Supporting Others with an Alcohol Problem

TCA offer counselling support to secondary clients

We believe it is important that support is given to secondary clients. A secondary client is described as someone who is affected by another person’s substance use. Speaking to a counsellor as a secondary client is an opportunity to learn more about the physical and psychological effects of alcohol and to learn about the skills needed to support another through their journey. It’s also an opportunity to discuss in confidence how the behaviour of the person misusing alcohol affects you a chance to explore your own goals in this situation. You may feel at risk of harm and want to discuss your options.

Helping another recognise they have a drink problem

Something to bear in mind is that people nearly always need to make decisions for themselves. This is true in many areas of life. It is important that the person makes their own decisions; it is more likely to lead to positive change. Demanding, bullying or begging will not be help. The person, be it a loved one, your partner, or a friend, may not realise that they have a problem, and are often in denial. Try not to judge them about this. It is also important not to let them convince you there is no problem, leading you to believe it’s your problem. If drink is causing problems, it is always the responsibility of the person doing the drinking. Different things work for different people each person’s situation is unique. Get advice from TCA about which of our services will be of most benefit to you.

Identify there is an issue early

You may be alerted that there is a problem before it escalates, if the person accepts support at this stage and maintains healthy change this can prevent dependency in the future. All G.Ps and health advisors are trained in delivering Alcohol Brief Intervention this is a structured conversion around a person’s alcohol consumption to educate, raise awareness and inform. Once an Alcohol Brief Intervention is delivered the person can make informed decisions concerning their substance use. Research has shown this level of intervention saves life’s and results in less alcohol related hospital admissions and involvement with the law.


People who have issues with alcohol and other substances may deny the problem exists, before you talk to them, think about what they might object to and how to work through possible objections. Think of ways to deal with their resistance, have information relating to appropriate services that can offer help, know how to get referred, again don’t bully or beg, once subject has been raised and information given it is up to the person to decide the outcome. Having your own avenue of support is important to look after your own needs.


If you feel at risk from physical violence then you will have to take appropriate action by calling the police or leaving the area and the immediate risk of danger. Equally, if the drinker is in immediate danger to their life, you should call NHS 24 or an ambulance.