It’s hard to know how to help loved ones without offending them in the process, especially when there is a mental health issue involved. In honor of Alcohol Awareness Month in April, experts provide some tips on how to approach a loved one who is engaging in problematic drinking behaviors.
Wes Tobin, a certified alcohol and drug counselor and program director at Harris House Treatment Center in Missouri, said the best way to approach loved ones who are having some type of drinking issue is with love.
“It's crucial for the individual to be approached with care and concern," Tobin said. "Preparation and guidance are key. Friends and family members need to educate themselves on the disease of alcoholism. A more caring, concerned approach will be fostered through a better understanding of the disease."
The person who is being approached should not get the feeling that they are being cornered and attacked by any means.
“Harris House has found that involving multiple people in approaching an individual is more effective,” Tobin said.
“It's important that everyone involved leaves outside issues at the door and focuses solely on the issue of alcohol abuse at hand. They must show that they care and are genuinely concerned about the individual.”
When approaching the individual, it is best to not only be prepared with knowledge of alcoholism and substance related disorders, but to also have clear evidence of how that person is engaging in problematic drinking behavior. Tobin suggested writing a list of specific situations where the drinking has been harmful to the individual and others.
"By the time a friend or family member sees and recognizes altered behaviors, the person is likely past the point of cutting down or reducing his or her alcohol use,” Tobin said.
“They need to seek treatment. The number one symptom of alcoholism is denial, and it's difficult to break through. Prepare your case and present the facts in a way that shows you are concerned and want to preserve a future relationship."