FOR MENTAL HEALTH PERSONNEL
| Since AL-ANON's inception in 1951, the mental health community and AL-ANON have been working together. In a recent AL-ANON survey, nearly half of its members reported receiving professional counseling either prior to or since joining AL-ANON, and many came as a result of psychological counseling.
As a member of the mental health community, you can be of particular help to individuals affected by someone else's drinking. Usually when people affected by alcoholism in their family seek psychotherapy, they are unaware that alcoholism is a main contributor to their problems. A young child of an alcoholic may be referred owing to difficulty in concentrating on school work, school phobias, or psychosomatic symptoms. The adolescent may exhibit behavior problems, such as perfectionism. or alcohol or drug abuse. The adult child of an alcoholic or spouse may initially seek treatment owing to depression or anxiety. In addition to providing emotional support, you can help by identifying alcoholism as a family disease and by suggesting that your client seek help through the AL-ANON/ALATEEN program.
Patricia O'Gorman, Ph.D., a psychologist who specializes in treating farnilies of alcoholics, describes the way AL-ANON works: "The three major obstacles family members need to overcome in order to progress, are dealt with in AL-ANON:
Isolation. AL-ANON breaks down isolation by putting family members in contact with others who, like themselves, are attempting to recover from the effects of alcoholism.
Fear of change. As new members become aware of alcoholism's destructive impact, they also become aware they must learn to face the disease in more constructive ways. With the support of other members and by seeing other members successfully change their lives, newcomers gradually overcome the fear of change that has kept them locked into self-defeating patterns.
Lack of information about alcoholism. Al Anon provides information to its members about the disease of alcoholism through its literature and through the knowledge of more experienced members. Such information is reaffirmed in a variety of ways, with no stigma attached. AL-ANON is a support group for individuals affected by a loved one's drinking. Often, participation in AL-ANON leads a member to deal with serious interpersonal issues that can be worked through with a professional therapist. AL-ANON does not replace professional counseling; it can enhance it."
These materials are adapted and reprinted with permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA