Psychotherapy for Professional’s Hidden Addictions

As Professional’s Struggle with Hidden Addiction, Psychotherapy is an Important Step Forward

At an international conference in Ireland this weekend, attention was drawn to the increasing problem of alcohol and substance abuse amongst professionals, particularly those in health care. These professionals function at very high levels which often belies the fact that they are resorting to addictive behaviour to maintain this high functioning.

Research has suggested that 15-24% of lawyers suffer from alcoholism at some time during their career, whilst the BMA (British Medical Association) estimates that one in fifteen health care professionals develop an addiction problem whilst doctors are three times more likely to develop cirrhosis of the liver due to drinking than the general population.

This worrying progression came to light partly due to the increase in ‘rehab tourism’, the process of professionals seeking help abroad for their addictions in order to keep others around them from finding out.

One spokes person from a substance abuse clinic in Thailand stated, “We are seeing a lot of professionals coming in, particularly from London. In Britain absolutely there is a silent mass of professionals who are functioning, in terms of that they haven’t lost everything, but they are in workplaces where you really wouldn’t want them to be”.

The stigma still attached to addiction and the shame felt by the sufferers often prevents them taking action to deal with their difficulties, such as consulting their GP or seeing a psychotherapist or counsellor.

In an interview in The Observer, Rory O’Conner, the UK co-ordinator of health support programs for dentists and veterinary surgeons said , “Health professionals are generally not good at seeking help for themselves, mainly because they see it very much as their role to help others. There is also immense shame, a stigma still attached to a perceived weakness like addiction”.

The reasons for the increase in addiction amongst this group can be varied. There could be a drinking or drugs culture within the working environment that is overlooked by the organisation. The stress of the job itself may cause a person to turn to substances to help them cope. This can be exacerbated if the sufferer feels unable to turn to their peers or family for help due to shame, being seen as weak or fearing the security of their job.

Seeking help from a psychotherapist or counsellor is an important step towards dealing with addiction. The psychotherapists at The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice have successfully worked with professionals suffering from addiction. They provide a safe and confidential space in which to explore what lies behind the addictive behaviour and offer non judgemental support and insight.

The three psychotherapists at The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice work from their Clinic at 121, Harley Street, London.