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case histories

How clients have used our counselling to change their use 

Helen's substance misuse


Her son who could become abusive when under the influence of alcohol or drugs had moved out. Initially she felt relieved as the uncertainty of what to expect when she came home had been removed. However she then realised how lonely she felt and that she started blaming herself for the breakdown of the relationship with her son.

She described her relationship with her son and we explored many aspects in detail. At this time she also described her very disturbed sleeping patterns. During one session a very strong memory suddenly came back to her, it was so overwhelming she was unable to share it with me, instead we found ways in which she could calm herself to be able to leave the session and face the rest of the day. The following session she was able to share her memory with me and from then on patterns that she had created made sense. She was able to build up her relationship with her son by telling him about her experience and they were able to meet and do things together. He moved in again whilst in between flats but boundaries were agreed and it was going to be for a predetermined time. Although she was initially nervous he did respect her boundaries and when he left this time she found that the loneliness she had experienced beforehand had lessened. She was able to concentrate in finding more beneficial ways to alleviate this and she was able to sleep much better.


Ruth started counselling with me as she wanted to reduce her drinking. During our first meetings, it became apparent that she had had to make difficult choices due to her increasing dependency on alcohol. She had been through various rehabilitation programmes and was pleased with what she had achieved so far. She had been seeing a therapist for a long time who had to end their work due to health problems.

We discussed what she wanted to improve and looked at different ways to achieve this. She felt overwhelmed by the thought of complete abstinence as she felt that had often led to rebellion on her part and made reducing alcohol more difficult. We discussed a drink diary and she didn’t feel that was appropriate at such an early stage of our therapeutic relationship. We decided on a timetable in which she would have days that she would allow herself to drink and 2 days abstinence, according to her work structure and other life style choices. As she had come up with the idea herself and chosen the days of abstinence this seemed to work, after a few weeks she was able to increase her non-alcohol days to three times a week. At the same time, she explained her different styles of drinking. One was social which she felt more able to control and the other was her secret drinking when she felt overwhelmed by life. We were able to pinpoint some triggers for example when she sorted through some of her things it would prompt memories. Even when pleasant she could feel overwhelmed by the strength of her feelings of loss. We were able to work through some of these and look at other ways for her to cope with these overpowering emotions. By her own choice, Ruth decided to try a month of abstinence, again as it had been her suggestion it helped her achieve her goal. This gave her more confidence in her own ability to choose not to drink.


Anna sought out counselling to help her to cope with her partner’s Debbie’s drinking. She’d always thought she had a loving, trusting relationship in which she’d been happy for over six years. Alcohol was something they had both enjoyed with friends socially, and as a couple they would often drink wine with dinner, or when socialising with friends.  But in the past year her partner, Debbie had been getting home later and later from her job in London, smelling of alcohol, and would always deny having had a drink on the way.

This behaviour would lead to arguments between them, and after each row they would talk things through, and promises were made about making changes, Debbie always said she had things ‘under control’. Anna felt frustrated, unhappy and unsure what to do, and she sought out counselling as a confidential space to help her find a way forward for herself and her relationship


Tom was 35yrs old, married and worked in London

He had developed a habit of stopping of at the pub for a drink before he went home, this had developed into more than one drink and recently he was drinking at lunchtime as the pressure of work mounted. This was affecting his family life as he was getting home later and later. He felt unable to discuss his concerns with his wife as he felt he was letting her down, she was already under pressure in raising three young children and he needed to ‘just get on with it’. He came to counselling to help him decide what he could do differently.


Jo started drinking young. There was always drink around when she was growing up. She described her Mum as an alcoholic and her Dad as a heavy drinker. She grew up fast, caring for her siblings. Life was tough, so around the age of 13 or 14, Jo began to experiment with alcohol with her friends. She continued to drink through her teenage and young adulthood as it gave her confidence; enabling her to feel part of her peer group and was fun. She has continued to drink more heavily, more often and for different reasons such as dealing with difficulties in her relationships.

Recently, now in her mid 50s, Jo has begun to worry about the toll drinking is having on her health. A recent health check revealed that her liver was showing signs of scarring and her GP talked to her about her current levels of drinking. Jo is unsure whether or not she can reduce or whether she should stop altogether. However she wants to talk this out with a counsellor as she doesn’t know what to do next.


John addressed some issues he had around alcohol and underlying issues when he was in his 20/30s. Recently he's had some occasions when he drank to excess and is concerned he may need to revisit his motivations around his recent drinking habits.

Ruth's alcohol use

* The above are representative of the types of issues brought to counselling and are not real clients

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