Alcohol, drugs, and the impact on partners

When we think of issues surrounding alcohol and other drug use, we usually only consider the direct effects on the consumer. Such problematic issues, however, also heavily impact the partners, who face an increased risk of experiencing domestic violence, financial stressors, health problems and relationship challenges. And yet, these partners often do not seek help or support due to a range of barriers, such as shame, stigma, and practical constraints.

When we think of issues surrounding alcohol and other drug use, we usually only consider the direct effects on the consumer. Such problematic issues, however, also heavily impact the partners, who face an increased risk of experiencing domestic violence, financial stressors, health problems and relationship challenges. And yet, these partners often do not seek help or support due to a range of barriers, such as shame, stigma, and practical constraints.

Online counselling may facilitate help-seeking by overcoming many of these barriers. But to optimise and tailor services, research was needed to explore what motivates partners to contact online counselling services, as well as their experiences and needs, and how they can best be supported online.

Dr Samara Wilson recently completed her Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology at MICCN and the Monash School of Psychological Sciences, under the primary supervision of Dr Marie Yap. Her research, undertaken in collaboration with Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre, set out to discover what exactly drives a partner to seek help, and how to optimise online help.

One hundred transcripts of partners of individuals with problem alcohol and other drug use were sampled from Turning Point’s 24-hour national alcohol and other drug use online counselling service. Descriptive content analysis was then used to investigate themes related to help-seeking.

Three broad themes, with seven sub-themes, were identified. In summary, the research showed that partners wanted to talk about their concerns with a non-judgemental professional. However, the majority of help-seekers wanted advice and assistance in problem solving, coping and the process of seeking further help.

Dr Wilson has also looked at the personal and interpersonal impacts on partners of individuals with problem alcohol or other drug use, and aims to translate results into clinical practice.

Dr Wilson and team’s manuscript, “How online counselling can support partners of individuals with problem alcohol or other drug use”, has been recently published. View the entire manuscript on the ResearchGate website.

Follow MICCN: Twitter and Facebook