Jessica Potter, LMFT licensed marriage &
family therapist



































jessie potter's information

Moderation Management

Marin Voice: Talking about drinking in Marin


Originally published in the Marin IJ on 9/17/2015

When it comes to support for people who are drinking too much, options have historically been limited to abstinence-only programs.

As a therapist I remember the substance abuse treatment course I took in graduate school.

We learned that if someone was actively drinking or using, they should get help elsewhere and come back to therapy when they were sober. Since then, there have been positive changes in the way therapists and substance abuse counselors are trained.

Concepts such as Harm Reduction and working with a client where they are, (Motivational Interviewing), have been helpful in changing the way we approach addictive behavior.

Still, there are many people who are daily drinkers struggling with shame, fear of being labeled and resistance to abstinence.

Many know they are drinking too much, but fear admitting this to their doctors, therapists, friends and families for fear they will be packed off to the nearest 30-day treatment program.

They may be functioning fairly well in their daily lives, not missing work, not having blackouts or getting DUI’s, but knowing that too often the one glass of wine with dinner becomes the whole bottle by the end of the evening.

Most people are unaware of Moderation Management, a nationally based support network that differentiates “problem drinkers” from alcoholics. Moderation Management offers an alternative for early-stage problem drinkers in making behavioral changes around their drinking as well as other healthy lifestyle changes. The basic goal is to drink no more than three drinks no more than three times per week.

Moderation Management is not right for everyone, but it can help with an individual’s self-assessment process in deciding whether they will need to choose abstinence.

Approximately 30 percent of people who try moderation do end up choosing abstinence, but they are doing so in a way that is self-determined and therefore more likely to be successful.

As a therapist specializing in substance abuse treatment, I have seen many people struggling with their drinking in shameful silence. I see mothers who are afraid to admit how their wine drinking has increased, or exhausted commuters who look forward to their wind-down drinks at the end of the day. I see people who are wondering if they might become alcoholics if they don’t slow down, and are hiding their drinking from spouses and family.

When I first heard about Moderation Management, I looked them up as an option for client referrals.

There are currently MM support meetings in San Francisco and Oakland. The meetings offer free information, support, and tools to help people manage their drinking and live healthier lives. The MM website has online support as well, and there is a helpful workbook people can use to learn the tools of moderation and read testimonials written by problem drinkers who have benefitted from trying moderation. MM members feel they can openly talk about their drinking without being judged or stigmatized.

Many have been able to reduce their drinking and have found relief in the program.

For the drinker who chooses abstinence but does not want to join a 12-step program, there are also alternative support networks offering meetings on a national level. These are LifeRing (, and SMART Recovery (

Regardless of the severity of one’s drinking, there are many alternatives for support and treatment in today’s society. Let’s spread the word about these alternatives so no one has to hide their drinking and live in silence.

Jessica Potter is a marriage and family therapist in San Rafael. The website for Moderation Management is