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Alcohol Therapy Options: Addiction Treatment

Drinking alcohol is a regular adult pastime but some people take things too far. Whether it’s lack of restraint or stress, some people don’t consume alcohol responsibly. Others overdrink because the buzz helps them cope with stress. Once this becomes habitual, they have an alcohol use disorder.

When things spiral into alcohol abuse and alcoholism, treatment is crucial. Alcohol-related problems range from short-term (belligerence, recklessness, lethargy) to serious and possibly deadly (respiratory problems, cardiovascular issues, liver damage).

People who struggle with alcohol and substance abuse need help. Most people can’t and won’t stop on their own. Withdrawal symptoms make it almost impossible to stop drinking cold turkey. People who overdrink need supervised care at treatment centers where counselors and nurses help each patient through the stages of alcohol withdrawal and recovery.

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Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol is one of the most widely available addictive substances. When an adult consumes more than two or three drinks within an hour, he/she could be highly intoxicated.

People drink alcohol to let loose and feel a slight buzz. Alcohol helps people unwind and let go of their inhibitions in social settings. However, some people lack the self-discipline to drink in moderation. A lot of people, especially the young, engage in risky behavior like binge drinking, which involves 4-5 drinks within an hour.

Individuals who can’t control their alcohol cravings often overdrink to the point where their body’s become tolerant. With tolerance comes alcohol addiction, where the person must drink larger quantities of alcohol to get the same buzz. Overdrinking can ravage the liver, the heart and the central nervous system.

According to research by the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), 95,000 Americans die each year from alcohol use disorders (AUD). Of the general adult drinking population, 7% have AUD.

Alcohol Abuse Treatment: Detox, Inpatient, Outpatient Therapy

For people who struggle with AUD, there are several treatment options. It usually happens in the following sequence:


This starts the moment an individual enters a treatment facility and abstains from alcohol. The first few days are rough because cravings surface. To help the patient get past his/her withdrawal symptoms, treatment center staff may administer detox medication. Detox is best done under 24/7 supervision at a treatment center.

Inpatient treatment

The next step in recovery involves 30-90 days of wellness and behavioral treatment at a rehab facility. Treating alcohol dependence is multi-faceted; it requires a mix of individual counseling, group therapy sessions, health, activities and education. At treatment facilities, patients learn to master the lifestyle habits of sober individuals.

Outpatient rehab

Treatment centers also offer outpatient rehab, where the patient lives at home but comes to a specific treatment center in the daytime for counseling. Outpatient programs cover the same ground as inpatient treatment but give the person more flexibility. This is good for patients with less severe drinking problems and those with work and social obligations.

Outpatient and inpatient rehab treatment programs are mostly based on the 12-step treatment model originated by Alcoholics Anonymous. Today’s alcohol treatment centers also offer specialized programs for each group of people: teenagers, older people, separate male/female programs, LGBT, etc.

Group Therapy Sessions

A typical treatment plan involves group therapy, where the patient partakes in support groups with other patients. This gives each person in alcohol treatment the opportunity to learn and share wisdom and encouragement with like-minded individuals on the same mission. Group therapy usually involves:

  • Introductions – Each patient introduces him/herself (depending on whether the program is gender-neutral or gender-specific) and shares a bit of background on his/her struggles with AUD.
  • Progress – Each patient talks about his/her progress since entering rehab. Have alcohol cravings diminished or ceased? What habits/mindsets have each person adopted to conquer alcohol addiction?
  • Insights – What has each person learned since entering the program? Patients pick up on different pieces of wisdom during recovery. Group sessions give everyone the chance to pool their insights together.
  • Stories – What led each patient to alcohol abuse and alcoholism treatment? What have they learned since joining? What would they do differently? What have they learned about themselves and life in general?
  • Encouragement – What are the new ambitions, passions and interests among the people in the support group? How do these things get their minds off alcohol and the stresses that caused them to overdrink in the first place?

Treating alcoholism is a multifaceted undertaking. Support groups help each patient gain a more nuanced understanding of recovery. In peer settings, people who couldn’t control their alcohol intake see examples of how diverse people find happiness free of alcohol.

Behavioral Therapies

At rehab centers across the United States, counselors treat alcohol addiction with various behavioral treatment methods, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy – This gets at the deep-seated beliefs that cause so many people to act the way they do. If an individual has an ingrained sense of despair, he/she could easily rationalize alcohol misuse as a coping mechanism. When patients reverse these underlying beliefs, it’s easier to change their behavior.
  • Dual diagnosis therapy – Identifies the co-occurring problems of addicted individuals. Unrestrained drinking behavior is often driven by issues in a person’s past, such as trauma, abuse, grief, loss, betrayal or some other devastating event. By treating these emotional issues, it’s easier to treat addiction.
  • Holistic therapy – Designed to heal people on multiple levels: mental, physical and spiritual. It’s hard for people to get one area of life right when they’re floundering in other areas. This helps people achieve long-lasting sobriety because it helps them be healthy, happy and well-adjusted once they’re sober.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy – Designed to help the patient gain empathy for the people hurt by his/her AUD. Also helps people become aware of the gap between aspirations and reality. This helps patients who are resistant to change gain the motivation to take positive action without feeling pressured.

Alcohol counselors employ behavioral treatments designed to heal people on all fronts. Most people with AUD lead disorganized, unfocused, undisciplined lives where days flow into one another. Behavioral treatments help recovering individuals achieve the happiness they’ve always sought.

Family Therapy

Most treatment providers stress the importance of family therapy. This gives the family members of AUD patients the chance to learn and understand the situation. In most cases, relatives of the addicted individual feel alienated and don’t know how to communicate with their alcohol-dependent loved ones. Family therapy gives everyone a chance to:

  • Understand alcohol use disorder – Not everyone understands AUD. A lot of people assume it’s a moral problem. In family counseling sessions, parents and spouses learn about the emotional and psychological issues that often fuel alcohol consumption.
  • Learn to communicate – When people address a loved one with AUD, they often do so in a way that can sound patronizing to the individual. This is often unintended; most people simply don’t understand the sensitivities at play. In family alcohol counseling, relatives gain better communication skills.
  • Develop a family plan – Family members and counselors plan for the patient’s eventual release from the rehab facility. This helps families develop a more accommodating yet structured environment, free of vice-triggers or relapse opportunities.

Rehab is usually more effective when family members get involved. Depending on the patient’s domestic situation, age and status, marital and family counseling can help ensure long-term recovery.

Substance Abuse Treatment Centers

Get Help Today

Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

Make a Call

For people who struggle with alcohol abuse and alcoholism, treatment center programs help break the cycle of dependency. Rehab counselors treat alcohol dependence on multiple levels with a combination of wellness, health, therapy and education.

Alcohol counseling is based on holistic principles that account for the patient’s mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing. Each treatment program follows an alcohol rehab guide, written in accordance with the Mental Health Services Administration.

If someone you know needs alcohol treatment, explore the treatment options available in your area. Don’t expect that individual to seek treatment on his/her own. Contact the nearby alcohol treatment centers and get your loved one into a rehab program as soon as possible.

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