Also if you are told that something cannot be done then, most times, we don’t try to do it. So if we are told that we need to wait till the drinker is ready change because we cannot do anything about it, then most likely we will not try and change them. Yes we know that you have been trying to get him to change for years without any success, so being told that you are powerless both makes sense and is a relief since you don’t have to keep wasting your time trying. However after finding out you are powerless people tend to stop trying.
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Motivation is the key to change
Not that long ago most rehabs were 12 step based. That meant that they (the therapists and doctors) also believed that people were powerless over alcohol and we had to wait until the drinker was ready to change. One eminent researcher was asked “What makes a good therapist?”. His answer was “One that is there when the drinker wants to change.
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In the early 1980s research showed that, rather than just wait, if instead you address people’s motivation they change (you would expect that wouldn’t you, you expect that treatment would change drinkers). This was not a new revelation, the ancient Greeks knew it and so did you. Most people react to people doing things that they don’t like by making their feelings plain, they shout, nag, punish etc. Sometimes this works. Indeed at one time it was the accepted way of teaching children and criminals right from wrong. Other times it tends to make a bad situation even worse and living with a drinker seems to be one of those situations. However, there are ways we can address the drinker’s motivation that don’t involve these methods and they are much more effective.
We are not saying it's easy, it's not in fact it feels very counter-intuitive but if you change your reactions and so change the context for the drinker this in turn may result in them changing their behaviour. It does not work for everybody but it can work more often than not. Research has shown that when people used these methods around two thirds of their drinkers sought treatment compared with about one third for people who were in Alanon. In fairness to Alanon they never suggest that you can influence your drinker. After all they suggest that you are powerless. We don’t believe that you are.