How much alcohol is too much? When should this be addressed in the therapy room? When should you speak up?

By Jenna DeRosa 

verified by Psychology Today
Have you noticed yourself drinking more than usual?
Needing a glass or two of wine after work?
Did one glass of wine turn into needing the whole bottle?
Finding yourself looking forward to that drink after your long day?

But, when is drinking a problem and when should you address it?

The need to address substance use is a taboo matter. People have a tendency to think that addressing this problem in counseling means that you will be considered an alcoholic or addict, but that is not necessarily the case. If you find yourself asking these questions listed above, it’s something that can be addressed in counseling. Individuals can use substances to help cope with anxiety, depression, PTSD symptoms and more. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help to address this. CBT identifies a pattern that is causing the substance use including negative thinking patterns.

First, identify how much you are drinking per week

  • Men:  More than 4 drinks on any day or 14 per week
  • Women:  More than 3 drinks on any day or 7 per week
  • Too much + too often = too risky

Then, identify the reason for the drink

  • What is the common pattern?
  • The events that occurred that day
  • Family members, friends, coworkers that you were in contact with
  • What were you feeling at the end of your day or right before you needed that drink?
    • Feelings of anxiety, depression, PTSD
    • Negative thinking that’s causing depression or isolation

Finally, look at new coping skills

  • Using substances is essentially a coping skill (A coping skill is a method used by an individual to deal with a stressful event)
  • In therapy, we can help to identify better useful and healthier coping skills rather than drinking.
  • Collaboratively, we can identify activities that you thoroughly enjoy and that can be used in stressful and anxiety provoking situations
  • By substituting these healthier coping skills, the alcohol or substances that were primarily used to avoid the feelings that were present can be substituted by a healthier life skill.


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