DescriptionAlcoholism is one of the biggest public health problems worldwide and in portuguese society, both
because of its prevalence and severity, and because of its social impact.
The multidimensionality and systemic character of alcoholism require the adoption of assessment
and intervention strategies that allow a more effective response to this relevant social problem.
The Social Work, due to the diversity of the organizational and problematic contexts in which it
intervene, may have, along with other professional disciplines, a relevant role in its approach, both in
terms of screening and diagnosis, in motivating treatment, in social reintegration and in prevention.
In this sense, starting from a qualitative research, was carried out a descriptive and comprehensive
study of the life trajectories of alcoholic patients and the performances of not only the support and
social monitoring services, as well as the Social Work professionals.
Presenting an analytical framework of Alcoholism, as a phenomenon and social problem, the study
begins by discussing the issues related to conceptualization, starting to demonstrate its impact in the
portuguese context, finally reflecting on the intervention and the possible relevance of Social Work in
Methodologically, based on convenience sampling, in a first axis, 62 interviews were carried out
with alcoholic patients, accompanied by Self-Help Groups, Therapeutic Communities and/or
Temporary Reception Center. The goal of those interviews was not only to recognize the social
problems most associated with alcohol consumption, but also to map the contexts in which the patients
move. Beyond these aims, it pretend to identify the institutions they use the most throughout their
history of consumption and the situations in which the suspicions and signs of alcoholism are most
The data collected were analysed from a biographical perspective, which allowed the reproduction
of consumption trajectories and institutional paths and, simultaneously, the recognition of screening,
referral and prevention, effective (or not), practices.
A second axis was based on the participant observation technique to a group of diverse
representatives of different social services, gathered in a meeting to discuss the intervention on Alcohol
Related Problems, and the focus group technique, integrating 9 social workers from distinct
institutions, working closely with alcoholic patients. From the observation-participation modality and
the constitution and moderation of an homogeneous group, it was intended to seize the perceptions,
practices and perspectives of social workers in this specific problem, to identify and understand the
factors that influence their performance.
The results of this investigation confirm, by one hand, the systemic and multidimensional
relationship between alcoholism and social factors and problems. On the other hand, different
trajectories of patients were identified in terms of consumption and their relationship with services,
pointing to the extension of the natural history of the disease and late intervention, diagnosis, treatment
The reality and the professional discourse also illustrate the needs and difficulties that confine social
intervention in this context, namely in terms of human and physical resources and institutional link,
as well in what concerns to the recognition of the disease and its specificities and complexities.
Finally, the present study unequivocally points to the relevant role of self-help groups, as structures
of (in) formal monitoring of patients and their families, at all levels of intervention, before, during and
after treatment, since the preventive strand to the community reintegration, and also with a
fundamental action in strengthening to the maintenance of abstinence.
|Held at||University of Coimbra, Portugal|
|Degree of Recognition||PhD|