Q:I recently began seeing a new patient with an acknowledged drinking problem. He's asked about going to Alcoholics Anonymous, but I'm concerned that his attendance there may distract him from his work in therapy. What should I do?
A:If you're like most mental health clinicians, you've had little training in addictions treatment and minimal exposure to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Much of what clinicians know about AA comes from general media sources, word of mouth, and patients. But, given how common substance abuse problems are among our clients, we all need to have an accurate working knowledge of AA and its Twelve-Step Program.
Several features of AA make it ideal as an adjunct to therapy. No therapist alone can provide the kind of group support that AA makes available 24 hours a day. The process of change that occurs in AA can open up a tremendous amount of relevant clinical material, and the clinician, when properly oriented, can help resolve roadblocks and resistance that the patient encounters in pursuit of recovery.
AA developed from a meeting in 1935 between two alcoholics, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, who recognized that through mutual support, each one could maintain sobriety. From this meeting grew a fellowship that now has nearly two million members worldwide, who attend almost 115,000 regularly scheduled meetings a year.
At meetings, AA members share with each other their personal experiences of struggle and…