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PRIMER ON ALCOHOLISM
by Marty Mann, 1950, Chapter 12, pages 139-145
The term "lay therapy" means, literally, treatment
by laymen. In the field of alcoholism, it is a term, which
usually means a particular method of treating alcoholics,
a method which is also known as the "Peabody method,"
after the man who developed it and described it in his book
The Common Sense of Drinking. Peabody himself was taught
by Courtenay Baylor, to whom his book is dedicated, but
so far as is known he was the first to devote himself entirely
to the treatment of alcoholics, and to achieve considerable
success in this field in the late 1920’s and early
treatment, like all treatments, which have had any success,
is predicated upon the assumption that, while alcoholism
cannot be "cured," it can be successfully arrested
if the alcoholic can be helped to eliminate drinking from
his life completely. The Peabody method of achieving this
goal is a system of psychological re-education, designed
specifically to teach the alcoholic to accept the fact that
he can never drink again, and to further teach him ways
and means by which he can adapt himself to a life without
drinking. Peabody summarized his technique as follows:
treatment consists in instructing a man how to train his
mind so that he carries out a sustained course of conduct
consistent with the theories of his most mature intellectual
self, how to form new habits and stick to them, and conversely
how to eliminate the unsatisfactory method of trying to
adapt himself to his environment through the medium of alcohol.
The re-education is comprised of the following steps:—
A mental analysis is made wherein the drinker learns that
certain actions and systems of thinking, past as well as
present, have directed him on the unfortunate course he
has been pursuing, by creating doubts, fears, and conflicts.
When these are removed his energy is free to take up more
interesting and constructive occupations.
Various factors contribute to an abnormal state of tension,
which drink temporarily releases, only to aggravate it in
the long run. This tension can be permanently removed by
learning formal relaxation and suggestion.
The unconscious mind can be influenced by suggestion so
that it co—operates with the conscious to bring about
a consistent, intelligent course, of action.
Actions (where they are not mere reflexes) are the direct
result of thoughts. Experience has proved over and over
again that thoughts can be definitely controlled and directed
when it seems desirable to do so.
As the body and the mind are indivisible parts of the same
organism, the mind is naturally much more efficient in the
execution of new ideas if it is functioning in a sound body.
To this end the elements of a normal, healthy hygiene should
be followed. If there is any actual or suspected disability
it should be attended to by a competent physician.
The alcoholic is to a large extent demoralized and disintegrated.
To overcome this condition a direct attack must be made
on the small habits of daily efficiency. Alcohol is too
strong an enemy to fight with untrained forces. To this
end living by a self-made and self-imposed schedule will
accomplish three very important results: (a) The individual
is continuously occupied; (b) he is conscious that he is
doing something concrete about his problem (in contrast
to mere intellectualizing); (c) he trains himself constantly
in minor ways to obey his own commands. This develops an
ability to say "Yes" when he means, "Yes,"
and "No" when he means "No."
Various unexpected pitfalls into which people have previously
slipped are carefully explained so that the drinker is forewarned
and forearmed as much as possible against the future.
Some means of self—expression, some outlet or hobby
to satisfy the urge to create, some means of absorbing the
will—power must be energetically sought. The mind
cannot dwell on the subject of not drinking all the time,
important as it may be. It must be diverted, intrigued,
and if possible, inspired. This does not always happen until
the cure is completed, but if it can take place earlier
it is a good assistance to rapid recovery.
The individual is only an inferior person as long as he
continues to drink. The same driving force that has brought
disintegration, if given a chance under conditions of sobriety,
will carry him beyond the level of achievement attained
by his average contemporary. He has an energy within which
must be utilized constructively or it will destroy him.
Dr. Milton Harrington says of people with strong instinctive
tendencies, seems to be equally applicable to alcoholics.
Instinctive tendencies, he says, "drive some upward
to success, while in others, who are unable to direct them
into satisfactory channels, they are dammed up, find outlet
in unhealthy ways, and so, instead of doing useful work,
react on the mind to distort and destroy it."
is obvious that this method requires time and effort on
the part of both therapist and patient. Peabody himself
calculated that it took from 60 to 100 hours, stretched
over a year or more. It is equally obvious that the patient
must be not only willing, but ready to give full co-operation
to such a process. Peabody defined those to whom his method
was applicable as follows:
treatment for the eradication of the drink habit can be
successfully applied to sane men who have come to realize
that drink has definitely disintegrated them to a point
where they are no longer able to control themselves, but
who would sincerely like to eliminate the habit if they
could be shown how to do so."
is clear enough, but there is something else, which Peabody
nowhere states in his book. There is an X-factor in this
method, and it lies in the personal qualifications of the
therapists who teach the method. Peabody was an alcoholic
who had recovered through a similar method taught by Courtenay
Baylor. Peabody’s followers who became therapists
were men who had recovered by this method. Therein, perhaps,
lies one of the secrets of the success, which the method
attained. Peabody undoubtedly knew that no one else was
quite as likely to have the necessary attitude of sympathetic
understanding, the complete knowledge of the tortuous workings
of the alcoholic mind, and the essential patience, which
are primary requisites for dealing with these difficult
cases. Naturally, the mere fact that a man was an alcoholic
who had recovered was not enough to make him a therapist
of a technique as complicated as this one; only a few of
Peabody’s patients were trained by him to teach the
method. But these few accomplished a heroic work during
the 1930’s, when little else was being done for alcoholics.
work showed that the Peabody Method was effective with a
considerable number of alcoholics. It is still effective
today with some alcoholics, for it has a particular appeal
to certain types, and they and their families should know
of its existence. Especially in the middle and upper income
brackets there are many alcoholics who still hold jobs,
who still have what they think of as "a position to
keep up." These people often find it extremely difficult,
if not impossible, either to consult a psychiatrist or to
seek help from a group such as Alcoholics Anonymous. In
the first instance they fear that going to a psychiatrist
means an admission of mental weakness or abnormality; in
the second, any group approach is repugnant to them, for
many reasons. The reasons for such hesitations may be invalid,
but are nevertheless very real barriers, which effectively
prevent some alcoholics from getting the help, which they