This article was first published in “New perspectives on ‘addiction’,” special issue of Dulwich Centre Newsletter, 1997 nos. 2&3.

Publisher’s Note

In putting together this newsletter we have found that people have strong feelings about ‘addiction’ and about alcohol, other drugs and gambling. We have also found that people have strong feelings about ways of working with these issues. How can we honour these strong feelings and the histories which inform them, while at the same time working towards  creating contexts which will generate conversations between people with different ideas and experiences? And how can we speak about the anguish associated with some people’s experience of alcohol and other drugs while keeping in mind that for many people the use of these substances brings meaning into ceremonial occasions and is a source of great pleasure?

We know that this newsletter is only a beginning. Our hope is that this publication might lead to further conversations, and that out of these discussions will evolve a follow-up newsletter. We would very much like to hear about people’s experience of the articles in this publication. We’d especially like to hear from people who have struggled to overcome problems associated with alcohol, other drugs, and gambling, and people who are involved in community-based programs that are working on these issues. We’d like to invite people to write to us in any form, not necessarily for publication, but simply to contribute to the conversations.

We look forward to ongoing discussions about ways of working with problems associated with alcohol, other drugs, and gambling.

Cheryl White

Dulwich Centre Publications


Melissa Raven has trained as a clinical psychologist and narrative therapist and has worked in community health and the drug field. She has been part of the editorial team at  Dulwich Centre Publications for several years. In her day job she is a lecturer in Addiction Studies at the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction at the Flinders University of South Australia.

This newsletter has been created in the hope of sharing knowledge and information between people working in the field of drug-related problems and so-called ‘addictions’, and people interested in narrative ways of working. For many years I have been fascinated by both these areas and have thought that dialogue between the two could generate exciting ways of working. This newsletter is a first step in trying to facilitate this dialogue.

The feature articles in this newsletter focus on exploring ways of working with people with problems related to alcohol and other drug use and gambling. It seems as if it is almost impossible to be living in a western culture at this time and not to have been affected either directly or indirectly by these issues. Such problems are generally regarded as individual problems and signs of internal pathology. Depending on the person’s social status, these problems tend to be medicalised or criminalised. In fact, these responses are often blurred – for example, there is often an element of victim-blaming in treatment, and people are sometimes legally compelled to enter treatment.

The writings in this collection seek to explore the potential for alternative ways of working that focus on the contexts and stories that shape people’s lives and emphasise issues of social justice. By exploring alternative models and metaphors to those of ‘addiction’ and pathology, it is hoped that space will be created for new ways of working with drug problems and with problems currently understood as ‘addictions’.

I also hope that this newsletter will be useful to therapists and other health/welfare workers who may be currently reluctant to work with people with ‘addictions’. In my experience, this is often because they feel unable to effectively intervene. Drug problems in particular are often considered to be in a class of their own, more difficult and somehow more exotic or sinister than other problems, and requiring specialist skills. Consequently when faced with someone with drug-related issues, therapists often tend to refer them on to specialist services. On the other hand, in my experience, specialist drug services are sometimes out of touch with developments in understandings of social issues such as ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality, and ways of working with problems such as violence and abuse.

It is my hope that this newsletter will take some small steps in bringing together knowledge from the drug field and narrative ways of working, and that it will generate new conversations about ways of working with people with problems related to drugs and gambling and other ‘addictions’.

Copyright © Dulwich Centre Publications 1997

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