Alcohol and hypnotherapy / NLP / EMDR
Changing States - Hypnotherapy, Hypnosis, NLP & EMDR | Ethical and professional Clinical Hypnotherapy, EMDR and NLP based Psychotherapy | Hypnotherapy High Wycombe / Online

Alcohol Issues

Hypnotherapy notes

Where physical dependance (addiction) is present a medical detox should be undertaken prior to the commencement of therapy. Sometimes hypnotherapy and EMDR can be used within this 5 day detox period to control withdrawal symptoms in combination with sedatives such as valium or lithium based sedatives.

Example: Therapy sessions may be organised as follows:

(1) Agreement to not drink alcohol for 10+ days. Hypnotherapy and possibly NLP on day 1 to work on the urge to drink and the situations that used to trigger consumption.

(2) After 10+ days a telephone / eMail check to ensure that no alcohol has been consumed. If "yes" return to stage (1), if "no" client to make decision in terms of whether to stop drinking permanently or whether controlled consumption is viable. A further session is booked.

(3) More hypnotherapy to work on the urge to drink (control or abstain) and the situations that used to trigger consumption, followed by EMDR / hypnotherapy / timeline therapy to work on underlying issues. (Some of the underlying issues can be worked on prior to the period of cessation if required).

An alternative approach uses a combination of EMDR in combination with cognitive / NLP based aversion.

A few statistics to consider:

  • Only 1 in 3 detox unit leavers remain clean
  • The long term AA success rate is approx 3%

    Those that survive are those that make the move from being a victim to being a survivor ie those that fight for their right to live.

    Exit and smoking

  • Medically the nearest equivalent to the term "alcoholism" is a state of physical / psychological dependence on alcohol. The sufferer experiences a strong desire or compulsion to drink alcohol. Alcoholics have a high tolerance for alcohol. If you begin to feel that you can't function properly without having a drink, you should seek help before it is too late.

    If no alcohol is consumed, the sufferer experiences withdrawal symptoms, which may include shaking, sweating and nausea. Alcoholics will often drink in the morning to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms. In severe cases, sufferers may experience delirium tremens ('the DTs') when they withdraw from alcohol. Delirium tremens is a serious medical condition that can be fatal and urgent medical help must be sought.

    General Household Survey figures, released in December 1999, show that more than 1 in 25 adults in the UK are dependent on alcohol.

    Excess alcohol can lead to health problems including depression, liver cirrhosis, and heart failure. Therefore, for health reasons, women are recommended to drink no more than two to three units of alcohol per day and men no more than three to four units of alcohol per day, with two drink-free days per week for both men and women. If the amount you drink is greater than these recommended levels, it is advisable to cut down.

    Pregnant women or those seeking to become pregnant are advised to consume no more than one or two units once or twice per week and should avoid getting drunk completely. (2007)

    Recent cancer research suggests that women that over-consume alcohol significantly increae their risks of developing breast cancer. (2007)

    A unit of alcohol is equivalent to:

    • half a pint (250ml) of average strength beer
    • a glass (125ml) of wine
    • a standard pub measure (25ml) of spirits
    • a standard measure of fortified wine, such as sherry or port

    How do I find help?

    If you drink more than recommended amounts and you find it difficult to cut down, there are several places you can turn to for advice and guidance.

    Throughout the country, there are local alcohol advice centres where you can ask for help with your alcohol problem. They can put you in touch with clinics where you will find specialists, nurses and social workers who can help you.

    Your GP will be able to give you the telephone number or address of your local alcohol advice centre. You may know you need help cutting down and want to go directly into treatment. But you may simply want to speak to the clinic to judge the seriousness of your problem or for advice about what possibilities are open to you. You can also make contact if you are worried about one of your relatives or friends, who you think may have a drinking problem.

    If your drinking has reached a level where you know you cannot sober up without having withdrawal symptoms, the alcohol clinics can help you sober up. Before you contact the clinic you should try to get your alcohol consumption down to a minimum.

    How many units are you consuming per week?

    The javascript utility below uses a slightly more accurate measurement scale and also factors in "home pour" measures as well as relative percentages. Wine can be entered in terms of glasses or bottles. To use the utility javascript needs to be enabled. (Netscape friendly!)

    Enter 1 if you are male
    Enter 1 if you are female
    Type of drink # of drinks per week
    Low / medium strength beer / lager /cider by the pint (2-3.5%)
    Higher / premium strength beer / lager /cider by the pint (5%+)
    Low / medium strength wine (8-11.5%) by the glass (1 bottle=6 glasses - enter whole bottles below)
    Higher strength wine (12%+) by the glass (1 bottle=6 glasses - enter whole bottles below)
    Low / medium strength wine by the bottle (8-11.5%)
    Higher strength wine (12%+) by the bottle
    Standard measure of spirits
    Home poured measure of spirits
    A standard measure of fortified wine, such as sherry or port
    Home poured measure of fortified wine, such as sherry or port

    What is Alcoholics Anonymous?

    Alcoholics Anonymous is the world's biggest union of self-help groups concerned with alcohol abuse.

    The therapy in these groups takes place without the interference of public bodies, doctors, psychologists or other professionals.

    Attending the meetings is on a voluntary basis. The only requirement is an honest desire to quit drinking.

    You will meet people who have been through the same hardships as yourself.

    Even if you are receiving assistance from a therapist you should also consider attending AA meetings on a regular basis if possible - the two concepts are not mutually exclusive!

    I'm not an alcoholic - I just drink too much

    It could be that you are in denial of the facts and that you have not as the AA say hit your "rock bottom" yet. It could be that a visit to an AA meeting would enable you to see your issues from a new perspective - just go along and listen - look for similarities rather than differences.

    Given that 90% of the UK population consume alcohol to some extent it is reasonably safe to say that not everyone that drinks is on the path to dependence. By far the more common problem is simple over indulgence - excessive consumption. For this (large) group control may be a more realistic option.

    The following screening test is a rapid way to roughly quantify how drinking fits into your life. Simply answer the questions honestly and place the score 0-4 for each answer in the spaces available on the right hand side of the table. If javascript is enabled in your browser settings click on the "evaluate automatically" button to see the results. (Netscape friendly!)

    If javascript is disabled simply add-up your score and place your total in the space available, then take a look at the table at the bottom of the page.

    NOTE: This simple self-test is not a replacement for formal screening and / or GP diagnosis.

    Screening Question 0 1 2 3 4 Score
    How often do you have a drink containing alcohol? Never Monthly or less 2-4 times a month 2-3 times a week 4 or more times a week
    How many drinks do you have on a typical day when you are drinking? 1-2 3-4 5-6 7-8 10 or more
    How often during the last year have you found that you were unable to stop drinking once you had started? Never Less than monthly Monthly Weekly Daily or almost daily
    How often during the last year have you failed to do what was normally expected of you because of your drinking? Never Less than monthly Monthly Weekly Daily or almost daily
    Has a relatine or friend or doctor or other health worker expressed concern about you drinking, or suggested that you cut down? No Yes, but not in the past year Yes during the past year

    How to evaluate the results manually (eg if Javascript is disabled):

    0-5 It is probably safe to assume that for you alcohol is not a problem. No action required.
    5-10 Take a look at how alcohol is affecting your life, reduce your alcohol intake, consider discussing your consumption with your GP, consider going along to an AA meeting and hear how other people have handled their problems, consider hypnotherapy to reduce your consumption, consider the reasons behind your consumption. Action is appropriate - you need to do something.
    10+ The official position is that you should be treated by a specialist service ie a detox clinic with the objective of complete abstinence. Discuss your consumption with your GP - antabuse treatment may be appropriate. The AA path is strongly indicated. (If you are 40+ years old is is even more important that you stop drinking completely and permanently). During detox consider the reasons behind your past consumption. Psychotherapy is very strongly advocated following detox to prevent relapse and to deal with possible underlying issues.
    20 As for 10+ but take action today. Make an appointment with your GP today. If possible see your GP today. Take action now.

    The following US based decision tree (designed in the main for adult male clients but can be used more generally as well) can be used to further identify if control or abstinence is advised. Where the term 'intervention' is used this refers to psychotherapy / hypnotherapy. Where abstinence is referred to this means attendance at a specialist clinic if required / AA in addition to psychotherapy / hypnotherapy in most cases. More about the alcohol cessation V control decision tree...

    Factors that those with alcohol problems often share in common

    The following are in no particular order and may or may not be familiar to you (look for similarities rather than differences) {Based on a combination of a number of US studies}:

    • Childhood sense of generally not belonging
    • Bullying at school - unwillingness to fight back
    • Sense of a lack of attention / love as a child
    • Compulsion to be the best / to excel (attention / love seeking - generally compulsive / obsessive)
    • Need for substantial levels of external validation / positive feedback
    • Strong sense of fear (especially as a child - often in social situations)
    • Very able to generate stress / anxiety
    • Inability to deal with stress / anxiety / emotions (especially anger)
    • Risk avoidance often followed by excessive risk taking
    • Emotional abuse (often from parents - real or perceive - family dysfunction is often present)
    • Lack of self esteem / self confidence
    • Inability / unwillingness to deal with the pain of rejection / loss
    • Inability to relax (insomnia can often present) / living life in a state of anxiety / making decisions that tend to perpetuate anxiety (including drinking to excess)
    • Other members of the family had / have alcohol / drug problems (hence the genetic link V learned behaviour argument)
    • Unusually strong reactions towards authority figures - often anti
    • Often there will be two aspects of the persona that appear to be in conflict / contradictory (eg outwardly confident / inner chaos)
    • Initial intolerance to alcohol when first starting to drink often including particularly bad hangovers
    • Habitual tendancy when drinking to drink until more or less unconscious
    • Habitual tendancy to change every other variable in their lives apart from alcohol consumption (eg moving jobs / country / changing partners)
    • Tendancy to act on impulse without considering future consequences
    • Self-limiting (incorrect) belief that they are not in control of how they think / feel and that external factors such as alcohol are
    • An unwillingness to seek help / admit weakness
    • Low tolerance of boredom

    A specific traumatising incident (Significant Emotional Event) is in fact relatively uncommon as a "reason", as is physical (but not emotional) child abuse, as is drinking to forget other painful memories.

    There is a myth out there that those with alcohol issues are 'allergic' to alcohol. There is certainly a genetic tendancy (common in Eastern cultures) that prevents the body from metabolising alcohol. (This too is not an allergic reaction). After one or two drinks those affected become unwell, feel very drunk, turn bright red and lose consciousness / fall asleep if they continue to drink. It would be very, very, very difficult for this group to become in any way dependant upon alcohol simply because they are only physically able to drink very, very small volumes of alcohol.

    When used in the context of alcohol abuse the term 'allergy' is used in a much broader sense.

    Alcohol related DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) Criteria

    Research: Self-Hypnosis Relapse Prevention Training with Chronic Drug/Alcohol Users: Effects on Self-Esteem, Affect, and Relapse Ronald J. Pekala, PhD, et al., Coatesville VA Medical Center

    American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, April 2004 vol. 46 no. 4

    "...individuals who played the self-hypnosis audiotapes 'at least 3 to 5 times a week' at 7-week follow-up reporting the highest levels of self-esteem and serenity, and the least anger/impulsivity, in comparison to the minimal-practice and control groups. The results suggest that hypnosis can be a useful adjunct in helping chronic substance abuse individuals with their reported self-esteem, serenity, and anger/impulsivity".

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    Last updated 30 May 2024

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