How to relieve suffering from alcohol

One of the many challenges associated with your support work, is that your workplace is also someone’s home. In this working environment you are exposed to the everyday lives of your clients. You are an intimate witness to everything from the mundane, such as your client’s home furnishings, to the more serious, such as the level of their alcohol intake. While it is unlikely you will be concerned about a client’s blue carpet (as unpleasant as that may seem), you may however be concerned that their alcohol use is affecting their health, making you feel uncomfortable or making your job more challenging.

How do I know if my client’s alcohol use is harmful?

Alcohol use affects different people in different ways. For example while a small amount of alcohol may be beneficial to the heart for some older people, ‘risky’ drinking can cause serious health, personal and social problems. Recommended limits to reduce health risks from drinking vary according to age, gender and other factors. Generally, a couple of standard drinks a day is considered safe (a standard drink is a pot of beer, 100ml glass of wine or 30ml of spirits). Anymore than four a day on a regular basis is considered risky for a person’s health.

Identifying risky drinking this way is not always easy to do or even particularly useful, for as noted alcohol affects everyone differently. Another way is to look at the impact of drinking on social factors such as a client’s emotions (e.g. anger), their friendships or relationships and their level of functioning. If you notice that your client’s alcohol intake is affecting their ability to manage the everyday tasks of living or alienating their friends, family or yourself, then it is likely that their drinking is harmful to their health and wellbeing.

It can be difficult to work with someone who is drinking excessively, especially if they do not admit they have a problem. Those who continue to drink excessively have greatly increased risks of serious health problems. They tend to die many years earlier than they should, not only from the direct consequences of alcohol such as alcohol related dementia and liver cirrhosis, but also through road traffic accidents and suicide.

What can I do if my client’s alcohol intake is problematic?

Three factors appear to be particularly important on the long road to successful recovery from harmful drinking – a person admitting to the problem, getting appropriate therapy and having a supportive network such as, for example, a spouse, partner, family and/or friends.

If your client does not admit to a problem there is little that you can do, instead seek support for yourself from your manager or HR. If your client does express concern about their level of drinking, gently remind them that many people have successfully cut down their drinking to safe levels and ask if they would like some information and support. Encourage them to contact the psychology service for information, advice or referral on 9418 0474 and help set them on the path to recovery.


Source: Dr Andrew Sinclair, Health Psychologist from Independence Australia

If you have concerns for your client’s well-being, please let them know Independence Australia offers a counselling and psychology service for eligible people with a disability. Click here for more information.