originally published within the Institute of Counseling’s journal ‘The Living Document’.

Men, Women, Alcohol and Domestic Violence

It is a common stereotype that, in domestic violence, men are the abusers and women are the victims: but this is not always the case. Also, alcohol can play a
major role where women are abusing the men in their lives.

 For example, research indicates that in relationships where the male partner abuses alcohol, the woman may push, grab or slap the man out of frustration at the man’s continued substance use or relapse. Also, in couples where the female partner abuses alcohol, women report that, when intoxicated, they tend to argue and initiate physical aggression with their male partner(1). These crimes are typically reported less-most likely because of society’s views on sexual norms and stereotypes. It is a common view in our society that the man is the head of the household, and the dominant one in the relationship. Hence, it makes sense to think that a man might feel embarrassed to admit that his wife is abusing him:

“Incidents in which men abuse women are perceived more negatively than incidents in which women abuse men.”(2)

What the Research Shows

Dealing with domestic violence that is closely intertwined with alcohol consumption means dealing with two separate issues. This can make therapy a challenge.

In the past offenders have been asked to attend two different types of therapy groups: one for alcohol dependency and one for aggressive or violent behaviour. The relationship between the two has generally been missed, so the problem has not been dealt with properly.

One study(3), which addressed both issues together, took the form of a twelve step CBT group for alcohol dependent men with interpersonal violence issues. The men were divided between a Twelve Step Facilitation (TSF) group and a Cognitive Behavioural Substance Abuse Domestic Violence (SADV) group. The participants had been approved by the DSM as having alcohol dependency; they had also been arrested in the past year for domestic violence.

The SADV group concentrated on problem solving skills related to violence, awareness of anger, managing emotions, coping with alcohol cravings, dealing with feelings of loss of control, and emergency planning. The TSF group focused on better understanding both alcoholism and the recovery process, learning how to manage their negative feelings, developing an effective support system, and maintaining recovery.

Results showed that the SADV group experienced a reduction in both violent episodes and levels of substance abuse. Group therapy, here, was more effective as it focused on the relationship between alcohol consumption and domestic violence.

Another effective treatment approach is Behavioural Couples Therapy for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. The purpose of this therapy is to improve relationship functioning and to create support for abstinence from alcohol and drug consumption.

In this form of treatment, the abuser participates in counselling and an Alcoholics Anonymous group. At the same time, their spouse participates in counselling and an Al-Anon group. This gives both individuals a chance to deal with the situation separately. The abuser is aided in learning how to effectively control their emotions and cravings. The spouse learns more about the nature of addictions. He/she also learns how to influence their partner in a way that is loving- but does not permit the use of alcohol or other substances. This approach is effective because each spouse learns what their roles and responsibilities are.

The Impact on the Family

 Domestic violence and an alcohol addiction are serious issues that can greatly affect, not only the couple, but the wider family, too. Also, domestic abuse is viewed as including a range of different levels of involvement. This varies from witnessing aggression and violence …to being caught up in a violent situation (for example, intervening to protect another family member) … through to being a direct victim of abuse(4).

Children often bear the negative effects of alcohol abuse and domestic violence by observing the abuse, being neglected, and by being abused themselves. Being under the influence of alcohol affects one’s ability to decipher responsibilities and what is, or is not, appropriate behaviour.


Thus, the intoxicated parent may leave their child unattended or neglected.

They may also emotionally, physically or sexually abuse the child. This is clear from the following statement:

“The parenting skills and behaviours of adults with alcohol problems are significantly impaired: they are frequently neglectful, abusive, unreliable, inconsistent and violent.”(5)

Furthermore, any kind of neglect or abuse can be detrimental to a child’s development. That is:

“The interplay between witnessing family violence, suffering child abuse, observing chemical dependency in a parent, and experiencing parental separation increases the likelihood that developmental problems will occur.”(6)

Children who experience abuse can develop low self-esteem, a lack of trust, feelings of helplessness, self-hatred, depression, anxiety, boundary issues, violent behaviour, and so on. They usually find it hard to manage these emotions – and the effects may continue into adulthood.

Indeed, abused children often become abusing parents. They then perpetuate the negative cycle of abuse. They may respond to their own children out of anger and rage as that was how their parents responded to them.

“In alcoholic and abusive homes behaviour may be very unpredictable or it may be rigid and very painfully predictable. The child may be perceived as intentionally frustrating his parent or as being bad and uncontrollable.”(7)

So, when a child resists control or starts to misbehave, a parent who was previously abused themselves may believe that their child is ‘doing it on purpose’. They then relate this purposeful, unpleasant behaviour to how their parents treated them in the past (intentionally causing them pain.)

This gives rise to angry feelings towards their child and, in response, the parent may become abusive.

Abuse is an emotionally devastating occurrence. It is provoked and intensified when alcohol is present. Both of these abuses can be extremely painful and devastating to a family.


Domestic violence is a serious issue that is significantly influenced by alcohol abuse. Alcohol consumption facilitates violence as it negatively impacts decision- making and cognitive functioning. This can have dire consequences for the person, their spouse and any children in the home.

When intoxicated, it is more difficult to think through the consequences of our actions. People act in ways that may be out of character as they lack control over their thoughts and behaviours. Specifically, while under the influence of alcohol, they may react emotionally instead of rationally.

Most therapy deals with the two issues (domestic violence and alcohol dependency) separately. This is usually ineffective as it ignores the connection between
alcohol and domestic violence. Research shows that a combined approach is more effective as offenders are taught to control their cravings, as well as their negative, destructive emotions.



(1)   O’Farrell, T. J. & Fals-Stewart, W. (2006). Behavioural couples therapy for alcoholism and drug abuse. New York: Guilford Press.

(2)   Seelau, S. & Seelau, E. (2005). Gender-role stereotypes and perceptions of heterosexual, gay and lesbian domestic violence. Journal of Family Violence, 20(6), 363-371.

(3)   Easton, C. J., Mandel, D. L., Hunkele, K. A., Nich, C., Rounsaville, B. J. & Carroll, K. M. (2007). A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for alcohol-dependent domestic violence offenders: An integrated substance abuse- domestic violence treatment approach. American Journal on Addictions, 16(1), 24- 31.

(4)   Velleman, R., Templeton, L., Reuber, D., Klein, M. & Moesgen, D. (2008). Domestic abuse experienced by young people living in families with alcohol problems: results from a cross-European study. Child Abuse Review, 17(6), 387-409.

(5)   Velleman, R., Templeton, L., Reuber, D., Klein, M. & Moesgen, D. (2008). Domestic abuse experienced by young people living in families with alcohol problems: results from a cross-European study. Child Abuse Review, 17(6), 387-409.

(6)   Potter-Efron R. T. & Potter-Efron P. S. (1990). Aggression, family violence and chemical dependency. London: The Haworth Press.

(7)   Potter-Efron R. T. & Potter-Efron P. S. (1990). Aggression, family violence and chemical dependency. London: The Haworth Press.


Barnwell, S., Borders, A. & Earleywine, M. (2006). Alcohol-aggression expectancies and dispositional aggression moderate the relationship between alcohol consumption and alcohol-related violence. Aggressive Behavior, 32(6), 517-527.

Hittner, J. B. (2004). Alcohol use among American college students in relation to need for cognition and expectations of alcohol’s effects on cognition. Current Psychology, 23(2), 173-187.

McMurran, M. & Gilchrist, E. (2008). Anger control and alcohol use: Appropriate interventions for perpetrators of domestic violence? Psychology, Crime & Law, 14(2), 107-116.


I hope you enjoyed this article.

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Many thanks.

Best Wishes

Ian Morrison.   

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