By James G. Barber
ISBN 0 333 58441 4
The generalist social worker has been short of material about
alcohol and drug problems written from a social work perspective.
With this addition to the authoritative ‘Practical Social Work’
series, the need to rely on the large body of papers and books from
the medical and clinical field is reduced.
‘Addictions’ is the shorthand term used by the author to cover
damaging behaviours associated with drugs and alcohol. There are,
of course, other kinds of repeated and damaging behaviours, but
these are not within the scope of Barber’s book.
The structure of the book is based on the Prochaska and
DiClemente model of change, a description of the change process
rather than a theory of addiction.
This has become the new orthodoxy in drug and alcohol work,
perhaps because it strikes chords with our own attempts to modify
behaviours such as smoking cigarettes or eating chocolates.
Barber is, however, aware of the limitations of an approach that
assumes a high level of individual decision making. He seeks to
redress this deficiency by bringing in a dose of systems theory,
described also in the book as an ‘ecological perspective’.
When it comes to describing the strategies suitable for
maintaining the new (non-drug using) behaviours, for example,
Barber proposes action on the individual level, on the family, work
and social support level, and on the social policy and cultural
While this is an interesting area, it is unlikely that the
generalist social worker will have much chance to be involved in
systems of this kind. A final chapter gives a tantalising account
of the methodological considerations of carrying out evaluation
that will stand up to scrutiny. I felt it was a subject too big for
This book is sure to appear on the booklists for modules in the
Diploma in Social Work courses dealing with drug and alcohol
problems. It has a slightly disembodied feel, lacking the blood,
guts and trauma of real-life alcohol and drug chaos: but it will
acquaint the new social worker with the current orthodoxy and
provide the basis for some systematic, even systemic, practice.
Andrew Shephard is area manager of Turning Point and
author of Substance Dependency (Venture Press)