Individuals who misuse alcohol can experience significant emotional and physical damage. Acute alcohol consumption can lead to extreme health consequences and can create psychological impairments that interfere with everyday tasks. These difficulties can make it hard for those who misuse alcohol to keep employment. This financial stressor then further exacerbates an already tense circumstance. The family members also have to deal with the repercussions of the alcohol use. People with alcohol problems are often the catalysts for family conflicts, financial devastation, and overwhelming stress and worry. The culmination of these factors can cause deep resentments within families dealing with alcohol misuse.
Mental health professionals and therapists who work with people trying to conquer alcohol misuse often include the families of the clients. Overcoming past hurts, trust, and anger issues are essential to ensure a successful recovery. Michael Scherer of the Department of Mental Health at Johns Hopkins University recently led two studies that looked at these issues among family members of people facing alcohol misuse. In his first study, Scherer asked 190 family members how much forgiveness and trust they felt for the client with alcohol misuse issues compared to the other members of the family. In the second study, he examined how family harmony influenced the answers.
Scherer discovered that the participants felt lower levels of both forgiveness and trust toward their alcohol-using relative compared to other relatives. This finding was expected, as trust is often violated by those with addiction issues. In the second study, the results demonstrated a clear link between positive family cohesion and positive levels of forgiveness and trust. Specifically, the families that were the closest and most harmonious were much more forgiving and saw the alcohol misuse as an uncontrollable act. They perceived that their family member was not able to stop the misuse and felt higher levels of trust toward that relative than those in less cohesive families. Scherer believes these findings are clinically important. He said, “Increasing forgiveness within the context of existing family-based alcohol treatment protocols may be related to intra-familial support and the development of more adaptive coping strategies.”
Scherer, M., Worthington, Jr., E. L., Hook, J. N., Campana, K. L., West, S. L. (2012). Forgiveness and cohesion in familial perceptions of alcohol misuse. Journal of Counseling and Development 90.2, 160-168.
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