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Updated: December 21, 2010 11:02 IST

The family in the focus

Padma Srinath
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This book is in the genre of professional guide for therapists rehabilitating addicts and the family members of such addicts. While the term used in the title is ‘alcoholism', it will serve equally efficiently in dealing with other addicts as well. The introduction tells you why the focus is on the family and spells out clearly the issues that are covered in the book. Written in a simple, straight-forward style, the language can be understood by anyone with a professional background.

To begin with, it talks of the basic needs that ‘family', as a social unit, serves vis-à-vis those who are part of it. Primarily, the family is a consistent group with a certain commitment to the mutual welfare of its members. It is expected to establish a household, functioning systematically, with the objective of ensuring the physical and psychological welfare of all the participant-members. Anything that undermines or shatters these expectations is threatening, and it becomes contraindicative to the fundamental purpose of the establishment.

Sense of hope

A deep sense of hope makes room for the denial of anything that does not serve the positive purpose of the family. Thus creeps in, rather insidiously, the denial and rationalisations that allow the alcoholic to indulge. Insidious as it is, it goes beyond one's control as quickly as it arrived. Soon instability surfaces, and emergencies and crises become the order of the day. Even the rudimentary purposes of the family get bypassed. Everyone in the family is a victim.

The process of professional help then takes into consideration all the aspects that need rehabilitating. As the saying goes, each home has its unique doorstep. Yet the foundations that the home is built on are universal and mindful of several intangibles that underlie all human interactions. To address this wide and complex canvas, the authors have chosen a style that makes the book a ready-reckoner to someone with an informed background to the social needs of an individual vis-a-vis the family he engages in. There are ‘boxes' with highlights, and tables provided along with explicit concepts. For the members of a family, dealing with a counsellor is in itself an intense affair. The counsellor, therefore, has to be able to create the right milieu and strike a rapport if he (or she) is to make an impact. Counsellors dealing with more than one situation at any given time may well end up with a clouded perspective. A guide such as this puts in their hands a tool that is at once summative and easy-to-reckon. Experienced counsellors and novices alike should feel well-equipped with this guide in hand. The chapters “Children caught in the net of parent's alcoholism” and “Deeper insight” are particularly worthwhile to enlarge the perspectives of an inexperienced counsellor.

For those involved in therapy, it is important to realise that the exercise they are engaged in is ‘objective' and not ‘judgmental'. The tools the book provides would be of help in that respect. I do feel the book would help erudite family members understand the predicament they are caught up in, making for an awareness that could be facilitative. It is a valuable companion for the fraternity of therapists. Perhaps, pocket-book size and style — compact enough to fit into one's handbag — would have suited the publication better than the present text-book-like format and made it more attractive.

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