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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Casework with the wives of alcoholics : a study of eighteen cases drawn from the files of a family agency Wright, Gordon Richard


This study deals with problems around casework with the wives of alcoholics. Eighteen cases were drawn from the files of the Family Welfare Bureau of Greater Vancouver. This agency has had a long and direct experience with problems around alcoholism. It's caseworkers are daily asked to give help with the emotional and social conflicts around alcoholism which find expression in desertion, failure to support, brutality, child disturbance and employment difficulties. The wife of the alcoholic is the focus of this study because it is she who most frequently comes requesting help. Success or failure in regard to the total family problem is frequently dependent upon the nature and effectiveness of work with her. The cases selected were active in 1952 and deal with families in which there were children. Casework services given are examined particularly in regard to the personality patterns of the wives. Six major types of functioning were discriminated in order to supply points of reference in considering the total range of the wives' personalities. Effectiveness of casework help was measured on the Kogan Bunt Movement Scale and the resulting measures were considered in regard to the elements of casework, the personalities of the wives and the alcoholic patterns of the husbands. It appeared from the examination of the records that wives under the stress of adjustment to life in Canada showed particular emotional disturbance. Wives with marked activity drives directed into concern with home and children were more disturbed by threatened economic difficulty than were those wives of a more feminine orientation. Twelve wives seemed capable,in varying degree,of using a warm, sympathetic relationship to find new ways of resolving their problems. Six wives seemed incapable of using such help. Husbands like wives evidenced disturbance if they were newly adjusting to life in Canada or had grown up in another culture. Movement on the husband’s part seemed closely related to the pattern of alcoholism. Reactive alcoholics, though not seen themselves, responded positively when their wives were helped. This was not true of neurotic drinkers. It was felt that these tendencies would also be evident in direct work with the alcoholics. There were indications that in order to involve the alcoholic in casework help, it would be necessary for the caseworker to approach him aggressively and directly and not through his wife. In twelve cases relationship adequate for work with the wife was not achieved. This was seen as related to failure on the caseworker's part to use himself in a professional manner and establish a working diagnosis. The diagnosis was seen as necessarily related to understanding of the wife's personality. When the caseworker did not so function, he failed to appreciate the wife's emotional investment in the marriage and on occasion seemed to endeavour to set casework directions in terms of his own value judgments.

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