George Allan’s Resources Corner – The essential skills

Chair of Scottish Drugs Forum, George Allan, writes a bimonthly ‘Resources Corner’ column, which is published in Drink and Drug News Magazine.

From the many books on addiction, George selects a guide that makes a worthy handbook for both students and experienced workers.

This month, the selection is ‘Treatment Approaches for Alcohol and Drug Dependence: An Introductory Guide’


The essential skills

From confessional memoirs to detailed analyses of complex research, substance issues have an extensive and diverse literature with plenty of books describing ‘treatment’ options in broad terms. There are, however, remarkably few that take an in-depth approach to examining how interventions are actually applied in practice: one such book is Treatment Approaches for Alcohol and Drug Dependence: An Introductory Guide.

The authors eschew preliminaries, such as methods of social control and theories as to why problems develop, and dive straight into the practicalities of working with people. After addressing general skills, assessment, goal setting and motivational inter­viewing, they lead the reader through all the well-evidenced interventions.

Cognitive therapy, behavioural self-management, relapse prevention and pharmacotherapy are explored, along with brief interventions, assertiveness skills and the other components of an holistic approach; self-help groups, dual diagnosis and case management are also addressed. There is a liberal sprinkling of tools and handouts for service users, and the writing style is characterised by clarity and accessibility.

There are weaknesses: more is needed on working with relatives in their own right and there is little on the implications of parental use for children. Nevertheless, this text was right at the top of my reading lists for students; it was the bar that I set for myself when I sat down to write a text book of my own. Although it is described as an ‘introductory guide’, experienced workers will find much in it to help them refresh their practice.

Of course, reading is no substitute for hands-on work under skilled supervision, but just as the Highway Code is a prerequisite for competent driving, so a detailed guide to applying interventions is the essential starting point. This book provides the necessary knowledge.

The authors are Australians but the UK shares with Australia similar assumptions regarding the nature of problematic substance use and how to address it, so any differences are marginal. The past decade has seen the emergence of the recovery agenda and the rise of a plethora of different psychoactive substances so it is hoped that a third edition of this book is in the offing.

Jarvis, T., Tebbutt, J., Mattick, R. and Shand, F. (2005), Treatment Approaches for Alcohol and Drug Dependence: An Introductory Guide is published by Wiley.

George Allan is chair of the Scottish Drugs Forum. He is the author of ‘Working with Substance Users: a Guide to Effective Interventions’ (2014; Palgrave).

Article originally published on DDN Magazine’s website.