Self-Help Program Helps Drinkers Slow Down Rather Than Quit

Self-help program helps drinkers cut back rather than quit

Program is used wide-spread across the US

Alison Bailey March 4, 2015 9:02 am

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Moderation is key for most things in life.  In a follow-up to a story we brought you yesterday about too many Canadians being on the verge of “alcohol disorders,” we’re learning about a program that preaches moderation instead of abstinence.

Moderation Management is a self-help support group that has been set up across the US, there’s one group in Canada, and a few in Europe.

People have the option of going to in-person meetings, of meeting and talking online, or simply reading a book and trying to work through their struggle themselves.

Dr. Marc Kern is Chairman of the Board of Directors and has been with the non-profit since it began more than two decades ago.  He says the group is a way for someone to gauge how severe their addiction is and figure out whether moderation is the right option.

“To decide that you’re never going to drink again is an extraordinarily emotional decision, and particularly for young people.  And given in a society where alcohol is omnipresent, this is a group where they can, in a non-judgmental way, without making a big commitment, come to some clarity about their relationship with alcohol and see if they can cut it back.  With Alcoholics Anonymous, you must make a commitment or there must be a desire to stop drinking forever, and the recommendation would be life-long attendance.  That is a legitimate stepping stone too, but before, you got a DUI or something like that, most people say, ‘Well I’m never going to drink again.’  They want to know if they can cut it back and see if it can be kept in their lifestyle, without making a commitment of lifelong abstinence.”

He says the people at Moderation Management see success as being two-pronged approach.

“One is that they’re able to cut back permanently or maintain moderation is sort of the way we talked about, or they come to the conclusion that it is not viable and then they can move to the next step.  Change is not a leapfrog thing.  How many people join a gym and go for a few weeks but don’t continue, or are on a diet and don’t continue?  I believe Moderation Management is an essential ingredient to get people into taking a look at their drinking and coming to a determination whether this is viable or not.  The research shows 90 per cent of the people with alcohol problems don’t seek any treatment, whatsoever, no AA, no self-help books, no therapist, and most of the research supports that they’re not ready to forego alcohol 100 per cent, and this helps them make that determination.”

Dawn Schooler is the owner of Jericho Counselling in Vancouver and she isn’t aware of any formal groups using this approach locally.

“Over the years, certainly people have taken different runs at it, but there hasn’t been anything that’s really stuck.  So by enlarge, when people are looking to find a way to manage their own alcohol use through a moderation approach, they generally would seek out private advice, like a therapist or a counsellor who would support that idea.”

She thinks the approach can work.  “And I think truly most people who struggle with alcohol at any point in their life generally adapt a type of moderation approach on their own rather than the all or none approach of the medical model of addiction.”

Schooler adds the medical community tends to automatically approach a struggle with alcohol as an illness or addiction.

“When someone comes in with a little bit different story or relationship to alcohol, the medical community doesn’t really know what to do with it, so they refer to AA or one of the 12-step groups, or they preach an addiction kind of approach, which works for some people but it doesn’t work for most people.”

She says more people are asking her organization about it now than they were five years ago.


Marc F. Kern, Ph.D., aka "The Habit Doc" is a nationally syndicated addiction expert and harm reductionist. To learn more about Dr. Kern's philosophies and read more posts like this one, please visit 

For inquiries, contact The Habit Doc Staff directly at 1.888.532.9137. 


Marc Kern