Sunday, October 20, 2013


This Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud excerpt looks a group therapy approach that sometimes is employed with alcohol abusers with success, but may be counterproductive in treating Alcoholism.

"Watch out for group therapy that emphasizes a “hot seat” approach: Break-them-down confrontational techniques have not been proven clinically. Sometimes the public view of the Alcoholic person only as a fun-loving, thrill-seeking, irresponsible and childish person who is into the immediate gratification of every impulse is interpreted in group-therapy circles are a need to punish it out of him. Humiliate him. Teach him a lesson. That’s where this obnoxious hot-seat idea originated. However, the self-willed jerk just described is the alcohol abuser, not the Alcoholic. Behavioral approaches can work for alcohol abusers because lapse, in their world, is based on how they want to behave, not how they are feeling. For Alcoholics, it is a different matter. For Alcoholics, “Cognitive [Behavioral] treatment is not adequate for recovery,” says Wilson-Schaef. “To deal only with the analytical, rational and logical is to perpetuate the disease.”

No one can knock Behavioral Therapy in general because it works very well for a lot of behavioral problems, like alcohol abuse, overeating or kleptomania. No one can knock its founder, Albert Ellis: Only the Gideons and the phone company have their names on more books. Ellis is to psychology what Lawrence Tribe is to law. But Alcoholism is not a behavior.

When you hear Behavioral Therapy in conjunction with group therapy, think of conditioning, like B.F. Skinner’s strategies training pigeons or Ivan Pavlov’s dogs trained to drool at the sound of a dinner bell. Behavioral Therapy uses the theory on people. (Here’s a funny thought to ponder: Did Pavlov condition his dogs? Or did the dogs condition Pavlov to feed them?) There is no room for emotion. “This myopia,” says William Lewis, “May stem from a standpoint which originated in a laboratory where experimental animals were to be manipulated, not loved.” (“Why People Change,” in The Psychology of Influence, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., New York 1972)
--  Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud: Relapse and the Symptoms of Sobriety, pgs. 100-101

Also, please check out the author interview with Scott Stevens on "All That's Written" 10/11/13