Problem Drinkers

A few years ago at a workshop in Leeds with Frank Farrelly and Nick Kemp, Farrelly was asked what advice he’d give to therapists.

Grow a thicker skin!” came one suggestion. I like this. Frank also talked about “therapist eaters” – clients or patients who consume therapists, exhausting their resources and encouraging professional and emotional burnout.

It was with this in mind that I started thinking about patterns that some client groups present and my mind turned to many conversations I have had with colleagues about alcoholics and my own experiences in working with problem drinkers.

Problem drinkers seem ever prepared to take offence at something the therapist does or says.

It is almost as if they are looking for a reason to get upset and terminate the session. I have had many alcohol-dependent clients deride or “slag off” their previous therapist and complain to me how absurd that therapist was.

In the past 10 years of change-work, I have only ever had three clients get up and walk out of a routine session. All three of them drinkers. All three of them women.

I have only ever had 2 clients refuse to pay.

Both of them men. Both of them problem drinkers.

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