Friday, December 28, 2012

Drug and alcohol use history of the therapist - Part 2.

A comment in the previous post (here), provided interesting insight on how to respond to a client who asks a therapist:

“What is your drug and alcohol use history?”

Faint woman

I have found that other groups do ask similar questions. A client going through a divorce may ask if I am married and have I been divorced. A client with problem teenagers may ask if I have children and teenagers. I don’t find the question all that odd in itself.

It is interesting to read your response. If I asked the question as a client of yours and you said you preferred not to answer it as you felt it was personal, how would I respond? First I would feel validated and respected. That is I have asked a direct question and you have acknowledged it an answered it. Or at least dealt with it by saying you preferred not to answer. I would have no problem with that and feel respected in the transactions.

The response I would have trouble with is when the therapist only responds with:

“Why is that important to you?”

I find this an underhanded response. The therapist finds self feeling awkward with the client and they side step out of it by pathologising the client. I find that disrespectful to the client. Their response is to jump into the safety of their therapy and get out of it by indicating to the client that their question must be the result of some unconscious conflict in them. When their motive at least in part is their own feeling of discomfort and unwillingness to deal with it in a direct way with the client, unlike you did.


Having said this you still have not answered the question and the client may then ponder if the reason you gave is the real reason. There could be other reasons you may have

1. You do have an extensive drug and alcohol use history and are ashamed of it.
2. If you have used drugs and excessive alcohol in the past you may feel the client disrespects you for that.
3. You have no drug use history and fear the client may loose confidence in you because you don’t really know what you are talking about.

However as a client I personally would find these minor issues and it is more important that you have validated me originally by dealing directly with my question as you did.

One other point I would like to mention that I referred to in my previous post is the response that the question is not relevant. When you think about it is not all that irrelevant.

Women weightlift
In the transference, what a therapist does in their personal life can be most important to the client.

Whilst I said that I have been asked the question only infrequently I think it is quite likely that lots of clients have pondered the question and just not verbalized their musing. If one is a transference figure then the client will think about the therapist and their personal life. Indeed their personal life can assume considerable importance to the client. So it is not irrelevant in this sense.


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