When a man loves a woman is a 1994 film about alcoholism in families

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It is a 1994 film about alcoholism in families when a man loves a woman. The tale revolves around Michael Green, a pilot who is dealing with Alice Green, his drunken wife. Michael is unaware that his family is threatened by alcoholism, because Alice does not adequately communicate with him about her life. Alice is a psychologist and it is clear that the issues with Alice are partially exacerbated by the fact that Michael seems to have more influence over Jess and Casey, their two children. She is not happy with Michael’s behaviour of confronting her in front of their children and feels undermined when her mother criticizes her all the time. Her eldest daughter Jess confronts her behaviour, and in return, Alice slaps her. Jess runs away and to reach her, Alice falls and smashes through the shower on the bathroom floor. Thinking that her mother is dead, Jess calls Michael who flies immediately to his wife. After this incident, it is agreed that Alice needs professional help and is made to enter rehabilitation. While Alice is at the clinic, Michael takes the role of caretaker and finds it challenging to balance the responsibilities with his career as a pilot. When Alice returns home, she is sober, confident and changed. Michael, who has been used to being the controlling partner in the family, becomes jealous of Alice independence and stable condition. He therefore moves out and leaves Alice to take care of the two children. Later, Alice is seen giving a public lecture about alcohol and her family struggles. Michael appears in the crowd, and toward the end, there is the promise of something good in the family.

Thematic issue in the film

The film explores the topic of alcoholism and issues related to women and drugs. When a man loves a woman portrays the effect of Alice problem of alcohol addiction and how that behaviour affects her children. The pain and confusion that her daughters goes through when she is drunk are real life examples of daily family struggles with drugs. The film further explores the nature of families where one partner is drunk. The effects of alcohol affect Michael’s career, which forces him to balance between taking care of children and working as a pilot. When Alice is taken to a rehabilitation centre, Michael’s responsibilities multiply. The film presents lots of interest in co-dependency, drug and substance abuse and addiction that that is well captured by Michael and Alice relationship. The movie starts with the two main characters in a bar, with Alice being so drunk that she coats the family car with eggs. In the end, Alice rebukes her behaviour and expresses willingness to work on her soberness. In reality, a lot of alcoholics fail to understand the disease and are reluctant to change for the better.

Concerns for the family

Alice Green has a severe drinking problem that eventually ruined her family. Although the film does not indicate the cause of her drinking problem, it is mentioned that her father’s alcohol addiction played a significant role in making her a drunkard. She also blames work stress, her husband’s absence from home and her mother’s nagging behaviour as contributing factors. Her husband absence from home leave’s her to take care of children in the family all alone also makes her drink. Michael, on the other hand, is patient, loving and concerned with Alice addiction. He is always available to help his wife when alcoholism takes the best of her. His supportive nature was seen when he agreed to take care of the family while Alice was in rehabilitation. The eldest child in the family, Jesse Green develops a form of avoidance towards her mother after the slapping incident. When Alice was leaving for recovery, Jesse was avoiding eye contact and was seen hiding behind Michael, believing that her mother is not sober. On real life basis, children of alcoholic parents usually feel lonely, abandoned and unloved. However, Jesse was not highly traumatized by her mother’s behaviour and never felt left.

Impact of gender and cultural factors on the relationship

Gender and cultural factors have played an important role in the development of the story in when a man loves a woman. Like most family settings, gender role is a culturally sensitive topic that determines how couple share responsibilities at home. In the first parts of the film, Alice drinking habit is fuelled by the fact that Michael is always the one making decisions for the family. The loving nature of Michael and his efforts to make critical decisions of the family makes Alice less concerned about her place in the family. It can be argued that her position did not mount enough pressure to stop her from drinking and take care of children. Michael’s absence from the family due to job illustrates that his role in the family was that of bread winning. However, after rehabilitation, Alice takes an active role and stops being dependent on Michael.


Cognitive behavioural therapy

Cognitive behaviour therapy was developed through scientific research to manage symptoms by learning new skills. It teaches clients novel ways of thinking and suggests behaviour that can help them control symptoms. Cognitive behaviour therapy is based on the relationship of actions, thoughts, and feelings (Rosello & Bernal, 2007). This model establishes the need to fully understand the thoughts and actions of victims that can influence drinking habits. In this sense, the victim seeking therapeutic help learns to exercise control of their feelings and thoughts. It is a well-structured and time bound approach commonly used to help people overcome depression, addiction, anxiety, and anger (Kumar and Sharmar, 2013). The term cognitive behaviour therapy has been being used to refer to a group of intervention efforts that are based on the maladaptive behaviour that is triggered by irrational thinking.

Cognitive behaviour therapy can be split into three principal divisions: Cognitive restructuring, coping skills therapies and problem-solving therapies. Therapies done under cognitive restructuring assume that maladaptive thoughts are brought by emotional distress. Coping skills therapies focuses on the development of a repertoire of skills meant to help the victim handle stressful situations. Conversely, problem-solving therapies are administered as both cognitive restructuring and coping skills procedures. Therapists focus on general measures for dealing with a broad range of problem. It concentrates on the importance of collaboration for planning the treatment where therapists work hand in hand to resolve the client’s problems.

Justification for the use of cognitive behaviour theory

Cognitive behaviour therapy is an efficient treatment for people struggling with drug and substance abuse. This is because such people tend to have destructive and negative thinking that only increases their problem. The thoughts patterns are harmful, and victims therefore seek treatment for depression. Given that cognition affects the well-being of alcohol addicts, changing their behavioural patterns and thoughts is a strategic step. CBT helps victims of drug abuse practice alternative thinking and regulate harmful behaviour. The theory looks at behavioural patterns of the victim that lead to self-destruction and ensures that such behaviour is replaced with good ones. It allows addicts to work together with other victims and therapists to identify harmful thoughts. In the film, when a man loves a woman, Alice learns to live with alcoholism disease. She makes close friendship with other victims and back home, she attends a lot of meetings with friends she met at a rehabilitation facility. Additionally, CBT skills can offer helpful strategies that can be sued in the client’s daily life activities. Not only can it be provided in group and individual treatment but can also help the victim of drug and substances abuse develop useful measures to handle difficulties that arise from addiction treatment.

Journal articles that support cognitive behaviour theory

There are several studies that support the use of cognitive behaviour therapy to help families dealing with alcoholism and drug abuse problem. A 2009 study by Magil and Ray concluded that CBT was an effective option used across a broad cross-section of students who were having alcohol and drug abuse challenges. The sample used for meta-analysis composed 53 randomized trials for cognitive behaviour therapy for adults diagnosed with alcohol and substance abuse. With a mean sample of 179 participants, the targets were: alcohol 23, cocaine users 11, marijuana 6 and opiates 2. The majority of the drug addicts included participants diagnosed with alcohol addiction and marijuana usage. According to the study, use of cognitive behaviour with other psychosocial treatment yields larger effects than using CBT alone or CBT with pharmacological treatment. The Meta-analysis found no significant difference of using CBT by a group or individual format. There was insufficient evidence to suggest that short-term duration interventions are better than long terms ones. The study found that CBT treatment may be one of the most cost friendly therapies available, due to the absence of difference by group format.

A similar study was done by Range and Marlat (2008) concluded that cognitive behaviour therapy can be a strategic alternative to other types of treatments. The study was based on literature evidence to develop efficient treatment measures, which made use of group treatment for alcoholics. Identification of interpersonal factors and intrapersonal factors for skill training were drawn up in group treatment made up of 27 sessions, each lasting 90 minutes. The sessions were repeated two times a week at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, which is currently the centre for addictive behaviour teaching. The objective of the study was to establish learning practices of alternative action for drinking alcohol through interpersonal and intrapersonal skill training. Range and Marlat hypothesized that social skill training would be a highly efficacious treatment for people suffering from alcoholism, and that addiction is functionally linked with poor coping skills.

The family of Michael and Alice in the film exhibits sign of diffused boundaries. There are no specific roles and duties for each member, although it can be seen that Michael is the decision maker. There is no chance for individual growth and emotional connection is always threatened by whether Alice was drunk or not. Michael is a problem fixer with something to say to everyone when there is a problem. Alice on the other hand is affected by her previous family settings, which played a role in her poor cognitive thoughts and behaviour. The troubles caused by Alice had a direct effect on Michael and the two children. Jesse assumed the role of elder sister, taking care of Casey when no one else bothered. According to cognitive behaviour pattern theory, harmful behaviour and thoughts are developed by poor coping skills that result to irrational actions. As seen in the film, Alice failed to cope with her family issues and struggles, and opted to indulge in alcoholism. While the two children were not negatively affected by Alice behavioural to the extent of copying similar irrational actions, their happiness in the family was dependent on weather Alice was drunk or not. The dependency nature of Alice had a significant role on the structure of the family.

Goals and intervention measures

The dysfunctional family structure in the film is shown by Michael, who has to fix all problems when things go wrong. One of the core principals CBT is emphasis on collaboration and active participation. When Alice troubles worsened, her collaboration with Michael and therapists to help her recover helped her stop alcoholism. Some of the intervention measures that the family could use were changing coping skills of Alice to ensure she keeps away irrational thoughts and actions. Increased collaboration with Michael, the two children, relative and therapists can also help fix the dysfunctional family network. By using CBT, Alice and therapists need to take active measures to work together to help the family overcome alcohol abuse problem. Alice, while seeking professional CBT help, can expect the therapists to be problem focused and goal oriented. Since CBT is an active intervention, Alice can further expect to do homework assignments and practices with the help of family members.

Ethical issues in CBT Treatment

Cognitive behaviour therapy is different from other psychotherapy measures; the patient and the therapist work together to solve the victim’s problem. There are ethical issues that can arise given that in some cases, changing the client’s cognitive patterns may require the use of force (Harman and Holon, 2009). Some clients may feel offended when asked to stop irrational behaviour and thoughts that complicate the problem being solved. Given that the exact role of cognitive process is not defined, it can be unclear to tell whether the client’s thoughts and behaviour are the cause of the problem. Information about the client, such as age, address, health, and education require may lead legal issues when therapists fail to sufficiently keep such information confidential.

One of the many ways of knowing whether counselling was effective or not is by use of client satisfaction surveys. The surveys are given to the client to tell if therapy was successful or not, and understand the nature of healthcare service offered. In the case of when a man loves a woman film, survey question distributed to Alice and Michael would go a long way to measure the level of help offered using CBT. Further engagement with the client and his/her family members by the therapist can assist in determining cracks in the intervention measure pursued, and give understand what worked and what did fail.


Haman, K. L., & Hollon, S. D. (2009). Ethical considerations for cognitive-behavioural therapists in psychotherapy research trials. Cognitive and behavioural practice, 16(2), 153-163.

Kumar, D., Nehra and Sharma Sushant. (2013). Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: An Overview. Research Gate. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237358832_Cognitive_Behaviour_Therapy_An_Overview

Magill, M., & Ray, L. A. (2009). Cognitive-behavioral treatment with adult alcohol and illicit drug users: a meta-analysis of randomized trials. Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs, 70(4), 516-527.

Rangé, B. P., & Marlatt, G. A. (2008). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for alcohol and drug use disorders. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, 30, s88-s95.

Rosello, J., & Bernal, G. (2007). Treatment Manual for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression. Adaptation for Puerto Rican Adolescents. Rio Piedras: University of Puerto Rico.

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