Exploring pathways through and beyond alcohol treatment among Polish women and men in a London borough

First published: 09/05/2019 | Last updated: May 20th, 2019

Aims: Our aims were to explore the experiences of Polish women and men in a community based specialist alcohol treatment centre in London and to understand their pathways into, through and beyond services with a view to understanding ways to better engage and maintain contact with these service users.

Methods: Three interviews with Polish alcohol services professionals were conducted to establish a general understanding of services offered.   Fifteen semi-structured interviews with Polish individuals, who had experience of problematic alcohol use and treatment services in London. All participants had been living in the UK for on average 10 years.  Data were analysed thematically with a view to understanding experiences, challenges and facilitators to successful treatment outcomes as defined by the service user.

Results: Different pathways for women and men stemmed from Polish culture and views about the acceptability of drinking in women and men which impacted on help seeking. Women experienced complex issues including, hidden long-term drinking, child services interventions and domestic violence and may avoid seeking treatment due to feelings of shame associated with their drinking. For men, seeking help to stop drinking was seen as socially acceptable and in some cases, behaviour to be proud of.

Conclusions: A number of factors were reported to facilitate engagement with treatment services including the availability of a Polish speaking key worker and advocacy for housing, healthcare and benefits.  Identifying women with problematic alcohol use is a challenge and there is a need for different means of engagement with alcohol services.


Dr Rachel Herring, Senior Research Fellow, School of Health and Education, Middlesex University, The Burroughs, Hendon, London, NW4 4BT Mariana Bayley, Researcher, School of Health and Education, Middlesex University, The Burroughs, Hendon, London, NW4 4BT

Conflicts of interest:

no conflict of interest


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Dr Helen Gleeson