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TIPS for talking to women about their drinking

Before the discussion:

  • Don’t think of the talk as a confrontation. 

It is a talk with someone you are concerned about, giving honest feedback

  • Have realistic expectations

Many times it will be a difficult interaction without immediate payoff.  You may never be able to tell if you had an impact.  You may also face anger and hostility from your patient.

  • Conduct some research about appropriate treatment referrals, if needed.
  • Have written patient education materials ready.
  • Practice the intervention prior to your use in the clinical setting.

During the discussion

  • Don’t have the discussion with someone who has been drinking or hung-over.  You are wasting your time
  • Carry the message of hope, 

No matter how negative, “yes but”, or belligerent the person, let her know that alternatives exist to drinking for her.

  • You are not diagnosing alcoholism – that is for the substance abuse professional.  Instead, you are discussing your concerns, offering information, and, when necessary, making appropriate referrals.
  • Discuss drinking behavior in the 3rd person.  “A lot of women find they fall into risky situations when they drink at this level.”
  • Be non-judgmental and show concern
  • Establish that drinking may be the source (not the solution) to many of the woman’s problems. 
  • Talk about treatment options
  • Leave her written materials. 

Adapted from the Institute for Health and Recovery (IHR) tip sheet
IHR.  349 Broadway.  Cambridge, MA  02139.  Tel: 617-661-3991  www.healthrecovery.org


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