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.

www.instituteofcounselling.org.uk

http://www.onlinegraduatecentre.com/

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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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