Alcohol Abuse and Domestic Violence

Hello Everyone,

 This is the first of two parts of Alana Fraser’s article Alcohol Abuse And Domestic Violence. This article was published originally in The Living Document edition Summer 2011. Please enjoy. The second part of this article will be posted soon.

 

ALCOHOL ABUSE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

 

Introduction

 

Domestic violence is widespread today in Western society. There are many factors that contribute to abuse: one common influence being alcohol consumption. In a culture of high stress and increasing pressure, it is perhaps not surprising that many individuals turn to alcohol to alleviate the strain and the negative feelings they are struggling with. However, their decision to engage in substance abuse not only affects the person themselves, but it affects the people around them as well

 

Sadly, children are often the most vulnerable-and at the greatest risk- in these abusive situations. Also, observing or experiencing abuse as a child can lead to emotional and developmental issues. These can continue into adulthood.

 

Although there is no clear causal relationship between alcohol consumption and domestic violence, often alcohol abuse is  also reported in cases of spousal or child abuse. Furthermore, when the two co-exist, research indicates there is an increased frequency of domestic violence and an increased severity of injuries inflicted(1).

 

In terms of treatment, if the person can be helped to identify the relationship between their alcohol dependency and their violent behaviour, then counselling is shown to be more effective.

 

However, if the person does not understand the relationship between the two, they will have difficulties in controlling their negative and abusive behaviour.

 

Where Does the Responsibility Lie?

 

Substance abuse (including alcohol dependency) can lead to reactions that are out of character. For example, being under the influence of alcohol impairs one’s judgement, which can lead to harmful or negative behaviours. Also, an intoxicated person may find it hard to think through the consequences of their actions. However, although many may feel as if they have lost control and are not their true selves when intoxicated – this is not an excuse for abusive behaviour. This is summed up well in the following statement:

 

“From a cultural perspective, focusing on a perpetrator’s alcohol use can be criticized as permitting men to excuse their behaviour as driven by drink, thus providing a means of avoiding personal responsibility.”(2)

 

That is, instead of taking responsibility for one’s choices and actions, the responsibility for poor behaviour is being transferred from the person to the alcohol. Clearly, this type of attitude towards substance abuse is detrimental and erroneous. It is a kind of deception which allows the person to think that their behaviour is acceptable- regardless of the impact that it has on other people.

 

Effects on Thinking and Behaviour

 

Overconsumption of alcohol leads to an altered state of consciousness which, in turn, affects cognition and decision making skills:

 

“Research has shown that alcohol consumption affects our cognitive or thinking abilities. Types of cognitive abilities include, but are not limited to, attention, concentration, problem solving skills, and the ability to consider the consequences of our actions.”(3)

 

That is, alcohol consumption affects the way one thinks and reacts to situations and other people. For example, when a person is under the influence of alcohol they are less likely to think about consequences and may react spontaneously out of emotion.

 

In other situations, drunkenness can result in a feeling of excessive confidence or a boldness that translates to aggressive behaviours. This is why it is more common for domestic violence to occur when alcohol has been consumed.

 

A fight may start and, when the argument gets heated, the intoxicated spouse might overreact and hit out in frustration, anger or rage.

 

This is because they are responding from their feelings and are battling a sense of loss of control. The following statement illustrates this point:

 

“Individuals who consume alcohol respond to provocation with more aggression than do individuals who have not consumed alcohol.”(4)

 

From this, we may conclude that an intoxicated person, who feels provoked by their spouse or children, is more likely to respond in a violent way than a person who is sober and has greater self-control.

 

 

(1)   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.

 

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

 

(3)   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.

 

(4)   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.

 

I hope you enjoyed the first part of this article. 

Please Like and Share it.

 

You can leave your questions and views in the comments section below.

You can also visit our social media pages below, for more information both on the counselling and psychotherapy sector and on our courses.

Thanks.

Best Wishes

Ian.

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A students reflections on studying counselling skills

Hello everyone,

I would like to share an article with you today, the article is an excerpt taken from the Institute of Counselling’s Journal ‘The Living Document’.

This article was written by a former student of the Institute of Counselling.

The article details the students reflections and thoughts on studying counselling skills and how the process has enriched her understanding of her personal life.

I hope you enjoy.

 

A STUDENT’S REFLECTION ON STUDYING COUNSELLING SKILLS

This article traces my progress through my studies with the Institute of Counselling. However it does not primarily focus on what I have learned, the knowledge I have gained and the skills I have acquired. Rather, it discusses the challenges I have faced, and it charts how my experiences have informed my learning, and conversely how my learning has enriched my understanding of my own personal life.

 

I am a staff nurse working in a unit for people with severe dementia. In the words of our psychiatrist, it is essentially “a hospice for people with dementia”. It is where clients are referred when all other care options have been exhausted. Thus, I frequently provide end of life care. This was one of the reasons I decided to explore a course in grief and loss.

 

While researching this, I stumbled across the Institute of Counselling’s Graduate Diploma in Counselling Skills. I chose this course for a number of reasons …

 

First, it offered a module in Grief and Loss Counselling; second, it provided training at a higher level than my undergraduate degree; third, I have always had an interest in, and hoped to study counselling; and fourth, it included an element of pastoral counselling. This was important to me, as I am a practising Christian.

 

I commenced my studies in 2008.

During my first year, I studied two modules:

Foundation in Counselling Skills, and Grief and Bereavement Counselling Skills. On commencing the first module, I quickly realised that the essential qualities of Carl Rogers’[1] and Gerard Egan’s[2] approaches are those that underpin all elements of my nursing practice. These are genuineness, warmth and empathy. In fact, these qualities are the building blocks for all my relationships in life – both at work, and with my friends and family.

 

The second module focused on Grief and Bereavement Counselling Skills. Although the focus was on helping those who’ve lost a loved one, I found myself thinking more about how best to support families who were trying to make sense of this devastating illness, and the impact it was having on their lives. Indeed, many families grieve the loss of “the person they once knew” as dementia changes “the person they now are”.

 

I can identify with this sense of loss as my own much-loved grandma had dementia for five years. During that time, I witnessed her change from being a vibrant lady who loved to sing and dance to being a mere shadow of her former self, where she depended on others to meet her every need.

 

Gerard Egan’s model, ‘The Skilled Helper Model’ [1] was particularly relevant to my work as a nurse.

 

For example, when supporting loved ones I frequently find that the problems they present me with are not the core issues. This model helped me to explore and identify ‘what was really going on’ beneath the surface.

 

A case which illustrates this is a lady who was finding it hard to come to terms with her husband’s illness, and move him into long term care. By applying Egan’s model we were able to uncover that the key issue for her was actually guilt. Specifically, guilt that she had let her husband down, guilt that she had failed in her role as wife, and guilt that she could no longer cope with caring for her husband. Over time, she was able to work through these issues, using different counselling techniques and tools.

 

For example, we used Force-field Analysis to help the wife decide whether it was better for her to care for her husband at home or whether long term care would be more appropriate. This also helped her deal with her negative guilt feelings.

 

During my second year, I began to study Couple and Family Counselling Skills. This was a challenging module for me as both of my parents are alcoholics, and as a child I witnessed and experienced things that no child should see or experience.

 

Thus, studying the material highlighted my own need to address buried issues that I still needed to work through in an honest and open way. This was often very difficult for me. From a professional perspective, this experience showed me how important it is for a counsellor to work through issues that could interfere with the counselling process and relationship. That can help alleviate the likelihood of transference and counter- transference occurring.

 

When I started on this second module, I didn’t realise how useful it would be to my work as a nurse. I had viewed studying families as a means to an end: it was simply a module I had to complete to fulfil the requirements of my graduate diploma.

 

Although I frequently worked with my patients’ families, developing family and couple counselling skills seemed largely irrelevant to my job. However, I soon realised that my assumptions had been wrong, as studying a Family Systems Approach helped me better understand the dynamics within the family unit. This was reinforced by my research for an essay which detailed the benefits of using Systems Theory in the field of palliative care.

 

Studying this module proved to be challenging in other – unrelated- ways as well.

 

I suffer from severe asthma which is usually kept under reasonable control. However, during this time it became more problematic. I also developed polyarthalgia which was difficult to treat because of my asthma. In addition to this, I am a carer for a close friend. As her health deteriorated significantly, this increased the demands on me.

 

Although this was proving to be a very tough year, my module leader, Neil, was able to support me, so I managed to make it, and complete the work.

At present, I am working on the final module: Crisis and Trauma Counselling Skills. I have always found this area interesting. I am also aware that people facing crises have acute and serious needs.

 

In terms of my personal situation, shortly after commencing with my third year module I was admitted to hospital because of my asthma. There, my consultant gently shared that there was nothing more medicine could offer me. This was devastating news as I had always held out hope – but now that hope was gone. I returned home left to deal, in whatever way I could, with the impact that this news had had on me.

 

My consultant is excellent; however, I felt let down as there was a complete lack of emotional support in dealing with the news. I know my experience is not unique, and I really feel that counselling could offer a lot to people who are coping with a long term illness. Although the health service can offer us partial support, there is definitely a lack of holistic care.

 

On top of these concerns, a good friend passed away while I was preparing my first essay for the module. I felt heartbroken as the loss was sudden-yet many failed to understand the very real impact it had on me. To be honest, in some ways it felt silly as my friend was not a person: it was my guinea pig, Prince Harry. I had adopted this lad from a rescue centre. He was in terrible condition when I took him home – but he had thrived and blossomed into a cheeky little character. Hence, I was very attached to my pet. What made this so hard, even though he was in pain, was the guilt I experienced over ending his  .

 

The death of a much- loved pet is frequently underestimated and dismissed by many. As I prepared this article I spoke to several people who had lost their pets. All described it as a devastating experience, and one person likened it to ‘the loss of a limb’. Many described the same emotions as those associated with the loss of a human friend. However, they sensed few people understood how they felt, dismissing their grief as an overreaction. This is something that counsellors should note as often a strong bond of trust and love exists between a much loved pet and its owner. Hence, the loss of a pet can be devastating.

 

I am almost at the end of my studies now, and I can look back and say I have enjoyed it immensely. It has presented me with many intellectual challenges and life has added its own as well. It has certainly been hard work and has required me to juggle and prioritise my time and responsibilities. However, I have developed my skills and increased my knowledge.

 

I also believe I have grown as a person, and become much more confident. I am now considering my future options as I would like to move into an area of  work that is less demanding physically. That would accommodate my health issues-but also allow me to use my skills and knowledge to help other people in a meaningful way.

 

When I complete this course, I will embark on the Diploma in Youth Counselling. This should help me in my volunteer position as the children’s advocate in my church. I am sure this new course will bring further challenges, as well as new opportunities for developing my knowledge, skills and qualities as an individual and a counsellor.

 

References

[1] Egan, G. (2010). The skilled helper (9th Ed.). Pacific Grove, CA:

Brooks/Cole.

[2] Rogers, C.R. (1995). On becoming a person: A therapist’s view

of psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.

 

I hope you found this article interesting and insightful, remember you can let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

My next blog post will be posted in the next few days.

Thanks.

Best Wishes.

Ian.

http://www.instituteofcounselling.org.uk/

http://www.onlinegraduatecentre.com/

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Alcoholics Anonymous at a Glance.

Hello everyone,

This is an article about Alcoholics Anonymous A.A., which was published in the Institute of Counselling’s Journal ‘The Living Document’.

I hope you enjoy.

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS AT A GLANCE

Most individuals have heard of A.A. It is committed to supporting recovering alcoholics.

In the following article we provide some information on A.A.: its policies, its principles, its practices and key philosophy.

What is Alcoholics Anonymous?

Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) is a voluntary, world-wide fellowship of men and women from all walks of life, who meet together to attain and maintain sobriety. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no fees for A.A. membership.

A.A. members say that they are alcoholics today, even when they have not had a drink for many years. They do not say that they are ‘cured’. Instead, A.A. members believe that once people have lost their ability to control their drinking, they can never be sure of drinking safely again. That is, they can never become ‘former alcoholics’ or ‘ex-alcoholics’. However, they can become sober or recovered alcoholics.

How A.A. Members Maintain Sobriety

Alcoholics Anonymous is a programme of total abstinence where members stay away from one drink, one day at a time.

Sobriety is maintained through (i) sharing experience, strength and hope at group meetings and (ii) by working through The Twelve Steps of A.A.

These steps are summarised as follows:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that a Power greater than our-selves could restore us to sanity.
  3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.
  4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. We admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all our defects of character.
  7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God – as we understood Him – praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practise these principles in all our affairs.

Who can Attend A.A. Meetings?

There are two types of A.A. meetings: (i) open meetings and (ii) closed meetings

Anyone may attend open meetings. Here, speakers tell of how they drank, how they discovered A.A. and how the programme has helped them personally.

Closed meetings are for alcoholics only. These are group discussions where any members can share, ask questions or offer suggestions to their fellow members.

Current Membership

It is estimated that, at present, there are more than 114,000 A.A. groups and over 2,000,000 members in 180 countries.

What A.A. Does Not Do?

A.A. does not:

(i)     Keep membership records or case histories.

(ii)      Engage in, or support, research.

(iii)      Join councils or social agencies (although A.A. members, groups and service offices frequently cooperate with them).

(iv)    Follow up on, or try to control, its members.

(v)      Make medical or psychiatric prognoses, dispense medicines, provide psychiatric advise, provide drying-out or nursing services.

(vi)         Conduct or provide religious services.

(vii)     Provide housing, food, clothing, jobs, money or other welfare or social services.

(viii)        Offer counselling to its members or their families.

For more information on A.A., please visit

http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/About-AA/Newcomers

I hope you found this article valuable.

Comments or questions can be posted in the comments section below.

I am also happy to answer any questions you may have regarding this article.

Please “Like and Share” it.

Thanks.

Best Wishes

Ian.
www.instituteofcounselling.org.uk

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Alcoholics Anonymous at a Glance.

Hello everyone

This is an article about Alcoholics Anonymous A.A., which was published in the Institute of Counselling’s Journal ‘The Living Document’.

I hope you enjoy.

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS AT A GLANCE

Most individuals have heard of A.A. It is committed to supporting recovering alcoholics.

In the following article we provide some information on A.A.: its policies, its principles, its practices and key philosophy.

What is Alcoholics Anonymous?

Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) is a voluntary, world-wide fellowship of men and women from all walks of life, who meet together to attain and maintain sobriety. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no fees for A.A. membership.

A.A. members say that they are alcoholics today, even when they have not had a drink for many years. They do not say that they are ‘cured’. Instead, A.A. members believe that once people have lost their ability to control their drinking, they can never be sure of drinking safely again. That is, they can never become ‘former alcoholics’ or ‘ex-alcoholics’. However, they can become sober or recovered alcoholics.

How A.A. Members Maintain Sobriety

Alcoholics Anonymous is a programme of total abstinence where members stay away from one drink, one day at a time.

Sobriety is maintained through (i) sharing experience, strength and hope at group meetings and (ii) by working through The Twelve Steps of A.A.

These steps are summarised as follows:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that a Power greater than our-selves could restore us to sanity.
  3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.
  4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. We admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all our defects of character.
  7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God – as we understood Him – praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practise these principles in all our affairs.

Who can Attend A.A. Meetings?

There are two types of A.A. meetings: (i) open meetings and (ii) closed meetings

Anyone may attend open meetings. Here, speakers tell of how they drank, how they discovered A.A. and how the programme has helped them personally.

Closed meetings are for alcoholics only. These are group discussions where any members can share, ask questions or offer suggestions to their fellow members.

Current Membership

It is estimated that, at present, there are more than 114,000 A.A. groups and over 2,000,000 members in 180 countries.

What A.A. Does Not Do?

A.A. does not:

(i)     Keep membership records or case histories.

(ii)      Engage in, or support, research.

(iii)      Join councils or social agencies (although A.A. members, groups and service offices frequently cooperate with them).

(iv)    Follow up on, or try to control, its members.

(v)      Make medical or psychiatric prognoses, dispense medicines, provide psychiatric advise, provide drying-out or nursing services.

(vi)         Conduct or provide religious services.

(vii)     Provide housing, food, clothing, jobs, money or other welfare or social services.

(viii)        Offer counselling to its members or their families.

For more information on A.A., please visit

http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/About-AA/Newcomers

I hope you found this article valuable.

Comments or questions can be posted in the comments section below.

I am also happy to answer any questions you may have regarding this article.

Please “Like and Share” it.

Thanks.

Best Wishes

Ian.
www.instituteofcounselling.org.uk

Online Graduate Centre

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A Beautiful Mind and ‘Poet’s Corner’

Hello everyone

This is the article ‘A beautiful mind’, followed by two poems from the ‘Poet’s Corner’, published in ‘The Living Document’ edition Autumn 2010.

Enjoy folks.

 A BEAUTIFUL MIND

We’re all susceptible to mental health concerns. This is certainly true as we approach the twilight years. But there are steps that we can take to minimise the risks and to keep on living a full and healthy life.

 

Here are ten ideas to keep your mind alert.

  1. Maintain an active lifestyle: Include stretching and walking in each day’s routine; take the stairs – not the lift; cut the grass and prune the shrubs.
  1. Eat a balance diet We all know the benefits of eating more raw foods and cutting back on fatty and sugary snacks.
  1. Exercise your mind: Sudukos, crossword puzzles, word searches and card games have all been shown to shake up those grey cells. Learning something different – a language or a skill – will also keep the mind agile and alert.
  1. Spend time with other people: Make sure you make the effort to catch up with your friends and to call or to visit people in your family. Making new friends is highly rewarding as well.

5.    Don’t forget to schedule annual checkups with your doctor: Prevention and early detection of health issues can add many quality years to your life.

 

  1. Be a volunteer: The more we give out, the more we get back. There are mental and physical benefits to this.
  1. Don’t worry; be happy: A positive attitude is linked to good health – and to happy, fulfilling relationships as well. Forgive and forget… and live each day to the full.
  1. Think about buying, and caring for, a pet: Pets can fill the days and hours with companionship and warmth. They’re usually fun to have around and are a source of endless joy.

 

  1. Fill your life with laughter: Laughter relieves worry and blows the blues the away. It helps us get life in perspective and renews our sense of fun.
  1. Don’t be tooproud, or afraid, to ask for help: We all need support and a helping hand at times.

 POET’S CORNER

 BEAUTIFUL OLD AGE

By D.H. Lawrence

 

It ought to be lovely to be old

to be full of the peace that comes of experience

and wrinkled ripe fulfilment.

The wrinkled smile of completeness

that follows a life lived undaunted and unsoured with accepted lies

they would ripen like apples, and be scented like pippins

in their old age.

Soothing, old people should be, like apples when one is tired of love.

Fragrant like yellowing leaves,

and dim with the soft stillness and satisfaction of autumn.

And a girl should say:

It must be wonderful to live and grow old.

Look at my mother, how rich and still she is! –

And a young man should think: By Jove

my father has faced all weathers, but it’s been a life!

AFTERSHOCK

By Kirsten Bale

 

The pendulum sways

The piano still plays,

Yet my heart can’t help but break

And my head begins to ache.

The message floats in bold

Of his body growing cold

Lying doomed now to decay

While the sky wears it’s best grey

All the warmth I’d grown to know

Lies frozen deep below

A flaming love snuffed out

Leaving anguish, pain and doubt

The sun has not ceased to shine.

But its radiance is lost in time,

The world, like a stream, moves on,

While my world and my future are gone.

 I hope you found this article and the two poem’s of value.

If you have any questions then remember you can leave these in the comments below, I can also answer any questions you have.

Thanks.

Please “Like and Share” it.

Best Wishes

Ian.
www.instituteofcounselling.org.uk

 

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Alcohol, Drugs and Suffering Part 1.

Institute of counselling

Hello Everyone,

I would like to introduce you to the first of two parts of Terry Callahan’s article ALCOHOL, DRUGS AND SUFFERING. published in the Institute of Counselling’s journal ‘The Living Document’. The article is from the Autumn 2010 edition.

ALCOHOL, DRUGS AND SUFFERING

The following article introduces readers to some popular concepts in Narrative Therapy.

Introduction

As a counsellor new to the field of alcohol and other drugs, I have been struck by the appearance of pain and suffering in the stories of almost all those who consult me. Often the appearance of pain and suffering coincided with that of alcohol and/or other drugs in the life of the person. In fact, in many instances the person’s story of their relationship with alcohol/drugs is almost inextricable from their story of pain and suffering.

This paper is a brief report on a project in which I attempted to witness to the stories of suffering and alcohol use by Mary (not her real name), who has been in conversation with me for nearly eight months.

I found myself constantly running into brick walls as I tried to think my way through this work. I am now familiar with at least one of those brick walls, and it is what I call the Theory Wall.

I quickly discovered that Alcohol and Other Drugs counselling is a minefield of competing theories, especially when it comes to the relationship between drug use and pain.

This paper is a brief report on a project in which I attempted to witness to the stories of suffering and alcohol use by Mary (not her real name), who has been in conversation with me for nearly eight months.

I found myself constantly running into brick walls as I tried to think my way through this work. I am now familiar with at least one of those brick walls, and it is what I call the Theory Wall.

I quickly discovered that Alcohol and Other Drugs counselling is a minefield of competing theories, especially when it comes to the relationship between drug use and pain.

I started hearing phrases like ‘self-medication’ in reference to persons who used drugs to manage a psychiatric condition. I also started to notice in newspaper stories and other articles, constant references to drug ‘addicts’ or ‘alcoholics’ who abused these substances to ‘avoid pain’, and that this pain was often tied to early experiences of abuse and so on. The implication seemed to be that getting in touch with this pain and experiencing it fully or cathartically would be healing and help overcome the person’s need for alcohol/drugs. In other words, the addict/ alcoholic was really ‘running away’ from things.

It is unremarkable that these theories should have influenced me. Eventually you hear what you expect to hear. The temptation of Theory for me is also tied up with wanting to have control of a conversation, wanting to know in advance where the conversation is likely to go.

I did not want to stay stuck in front of or behind the Theory Wall. But the temptation is strong because it is theoretical and ‘scientific’ discourse that is most legitimated and legitimating in our culture.

That was the problem. I had not realised how deeply ingrained this scientific attitude is in me.

But coming to name it and tell something of the story of it frees me to properly situate this work as fitting within a different framework of understanding – a narrative approach.

Story or narrative holds complexity, celebrates it, nurtures it in strange twists and turns, metaphors and images, that radiate in every possible direction. Story is a strong/ fragile ever-changing plotting of abundant life. Indeed, narrative is constitutive of identity and action. The stories we make up make us up.

The Interplay of Suffering/ Pain and Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking in Liminal Space

I was faced with an initial dilemma in these therapeutic conversations. Should we externalise Pain or Alcohol? In the end, we externalised both, foregrounded one and then the other.

I understand externalising from a number of different viewpoints:

  •    It locates the problem outside the person.

  •    Externalising is also congruent with a social-constructionist view of the world. That is, all aspects of the person are situated historically, politically, socially and culturally. Externalising opens the space for the person to rethink their relationship to the problem and its supporting ideas and practices.

  • Externalising also situates the Problem in such a way that others can reflect on their respective relationships to the problem, rather than seeing ‘the person-as-the-problem’.

As Mary and I entered into these conversations, it soon became clear that Mary held complex and often very nuanced positions with respect to the effects of alcohol or suffering in her life.

Part two of Terry Callahan’s article ALCOHOL, DRUGS AND SUFFERING will be posted in the next few days.

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If you have any questions or comments about the first part of this article or on the fast growing area of drugs and alcohol counselling, in general, then post them in the comments section below. I can also respond to any questions you might have.

Thanks everyone.

Best Wishes

Ian.

www.instituteofcounselling.org.uk

Drugs and alcohol counselling course

Online Graduate Centre

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A students reflections on studying counselling skills

Hello everyone,

I would like to share an article with you today, the article is an excerpt taken from the Institute of Counselling’s Journal ‘The Living Document’.

This article was written by a former student of the Institute of Counselling.

The article details the students reflections and thoughts on studying counselling skills and how the process has enriched her understanding of her personal life.

I hope you enjoy.

 

A STUDENT’S REFLECTION ON STUDYING COUNSELLING SKILLS

This article traces my progress through my studies with the Institute of Counselling. However it does not primarily focus on what I have learned, the knowledge I have gained and the skills I have acquired. Rather, it discusses the challenges I have faced, and it charts how my experiences have informed my learning, and conversely how my learning has enriched my understanding of my own personal life.

 

I am a staff nurse working in a unit for people with severe dementia. In the words of our psychiatrist, it is essentially “a hospice for people with dementia”. It is where clients are referred when all other care options have been exhausted. Thus, I frequently provide end of life care. This was one of the reasons I decided to explore a course in grief and loss.

 

While researching this, I stumbled across the Institute of Counselling’s Graduate Diploma in Counselling Skills. I chose this course for a number of reasons …

 

First, it offered a module in Grief and Loss Counselling; second, it provided training at a higher level than my undergraduate degree; third, I have always had an interest in, and hoped to study counselling; and fourth, it included an element of pastoral counselling. This was important to me, as I am a practising Christian.

 

I commenced my studies in 2008.

During my first year, I studied two modules:

Foundation in Counselling Skills, and Grief and Bereavement Counselling Skills. On commencing the first module, I quickly realised that the essential qualities of Carl Rogers’[1] and Gerard Egan’s[2] approaches are those that underpin all elements of my nursing practice. These are genuineness, warmth and empathy. In fact, these qualities are the building blocks for all my relationships in life – both at work, and with my friends and family.

 

The second module focused on Grief and Bereavement Counselling Skills. Although the focus was on helping those who’ve lost a loved one, I found myself thinking more about how best to support families who were trying to make sense of this devastating illness, and the impact it was having on their lives. Indeed, many families grieve the loss of “the person they once knew” as dementia changes “the person they now are”.

 

I can identify with this sense of loss as my own much-loved grandma had dementia for five years. During that time, I witnessed her change from being a vibrant lady who loved to sing and dance to being a mere shadow of her former self, where she depended on others to meet her every need.

 

Gerard Egan’s model, ‘The Skilled Helper Model’ [1] was particularly relevant to my work as a nurse.

 

For example, when supporting loved ones I frequently find that the problems they present me with are not the core issues. This model helped me to explore and identify ‘what was really going on’ beneath the surface.

 

A case which illustrates this is a lady who was finding it hard to come to terms with her husband’s illness, and move him into long term care. By applying Egan’s model we were able to uncover that the key issue for her was actually guilt. Specifically, guilt that she had let her husband down, guilt that she had failed in her role as wife, and guilt that she could no longer cope with caring for her husband. Over time, she was able to work through these issues, using different counselling techniques and tools.

 

For example, we used Force-field Analysis to help the wife decide whether it was better for her to care for her husband at home or whether long term care would be more appropriate. This also helped her deal with her negative guilt feelings.

 

During my second year, I began to study Couple and Family Counselling Skills. This was a challenging module for me as both of my parents are alcoholics, and as a child I witnessed and experienced things that no child should see or experience.

 

Thus, studying the material highlighted my own need to address buried issues that I still needed to work through in an honest and open way. This was often very difficult for me. From a professional perspective, this experience showed me how important it is for a counsellor to work through issues that could interfere with the counselling process and relationship. That can help alleviate the likelihood of transference and counter- transference occurring.

 

When I started on this second module, I didn’t realise how useful it would be to my work as a nurse. I had viewed studying families as a means to an end: it was simply a module I had to complete to fulfil the requirements of my graduate diploma.

 

Although I frequently worked with my patients’ families, developing family and couple counselling skills seemed largely irrelevant to my job. However, I soon realised that my assumptions had been wrong, as studying a Family Systems Approach helped me better understand the dynamics within the family unit. This was reinforced by my research for an essay which detailed the benefits of using Systems Theory in the field of palliative care.

 

Studying this module proved to be challenging in other – unrelated- ways as well.

 

I suffer from severe asthma which is usually kept under reasonable control. However, during this time it became more problematic. I also developed polyarthalgia which was difficult to treat because of my asthma. In addition to this, I am a carer for a close friend. As her health deteriorated significantly, this increased the demands on me.

 

Although this was proving to be a very tough year, my module leader, Neil, was able to support me, so I managed to make it, and complete the work.

At present, I am working on the final module: Crisis and Trauma Counselling Skills. I have always found this area interesting. I am also aware that people facing crises have acute and serious needs.

 

In terms of my personal situation, shortly after commencing with my third year module I was admitted to hospital because of my asthma. There, my consultant gently shared that there was nothing more medicine could offer me. This was devastating news as I had always held out hope – but now that hope was gone. I returned home left to deal, in whatever way I could, with the impact that this news had had on me.

 

My consultant is excellent; however, I felt let down as there was a complete lack of emotional support in dealing with the news. I know my experience is not unique, and I really feel that counselling could offer a lot to people who are coping with a long term illness. Although the health service can offer us partial support, there is definitely a lack of holistic care.

 

On top of these concerns, a good friend passed away while I was preparing my first essay for the module. I felt heartbroken as the loss was sudden-yet many failed to understand the very real impact it had on me. To be honest, in some ways it felt silly as my friend was not a person: it was my guinea pig, Prince Harry. I had adopted this lad from a rescue centre. He was in terrible condition when I took him home – but he had thrived and blossomed into a cheeky little character. Hence, I was very attached to my pet. What made this so hard, even though he was in pain, was the guilt I experienced over ending his  .

 

The death of a much- loved pet is frequently underestimated and dismissed by many. As I prepared this article I spoke to several people who had lost their pets. All described it as a devastating experience, and one person likened it to ‘the loss of a limb’. Many described the same emotions as those associated with the loss of a human friend. However, they sensed few people understood how they felt, dismissing their grief as an overreaction. This is something that counsellors should note � as often a strong bond of trust and love exists between a much loved pet and its owner. Hence, the loss of a pet can be devastating.

 

I am almost at the end of my studies now, and I can look back and say I have enjoyed it immensely. It has presented me with many intellectual challenges and life has added its own as well. It has certainly been hard work and has required me to juggle and prioritise my time and responsibilities. However, I have developed my skills and increased my knowledge.

 

I also believe I have grown as a person, and become much more confident. I am now considering my future options as I would like to move into an area of  work that is less demanding physically. That would accommodate my health issues-but also allow me to use my skills and knowledge to help other people in a meaningful way.

 

When I complete this course, I will embark on the Diploma in Youth Counselling. This should help me in my volunteer position as the children’s advocate in my church. I am sure this new course will bring further challenges, as well as new opportunities for developing my knowledge, skills and qualities as an individual and a counsellor.

 

References

[1] Egan, G. (2010). The skilled helper (9th Ed.). Pacific Grove, CA:

Brooks/Cole.

[2] Rogers, C.R. (1995). On becoming a person: A therapist’s view

of psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.

 

I hope you found this article interesting and insightful, remember you can let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

My next blog post will be posted in the next few days. Cheers.

Ian.

http://www.instituteofcounselling.org.uk/

http://www.onlinegraduatecentre.com/

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