The popular image of an alcoholic is someone down on their luck, perhaps unemployed, who turns to drink as a way of finding escape from an unsuccessful life. However, the reality of alcohol abuse in America is very different. Alcohol dependency affects people from all walks of life and is particularly prevalent in many high-status occupations. Of these, perhaps the one that stands out most is the legal profession.
The extent of the problem
The statistics themselves are sobering. According to the most thorough study, conducted in 2016 by the Betty Ford Foundation, as a many as 21% of all lawyers can be classified as having a drinking problem. This is slightly more than three times the estimated rate for the adult population as a whole. This corroborates the results of earlier studies. Also concerning are the high rates of depression and anxiety, with 28% and 19% of lawyers reporting symptoms respectively.
Part of the reason for this is the high-stress nature of the legal profession which encourages lawyers to turn to alcohol as a form of self-medication. However, while we find elevated rates of problem drinking among other high-stress professions, such as surgeons, lawyers stand out as particularly affected. The answer appears to lie in the drinking culture that is found within many law firms and the attorney lifestyle which often involves drinking with clients and colleagues at social events and lunch meetings.
The need for appropriate help
However, looking at the problem only in terms of cause and effect only gets us so far. It’s one thing to explain why so many lawyers develop a drinking problem, another to explain why they still have them. This country has an untold number of treatment facilities, support groups, and therapists dedicated to helping people quit alcohol, why aren’t lawyers benefitting from their services? The answer is that America, for the most part, has a broken, one-size-fits-all, system for helping people struggling with alcohol abuse. The assumption of the dominant AA approach that underlies most facilities is that all problem drinkers are alcoholics, that abstinence is the only answer, and that the drinker needs to hit ‘rock bottom’ before they can get better. However, most lawyers are not at rock bottom, but are struggling to rise through the ranks in a demanding career. Their drinking may be undermining their life, but it hasn’t destroyed it. In addition, many lawyers are not willing or able to give up drinking entirely because of the difficulties that this will cause them in professional and social situations.
At The Washton Group, we offer boutique help for lawyers and other professionals in demanding careers who are having problems with alcohol abuse. We recognize that not all problem drinkers are alcoholics and offer personalized treatment based on a thorough assessment of your situation. Where appropriate, we provide training in moderate drinking strategies, as well as harm reduction techniques for those who do not wish to stop drinking entirely. Whether working with individuals or groups, we are scrupulous to maintain the highest standards of confidentiality so that you won’t face professional or personal embarrassment.
Find out more
To find out more about boutique services for lawyers and other professionals struggling with alcohol use, get in touch today. Our offices are in Princeton, NJ and Manhattan.