There are many forms of help available but since psychologists are the most popular, this appendix centers on suggestions and cautions in finding a psychologist to work with.
If friends or family can't recommend someone, most counties have psychological associations which can refer you to a therapist.
Shopping for a therapist is like shopping for a used car. You might get lucky and like the first car you see but often you need to look at more than one.
Therapy has limitations and knowing those limitations can help avoid disappointment. Going to a therapist with the attitude, “I drink too much. It is your job to stop me” is a waste of time and money. A therapist can't do it for you.
Psychiatrists have entirely different training than psychologists. While there are competent and capable psychiatrists, they tend to look at problems in living as the result of “brain disease.” It is much safer to go to a trusted psychologist and, if he recommends drug treatment, continue psychological treatment while seeing the psychiatrist or M.D. for medication.
Asking for treatment for “alcoholism,” a drinking problem or drug use is asking for a twelve step “therapist.”
Going to an alcoholism or addiction “expert” is tantamount to going to a grouper. Even if not a grouper, the experts in the field tend to be very strongly influenced by grouper ideology and to be uninfluenced by, or ignorant of, recent advances in related fields. For example, one of the leading and most respected authorities in the field, displays a total ignorance of developmental psychology,
“And, of course, there is the old standard Shedler & Block, who were able to identify kids who would have problems with AOD when they were about 7 years old hard[ly] much development to have been arrested by that point!”
Needless to say, he, and others like him, would be useless for those with deep-rooted problems based in early-childhood learning.
A therapist who believes in the twelve steps finds nothing unethical in spending months establishing trust in order to convince a client of his powerlessness and his need for “a support group.” Such therapists are following a higher authority than their profession. They are following “God” as revealed through twelve-step scripture.
One of the most popular tricks used unwittingly by groupers is giving a test to determine if you are alcoholic. AA literature suggests telling someone, “Why don't you just try to drink moderately for three months and then you'll know.” The key word is “try.” A hypnotherapist uses the word try, as in “the more you try to open your eyes the tighter they will lock shut.” The word “try” implies failure. The hypnotherapist uses the word in this context to suggest failure. Moreover, the test proves either one has “the disease” or doesn't. There is no suggestion to deal with underlying problems or even acknowledge that they may exist..
There are also written tests which pick up on bad reasons for drinking, frequency of over consumption and severity of over consumption. The purpose of the test is to identify someone with a “progressive, incurable disease” characterized by “denial.”
Any effort on the part of a therapist to prove “alcoholism” is a clear signal to immediately terminate the relationship and find a new therapist.
Words used by the therapist can be keys to their twelve step status. Among these are “codependency,” “inner child,” “sobriety” and “recovery.”
A suggestion to attend just one meeting to see if you like it or to see what AA is really like is grounds for immediately terminating the relationship. The most powerful influence in cult indoctrination is making someone a “minority of one.” Among those most easily influenced in this situation are those who believe they won't be influenced.
Use of the word “spiritual”or “spirituality” is also a danger signal. While not all who use the word are groupers, many religions, particularly New Age groups, do not consider themselves religious and hold their religious (spiritual) views as “universal truths” above and beyond religion. If someone is advertising “spiritual” therapy or bringing up “spiritual issues” make sure their religion is yours.
Once you find a suitable therapist, one you have confidence in, are able to establish a rapport with and who has confidence in your ability to moderate or abstain, it is time to take gambles with openness. While there are many types of therapy, the keys to success are the same as if you're not in therapy. This is learning to be more honest and open and developing the courage to look within oneself deeply enough to like what you see.