The Clergy Are Tremendously Important

The Clergy Are Tremendously Important by Mrs. Marty Mann, Executive Director, National Council on Alcoholism, New York via Silkworth

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I do not believe that only alcoholics can do this, because I have known
professional people who could do it equally well. I myself am the product of
one. I don’t know whether this Conference ever heard Dr. Harry Tiebout speak.
If you didn’t, I am sorry, because he died two weeks ago, and I think he is
one of the greatest losses to this field since Dr. E.M. Jellinek left us.

Dr. Tiebout happened to be my psychiatrist. He is the man who forced me into
AA. He is the man who understood AA before I did, and brought me to a
recognition and an understanding and an acceptance of it. And here was a man
whom I had been looking down my nose at for a good year while I was under
treatment, because he didn’t like to drink. I didn’t see how he could expect
to talk to me.

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In fact, I told him once that I just thought he was an old spoilsport. He
didn’t like it, so he didn’t want anybody else to enjoy it. This man had a
real understanding of the alcoholic. He could talk to the alcoholic in terms
the alcoholic could hear and could accept. And he was not alone. There are
many people across the country, and many of them are the clergy of many

Although I must say in my travels, which are extensive, and my knowledge of
what is going on in many communities around the country, it is frequently a
Catholic priest who is the one who is the warm wise counselor for many
alcoholics in that area, and not necessarily, by any means, an alcoholic

So, I do believe that this attitude is possible. And I personally think it
should be possible for a Christian, for a man of God, who should have learned
something about humility, about caring for others, his flock, and all mankind
in his flock. So I feel very strongly that the clergy are a tremendously
important group in dealing with alcoholism, because I think, very often, the
family will go first to their pastor when there is trouble at home. It may not
be the alcoholic himself or herself who goes first, but if the situation is
handled right, and if the family can learn a little about what alcoholism is,
and about this business of the alcoholic reacting to behavior, the thinking
and words of others, then the situation can be changed to the point where the
alcoholic himself or herself will go.

And this is when it becomes crucial how the counselor, be he clergyman or not,
handles the situation. The matter of attitude is absolutely basic. If you
don’t have this, then it doesn’t matter how many techniques you use, they
aren’t going to work. You have not been able to establish contact; you have
not been able to communicate; you have not been able to establish rapport, and
until those are established, it doesn’t matter what else you do.

Let me tell you one thing that I think was a great contribution. A good many
years ago at one of the refresher courses at Yale, I was spending a lot of
time with Father Ray Kennedy. He was also there at the refresher course, and
he was very much excited. “You know,” he said, “I have discovered something
that I think may be my major contribution to the field of alcoholism. And I
want to tell you about it.”

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