Brief description of Italian CATs (Clubs of Alcoholics in Treatment)

The Club of Alcoholics in Treatment is a multifamily community connected with the local community and is attended by families having alcohol-related problems, plus one facilitator (what we call servant-teacher). The CAT holds regular meetings, once a week, to promote a positive change in lifestyle, with the objective of removing alcohol from the whole family life, but not only this. It builds upon the principles of solidarity, friendship, and love.

Two fundamentals have to be well spelled out:

  • The CAT is constituted by families, not by single persons
  • The aim is a change in lifestyle, which includes, but is not limited to, abstinence from alcohol, and which can be described as a “sober lifestyle”

The word “sobriety” has been misunderstood. Initially, many thought its meaning was to return to moderate drinking. Not at all. Sober behavior includes abstinence from alcohol and all other drugs but goes much beyond this. It is not something short of abstinence, it is actually more than that. It is in relation to the way you deal with other people, the way you respect the environment, protect human essence beyond material substance. All this brings us to anthropological spirituality, a concept introduced in our programs some years ago.

Even if the initial impetus that created the CATs was dealing with alcohol problems, the subsequent development suggested by Prof. Hudolin has widened its meaning, thereby emphasizing that what is important is not the dilemma of drinking-not drinking, but a radical change in the behavior of all family members. Without such changes in lifestyle, changes in drinking behavior will bring only modest improvements to the family’s well-being.

Quitting alcohol is relatively easy. Every alcoholic will confirm this. More difficult is to maintain such a choice over time when there is no serious intent behind it. A decision that must be based on a willingness to change one’s lifestyle, to find a new approach to difficulties, to improve communication with others, to develop a better capacity to express feelings. All these changes must take place, first of all, within the family, thereafter within the neighborhood, at the workplace, everywhere, and not only within the CAT.

CATs normally meet once a week, for about one and a half hours, participants consist usually of a few families with alcohol-related problems, some “substitute families”, for those who do not have a real family, and one person who has accepted to serve the CAT voluntarily and for free (the servant-teacher), who will be specifically trained to act as a facilitator in the CAT. No other people are admitted, while all CAT members (including the servant-teacher) should keep confidential whatever is being discussed during the CAT meetings.

Nevertheless, a CAT or some CAT members can decide to set up a meeting with outsiders in order to sensitize them, network with other associations, or promote the CAT’s image. Obviously, such activity must not be confused with the CAT itself, which is an opportunity reserved only to the families belonging to it. New families can join the Club without formalities unless the family has mixed problems (alcohol and other drugs, alcohol, gambling, alcohol, depression, etc.), a situation which needs to be authorized by the existing members.

The CAT is not isolated, it is rather a junction in the territorial net. CATs of the same area will meet regularly in what we call Interclubs, where also outsiders are invited, or representatives of the local community, or the population in general. The goal of the Interclub is to sensitize the local community about the existence of the CATs, offering a contribution to everybody’s welfare.

Prof. Hudolin experienced the first CAT in Zagreb in 1964, thereafter he promoted their development in Italy, starting from 1979. After reaching a total number of about 2.200 CATs in our country, the system regrettably split in two, with the “innovators” who introduced substantial changes in the methodology, and the “conservatives” who maintain the original Hudolin’s project. The innovators have elected a national network called AICAT, while the CATs who maintain the tradition have elected a network called “Coordination of Clubs of Alcoholics in Treatment”. The latter network represents about 500 groups, spread over 9 Italian regions, that accommodate every week about 6-7.000 persons (who rotate fully every 4 or 4-1/2 years).

The outcome of the treatment is that >70% of people attending regularly have already achieved sobriety of one year or more, while 90% have sobriety of at least one month. The results have been reviewed (independently) by the scientific magazine Alcohol&Alcoholism (Oxford University Press) confirmed the validity of the approach. CATs have also spread abroad, in over 30 countries.

The Social-ecological approach 2019

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