A MUM of two, from Burley-in- Wharfedale, has launched an innovative online business setting out to encourage women to have a healthy relationship with alcohol.

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) qualified psychotherapist, Gina Easom, who herself has triumphed after enduring years of having a dysfunctional relationship with alcohol, has set up Holla & Heard, a unique online therapy service for professional women ahead of Alcohol Awareness Week (November 13-19) November, which focuses on family.

Alcohol statistics reveal women are rapidly gaining equality with men when it comes to hard drinking and alcohol is one of the three biggest lifestyle risk factors in the UK, after smoking and obesity.

Gina offers Skype, FaceTime or Whatsapp video calls as a relaxed route to therapy to empower her clients to change behaviours. After being engulfed in the ‘ladette culture’ of the 1990s and drinking since her early teens for over 20 years, Gina wishes a service such as this had existed to help her and now, as her son turns the age she started drinking at, 14, she’s keen to get more women facing up to how their relationship with alcohol could be affecting their kids.

Gina said: “I want to tackle head on the importance of preventative work to try and achieve a shift. You don’t have to be obese or have chronic health problems to go to the gym, you just want to get into better habits, to be in control of your body - you might hire a personal trainer to help you change those habits. It’s the same with what I offer. I’m here to help change habits to put clients back on control.

“Alcohol Concern research suggests that many potential alcohol dependent drinkers exist in a state of denial – with over half (54 per cent) believing that they were ‘fairly normal’ when it came to their drinking but so often I see the effects of ‘social drinking’ having an impact on women’s wider lives and relationships, as well as their productivity. These women are currently hidden in society - there are no services for them, nothing targeting successful functioning women who are drinking too much, so it’s all too easy for this to get out of control.

“With Holla & Heard I want it to be normal for people to bring attention to this, just like other behaviours like unhealthy eating or smoking, without the shame and judgement which can be sometimes be attached to alcohol issues. They holla and they get heard, and then work with me from the comfort of their own home to find tools and techniques to help them makes changes.”

Having worked within the mental health crisis team at the NHS and also through her previous teaching career, Gina has seen first hand the devastating effects alcohol abuse can have on families and is determined to provide preventative care to try and combat the spiralling statistics.

“Alcohol Concern notes the paradox that whilst drunkenness has become more normal, seeking help for an alcohol problem remains taboo and that it’s important to recognise that alcohol, whilst being an established part of most of our social lives, is also a toxic and addictive drug," added Gina.

"I am keen to illustrate the positives of living an alcohol free life, and share my personal experiences to inspire clients, encouraging them to connect with me on social media, in contrast to many ‘online counselling’ services whereby the therapists remain anonymous.”

Gina is also happy to share her own story of her struggles and explained: “During my twenties the functioning, educated mother striving for achievement was happening in parallel with a young woman who was an habitual binge drinker. Come what may, the drinking continued. The dark side of this relationship was making its power felt physically and emotionally, trudging through days with debilitating hangovers, the ensuing anxiety and mood swings and the realisation that I had come to panic at the prospect of attending any event without alcohol.

“I didn’t have the time or inclination to attend any local community groups; I didn’t fit the ‘at rock bottom/ lost everything’ stereotype. I belonged to the grey area somewhere in-between ‘normal drinker’ and ‘alcoholic’, a somewhat hidden place where the ‘grey area drinkers’ are apt at blending in with the ‘normal drinkers’. The gap for a service which targets this area and enables women to be open about their drinking, free from judgement was noticed. Holla & Heard was developed to fill this need and to offer a service where help is quick and easy to access at a time when it is most needed.”

Gina’s service is now up and running and she offers 50 minute sessions which can be booked up to four weeks in advance, or as little as 24 hours notice via www.hollaandheard.com.