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Women, Alcohol, Self-Concept, and Self-Esteem: A Qualitative Study of the Experience of Person-Centred Counselling Essay

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Updated: Jan 13th, 2020


This research work focuses on self-esteem as well as self-concept of those women who have alcohol problems. This critical analysis has been centred from a client view-point. The outcomes of the research are linked to relevant person-centred practices as well as theories.

Under this analysis, eight women who have been suffering from severe effects of alcohol are going to be interviewed on their self-concept and self-esteem. This can be done using appropriate interview techniques explored in the works of Hayes (Nicky 2000, p.114). These groups of women are perceived to have undergone the services of person-centred counselling.

The data gathered are going to be analysed using appropriate theory and research methodology. The data gathered from the interview would be utilized in showing relationships that exist among the concepts of self esteem, self concepts, and the women’s own life experiences about alcohol consumption. Analysis of the data was carried out using grounded theory methodology, explored in Noreen’s literature (Lillie 2002, p.99).


The paper I have chosen to critique is written by Noreen Lillie, who describes herself as a person-centred counsellor and carried out this research project during her work as a counsellor in a voluntary organisation “for women concerned about their own or someone else’s drinking…” (Lillie 2002, p.101).

This essay discusses the research setting and sample, the selection of the setting and the data collection procedure to be used during the project. After which, the sample characteristic, the research instruments and measures and data analysis method is to be discussed. This is then followed by the conclusion.

Discussion and Literature Review

In her discussion of the topic, Lillie provides an overview of the subject and argues in her review of the literature there was an absence of research carried out regarding the difficulties associated with problem drinking, specifically related to women.

One of the assertions in the literature was that women drinkers have lower self-esteem than their male counterparts and are: “Likely to have an inadequate or distorted self-concept” (Lillie 2002, p.99; Beckman, 1978).

The Researcher provides the underpinning of her work by utilising Carl Rogers’ person-centred theory on self-concept as a result of distorted conditions of worth:

“As self-esteem diminishes, the individual becomes acutely affected by the assimilated conditions of worth and divorced from his/her own organismic experience as a source of what is ‘real’. His/her self-concept is no longer congruent with that reality, but has become distorted”, (Lillie, 2002:99).

Mcleod ascertained that under self-concept, the analysis is centred on the four elements self-esteem, self-ideal, self-perception, and social identities, which are necessary in sustaining the behaviour of the alcoholic women (Mcleod, 2001:169). In addition, these elements on the self-concept are useful in directing and energising the behaviour of women who are alcohol addicts.

Therefore, it is prudent for alcoholic women to adopt and utilise these essential elements. For instance, the perceived self comprises of the most important values, traits, and competencies that the alcohol addicts must incorporate in their personal planning and development. When women plan well for the future, they attain growth, not just for themselves alone, but to the entire family or community.

However, alcohol abuse brought in a new concept in the social lives of many women. This made it necessary for the movement to incorporate certain children’s rights since many women experienced low self concept, and disregarded their self-esteem, which resulted into abandoning of family roles and responsibilities.

There was also increased consensual sex, and men and children begun to suffer and it is such a state of anxiety that caused the temperance movement to develop. Economically, the excess drinking by women hindered their performance both at home and places of work.

Indeed, this threatened to sabotage the economy, which was slowly shifting to urbanisation. As long as there was continued abuse of alcohol in the society, there was very high shortage of labor in places of work (Bond 2004, p.74).

The literature review carried out by the researcher appears to be very much related to the problems of self-esteem and sense of self that women with alcohol abuse difficulties experience.

Several reference sources are quoted and it seems the researcher carried out an extensive and thorough review of the literature available on the subject and was able to identify sources where research work had been carried out into related issues.

The review seems to have been carried out with an open-minded approach and does not focus on a specific methodology and discusses the merits of quantitative as opposed to qualitative studies as in:

Some quantitative studies offer insight into the relationship between alcohol and self-esteem for women. They are useful because they have studied large numbers of women using validated measures and controls”, (Lillie, 2002, p.100).

The Researcher found that there few studies that used qualitative methods, such as herself, to study women’s experience of alcohol dependency. One those cited is a study carried out by Long and Mullen in 1994:

Who explored seven women’s perceptions of the major factors which led to their alcohol abuse. The self-perception and self-image of this study group was found to be ‘very negatively skewed’ and all seven reported maximum scoring on factors of low self-esteem”, (Lillie, 2002:100).

The arguments for qualitative and quantitative methods in research have been around since about the mid-19th century (Hammersley1992, p.39).

Hammersley argues that there is not a great deal of difference between these two methods and also suggests that instead of these two paradigms, consideration could be given to several approaches taking into account the: “the particular purpose of the research and practicality of various strategies given the circumstances in which the inquiry is to be carried out ….” (Hammersley 1992, p.40).

He further argues that main role of the qualitative researcher is to record and interpret the world-view of the client where the research is aiming to describe and explain perspectives and behavior to find meaning in what is being said; as opposed to quantitative research which may mainly examine attitudes and how these affect behaviour (Hammersley 1992, p.45).

The Researcher used grounded theory methodology as a means for analysing the data collected. The main aim of grounded theory is that interpretations of the data arises from the participants experiences. The researcher collates the data by searching for ways in which to categorise the information into themes or meaning units.

Theory comes from the research process and the data being collected (Moustakas 1994, p. 4). This is apparent in the work as Lillie describes her methodology in seeking to record and analyse the experience described to her by the eight participants in her study.

Her description of analysis of the data collated appears to have been stringent and meticulous where she refers to: “At all times an attempt was made to focus on material generated by the data rather than preconceived ideas” (Lillie 2002, p.102).

The Researcher stipulates using Person-Centred counselling modality with women experiencing alcohol abuse difficulties, may provide the ‘necessary and sufficient change’ as described by Rogers to take place. Her further arguments are that the client benefits from the empathy and acceptance of the counsellor, ‘in order for healing to take place.’ (Lillie 2002, p.101).

Mention is made of current practice for the treatment of women with alcohol abuse issues, which is reference to the medical model of abstinence and relapse prevention. Studies have shown and anecdotal evidence suggests that individuals may find any modality of counselling therapy helpful with many personal issues including alcoholism.

Indeed, there are a range of treatments available for individuals with alcohol issues apart from counselling, including Alcoholics Anonymous, group therapy, treatment in clinics and so on. With reference to counselling, the crucial aspect for the individual is that there should be an effective working alliance between themselves and the therapist.


It is worth noting that the theories have some common understanding or interrelated stand when it comes to critical factors of human nature, such as the problem of alcohol abuse among women. From these, we can deduce and come up with a precise and thorough understanding of the basic view of human nature, self-concept, self-esteem, changes of behavior, and therapy (Roth & Fonargy 2005, p.69).

The human nature can be best described by the distinguishing traits among alcoholic women. These traits include how an alcoholic woman thinks, feels, and acts. These naturally occurring traits constitute the human nature, self-concept, and self-esteem.

Therefore, the human nature and self-concept exhibit some uniformity that is accompanied by feeling. This is what makes individuals be referred to as human (Lillie 2002, p.101).

The human nature is usually composed of dynamic and transforming events, which are brought about by the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious mind. The three elements work together in unity to constitute the human nature. This is why it is very difficult to precisely describe an individual’s nature since these components are not automatically visible at once.

Therefore, it is not absolutely true to always link a woman’s low self-esteem and low self-concept to her habit of indulging into excessive drinking.

It is also important to know that the human nature comprises of the intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and vocational needs, which must work together in a unified synchronization since the neglect of one would greatly reduce the ability of an individual to withstand adverse effects of life.

However, if these factors are well coordinated and monitored, it is possible to control the well-being of a woman, both in the short term and long term. Moreover, human behavior, especially among women alcoholics, is affected by a wide array of factors.

Among these factors that cause behavior change is the social influence. Roth and Fonargy recorded that the social influence has a key role in a change of behavior (Roth & Fonargy 2005, p.68). It has been proven that our interactions, be it with friends, co-workers, and families affect greatly how we behave and sometimes even how decisions are made.

An individual cannot exist as a sole entity, thus he or she must interact a lot with other people. As a result of this interaction and individuals often change their behavior by either copying or imitating what others do. It is surprising to note that this can happen even within a very short period of time. People can change their priorities, value systems and believes based on their interactions.

Therefore, it can be argued that alcohol has less impact on women’s self-concept as well as their self-esteem. On the other hand, environmental factors also greatly affect behavior change. Individuals have little or no control to environmental factors, which end up influencing their behavior a lot.

Therefore, it is impossible to address a behavioral problem such as low self-esteem and low self-concept among women based on personal factors and alcohol consumption alone.

People from the same environment tend to have interrelated behavior and this has to be known when one is addressing certain behavior change (Roth & Fonargy 2005, p.71). In addition, attitude also plays a crucial role on the behavior of individuals, especially on women alcoholics.

Attitudes account greatly for behavior change since changes of behavior first emanate from the attitudes that individuals possess. Attitudes would define the associated beliefs and evaluations towards things. Therefore, to have control of behavior, one only needs to activate an emotion or an effective attitude.

Thus, change of attitude is a key component for the behavior change. Moreover, compliance is the change of behavior as a result of consequences. For, example an individual’s strives to avoid punishment or changing behavior with hope of getting a reward.

Here, there has to be some driving force behind an individual so as to respond in the required way. It is also important to argue that the nature of the therapist-client relationship determines the self-concept and self-esteem of the alcoholic women since a psycho-therapist educates and motives them (Roth & Fonargy 2005, p.72).

Therapist-client relationship may develop a close relationship. However, the therapist has a duty to maintain a boundary of professionalism in order to help prevent difficulties in the relationship at any stage. At times, it may be difficult for the counsellor or client to end the relationship, particularly in long-term therapy.

This is brought about by the fact that clients often feel comfortable when they are with the therapist since they believe he or she is the only one who can solve their alcoholic problem, and a strong love usually develops from this relationship and the client, if well attended to the first time would need more counselling services from the therapist.

Therapist-client relationship is also strengthened by the fact that counselors would like to know that they have really taken care of their clients over a significant period of time. This may force them to follow on the clients just to ensure that he or she is very okay.

Some therapists may find certain clients are pleasure to work with and they usually feel attached to their clients as a result of the relationship. However, many professional acquaintances do not support therapist-client relationship outside professional setting because this is feared that it might violate professional ethics, thus jeopardising the whole process.

Therefore, it is important that despite the therapist-client relationship being very strong, the therapist must learn to let go and become unnecessary to the client once the business is done. The therapist-client relationship in solution finding majorly focuses on factors surrounding one’s life.

The two parties must work together in an attempt to find a solution. This is because a therapist would not fully understand some aspects of an alcoholic’s behaviour unless he is told by the client. Therefore, it is important for the client to give his/her past and present accomplishments.

Then, these are used by the therapist to provide and address both the present and future occurrences/challenges. Here, the centre stage is the fact that the client must understand and develop positive reasoning, which is sometimes referred to as the learned optimism.

Moreover, therapists and counsellors have essential roles and functions to play in boosting self-esteem as well as self-concept among the women alcoholics (Noreen 2002, p.102).

The key functions of the therapist are to ensure that he or she provides growth-promoting environment for the clients. When this is effectively done, the client would be at ease to grow and discover him fully. He can then develop as he or she wants.

A therapist must also exercise the role of ensuring that he impacts or convinces the client on the way forward. Therefore, he/she should ensure that the client actively listens, understands, and accepts herself. There should be genuineness and acceptance in the whole process.

On the other hand, a therapist also has a role of ensuring an individual precisely understands his identity and as such know how to establish meaningful relationship with the people around him.

This way, a lot of problems and conflicts would be greatly reduced and relationships nurtured. In addition, a therapy has goals, which are aimed towards improving both self-concept and self-esteem among the women alcoholics (Lillie 2002, p.104).

Different types of therapy have various goals, but the general focus of a therapy that applies to all include the re-structuralisation. A therapy seeks to expand the most flexible ways of finding alternative ways of dealing with problems.

For example, when there are disagreements in a family set up, a therapist would assist in ensuring each partner deals with one another in a way that they would cope well and endure whatever comes their way. Therapy also seeks to create awareness of oneself and their environment.

If individuals do not fully understand themselves, they are subject to disagreements, conflicts and as such are prone to stress and other minor challenges. Therapy gives the solution to this; through education on ones own understanding, appreciation and acceptance.

Though, people can perceive things differently, they can also change their ways of thinking, modify behavior and view the same situations in a new perspective. The goal of therapy is to ensure that this is induced into an individual’s mind so as to convince him or her that this is possible (Lillie 2002, p.102).

Therapy also has a goal of ensuring that individuals understand the world and know how our behaviour regarding how we feel, act, think, and relate. In fact all these can be addressed and help us live in a better way. This would in turn help women who are addicted to alcohol to look for their reasons for living and develop positive attitudes as.

Once the researcher’s request has been approved, he then proceeds to meet the management of the research venue to draw a plan of activities. In the meeting, the schedule of activities is finalized, including the necessary logistic preparations. There has to be a cordial agreement between the management and the researcher to ensure that the interview proceeds without any technical hitch.

Indeed, such an agreement would lead to a smooth execution of the whole project so that accurate and reliable data are gathered. Normally, the researcher takes time to ensure that the process of research is well organized, and the necessary tools and equipment are available.

Preferably, the tools and equipment should be tested prior to the actual research to ensure they are in working order. In addition, there have to be extra tools to cater for the emergency. After this, the process of data collection proceeds. The data collection in the project is to be carried out using the questionnaire.

Notably, the process starts by administering the questionnaires once they are approved by the researcher. In essence, morning session is the most suitable as it gives the participants enough time to prepare for the day’s exercise.

Also, the morning session is considered appropriate time since most of the day’s customers might not have reached the place, thus the time provides minimal interruption to both the employees and the customers available at that time. Moustakas Clark postulated that grounded theory research is employed to evaluate some of the existing gaps in the data analysis (Moustakas 1994, p.5).

The researcher then gives the day’s instructions to the employees to equip them with what to expect for the day. Note that the researcher has to cooperate with the participants. Besides, he/she should be prepared to answer all questions that the participants would like to seek clarification about.

Therefore, the researcher has to carry out the exercise diligently sine the data collected and the research findings may be used to assist in doing future research. The questionnaire is preferred due to its accuracy and efficiency.

It is also easy to analyse, since the questions to be answered are standardized and contain optional answers. In addition, the questionnaire also contains simple questions which might not prove hard to the respondents (Mcleod 2003, p.74). Arguably, data samples are likely to portray different characteristics.

The data sample characteristics would focus on newcomers and alcohol addicts. Initially, the problem of addiction begins in women’s minds, it starts with the way women think and how they later change their ways of thinking.

It is important to realize that some addicts portray characteristics that appear to be misleading for instance; they normally nurse the false hope that they can improve and get sober after drinking. In fact, the disease of addiction is psychological because it creates a notion in women’s minds that even with multiple years of sobriety a person can remain fine after drinking.

Furthermore, the problem of addiction shows women that they are functioning drinkers and hence they cannot have problems with drinking. Indeed, the problems of addiction therefore come in a number of ways which creates different kinds of addictions.

Women alcoholics share close bonds with one another and they relate to each other more than the normal human beings. Most women addicts do not care much as long as they form part of the group they feel comfortable with. It is worth noting that these women addicts have a burning desire.

This generally occurs in women dealing with tough time. For instance, new comers may report to the meeting and share their opinions and leave the meeting, thinking that they have got off their desire.

Finally, there have been cases where addicts have been shown to suffer from medical hopelessness and depression which may bring disillusionment in their lives. This analysis can only be made possible, if appropriate research instruments and measures are used in the study (Mcleod 2001, p.82).

Data collection for this research would involve the administration of questionnaires and other secondary sources like books and journals. Data collection would involve administration of questionnaires. This method has been chosen because it is an inexpensive method.

In addition, questionnaires gather data eight respondents, but eight women have been chosen for this study. In fact, in most cases administration of the questionnaires is the best way to reach out to a large number of women because it provides enough data for a better statistical analysis.

Various stages would be followed in developing the questionnaires. These stages would be followed by administering the questionnaires and finally the interpretation of the result. Another important activity is defining the objective of the study, especially with the use of heuristic research.

According to Rose Theresa and Del Loewenthal, this is a method that helps individuals in interpreting their own personal experiences (Theresa & Loewenthal 2006, p.133)

Lillie postulated that when the logical flow of the questionnaires is compromised, useful data that could have been collected may not be valid, as expected during the pilot-research (Noreen, 2002:103). Therefore, a well set questionnaire helps in defining correct objectives for a research interview.

Consequently, in this research the first objective of the study would be to determine whether women alcoholics share close bonds with one another and relate to each other more than those who do not drink alcohol. The second objective would be to determine if burning desire to drink alcohol is associated with low self-concept, reduced self-esteem, and tough times in women’s lives.

In order to enhance efficiency in this study, the collected data must be properly administered. It is important to note that the research problems must also address the issues on data adequacy, as explored in Susan’s literature (Morrow 2005, p.255).

A critique/ evaluation of the existing literature

Existing literature evaluation can be best understood under the following subheadings. This research overview measures have strong correlation with context of the study problem. The measures achieved the goals of self-concept and self-esteem of women who are alcoholics. However, there are weaknesses realised from this research study.

The comparative study on assimilation, self-concept and self-esteem of women who are alcoholics was rather weak since it failed to incorporate a unified system of assessment that can be built using database of instruments. Besides, the research was based on simple models that cannot analyse the complex processes of SPSS analysis.

In addition, essential database instruments were lacking and their properties that make use of meta-analytic methods to decide on the best assessment methods to be employed in the study. The number of respondents used in this study was not sufficiently large to provide adequate data for the research.

Only eight women were sampled for interview, but this could not provide a representative sample for this research work. Though, the research literature dealt much on alcohol consumption among women, elements such as self-concept and self-esteem were not given equal weight since sufficient evidence was missing. Morton Adam argued that experiments are done on scientific theories so as to find evidence (Morton 2003, p.5).

Proposed steps for next research

Focusing on the next research that is meant to examine issues of self-concept as well as self-esteem among women who are under the influence of alcohol, database instruments should be involved to ensure more refined study outcomes.

There is also the proposal to expand this field of knowledge since it is currently too small to accommodate such complex analytical procedures. In addition, the next research work should incorporate various life domains such as self-perception and social identities, which are part and parcel of the self-concept.

Besides, the next research should make sound decisions on whether to incorporate behaviours and attitudes in the assessment. Moreover, multiple items or different response formats with detailed psychometric properties should be chosen for the study.


In conclusion it can be noted that if the research proposal is planned and implemented, the research process would succeed in achieving its objectives without major problems. Most importantly, the degree in which the researcher and the management of the location relate to one another also determines the success of the research.

The other important thing to be considered by the researcher is the availability of the tools and the equipment to be used during the research. Indeed, if the equipment and the tools are availed in time and in good condition, the process of doing research would not stall.

These are crucial elements that need to be incorporated in the study of the problems of self-concept and self-esteem among women who are under the influence of alcohol.


Bond, T 2004, Ethical Guidelines for Researching Counselling and Psychotherapy, BACP Publications, Boston.

Hammersley, M 1992, “Deconstructing the qualitative-quantitative divide”, Mixing methods: quantitative and qualitative research, pp. 39-56.

Lillie, N 2002, Women, Alcohol, Self-Concept and Self-Esteem: A Qualitative Study of Experience of Person Centred Counselling, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy Publishers, Scotland.

Mcleod, J 2001, Qualitative Research in Counselling and Psychotherapy, Sage Publishers, London.

Mcleod, J 2003, Doing Counselling Research, Sage Publishers, London.

Morrow, S 2005, “Quality and Trustworthiness in Qualitative Research in Counselling Psychology”, Journal of Counselling Psychology, vol.52, no.2, pp. 250-260

Morton, A 2003, Belief’s and their Qualities: A Guide Through the Theory of Knowledge, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford.

Moustakas, C 1994, Phenomenological Research Methods, Sage Publishers, London.

Nicky, H 2000, Interviews: Doing psychological research: gathering and analysing data, Open University Press, Buckingham.

Roth, D & Fonargy, P 2005, What Works for Whom? A Critical review of Psychotherapy Research, Guildford Press, New York.

Theresa, R & Loewenthal, D 2006, Heuristic research, London. Karnack Publishers.

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