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What Is Alcohol Counseling?

Alcohol counseling is available to anyone struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD). It typically involves a counselor providing guidance and support for those with alcohol-related problems.

Counseling is also available to those close to people suffering from alcohol problems.

For example:

  • Family members
  • Partners
  • Loved ones

Recognizing a problem with alcohol is the first step in seeking help and pursuing alcohol counseling. If you think your drinking habits may be unhealthy, alcohol counseling can also help you pinpoint your problem.

The Role of a Substance Abuse Counselor

A substance use counselor helps you understand and overcome your problems with alcohol or drug abuse.

Substance abuse counselors teach you to:

  • Identify triggers
  • Come up with methods to stop or reduce drinking
  • Get through withdrawal symptoms

An alcohol counselor builds trust with their patients. They provide the support and resources that you need, free of judgment.

Substance abuse counselors assist you throughout the recovery period. This is whether it involves immediate intervention or a long-term plan.

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Types of Addiction Counseling

There are resources available to help those with alcohol dependencies confront their problems.

Here are some options.

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapy involves working with a health professional. They help identify any behaviors that lead to heavy drinking. Then they help patients change them.

This type of therapy involves:

  • Developing the skills needed to stop or reduce drinking
  • Building a strong social support system
  • Coping with triggers

A behavioral therapist can help you set reachable goals and work toward them with a treatment plan.

Biofeedback Therapy

Biofeedback therapy is also known as neurofeedback therapy. It involves training the brain to function more efficiently.

This therapy can help you grow aware of your mind and body.

An electroencephalograph (EEG) is applied to your head to listen to its brainwave activity. This occurs in a treatment facility.

Many people who suffer from substance dependencies have mental health disorders too. This form of therapy can help these patients identify triggers. It can also help them correct stress-induced psychological responses.

Holistic Therapy

Holistic therapy targets a person’s:

  • Mental health
  • Physical health
  • Emotional health
  • Spiritual health

Holistic alcohol rehab uses several types of therapies to treat these areas that alcohol affects.

These treatment programs vary depending on your needs and the resources available.

Holistic therapy includes everything from:

  • Art therapy
  • Horseback riding
  • Nutrition planning
  • Yoga

Family Therapy

Family counseling is a popular option. Family members can be a big part of the treatment process.

This type of therapy involves family members and loved ones in the sessions. This allows them to play an important support role.

A therapist can help you and your family members work through problems that trigger alcohol abuse. Their goal is to help with addiction and improve family relationships.

Alcohol Interventions

Alcohol interventions with family and friends are different from working with a treatment provider. A loved one may hold brief interventions with someone with an addiction to alcohol or who tends to binge drink.

This might be a one-time sit-down conversation between them or a regular check-in.

Whatever the case, interventions are opportunities for loved ones to share their concerns. They can also offer their support before the alcohol problem worsens.

Alcoholics Anonymous 

There are various support groups for alcoholics. However, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the most well-known.

AA is a global, community-driven program. It involves regular accountability meetings and group discussions about addiction.

AA also uses a 12-Step program to help members overcome alcohol addictions. They can revisit these steps whenever they want.

Some of the AA 12-steps include:

  • Admitting to addiction
  • Making conscious choices to change behavior
  • Using prayer and meditation to overcome addictions

Teen Alcohol Counseling

About 4.3 million underage people are binge drinkers15. Binge-drinking involves consuming five or more drinks during the same occasion at least once in the last 30 days.

Treatment options are available to teens, such as:

  • Teen-specific alcohol abuse support groups
  • Free alcohol treatment centers for teens
  • Inpatient rehab centers for teens with substance use problems

Binge-drinking is a pattern of drinking alcohol that raises blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level to 0.08 g/dL. BAC levels typically reach .08 g/dL after four drinks for women and five for men in about two hours.14

Binge Drinking, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), December 2019

How to Choose an Alcohol Counselor

Finding the right counselor is important for your recovery process.

Look for someone that you:

  • Trust
  • Feel comfortable with
  • Can talk to easily

Taking an active role in your treatment and recovery is the best way to achieve success.

Spend some time to research and speak with a few alcohol counselors. They can address any concerns or questions you have. It will also help you make a more informed choice.

Here are some things to consider when choosing an alcohol counselor:

Do they have proper licensing, experience, and references?

You should find a qualified professional when beginning your recovery. When you speak to a potential counselor, find out about their background.

Here are some questions you can ask them:

  • Are you licensed and certified by the state to practice addiction counseling?
  • How long have you been an alcohol counselor?
  • What other types of counseling do you do?
  • Do you have any references or patient reviews available?

You can also research them online or through the institution they work for.

The following may also help you make your decision:

  • Reviews
  • Complaints
  • Recommendations

What types of therapy do they use?

There are many types of therapies used in addiction treatment.

A good counselor will make a therapy recommendation based on your individual circumstance. They may even use various types of therapies.

Ask the counselor what type of therapy they are planning on using. They can explain the method and goals behind their choice.

Do they accept your insurance or have alternative financing options?

Speak with someone at the treatment facility about financing. Many counselors accept insurance, but individual plans vary.

Some cover all or a specific portion of the cost. Others may cover a certain number of treatments. Some may not provide coverage.

If you don't have insurance coverage, some programs have a sliding scale fee system. They will give you a price based on your annual income.

Facilities may provide other financing options such as payment plans.

Did you feel comfortable speaking with them?

Your counselor is going to be a large part of your recovery journey. You'll need to be able to develop a relationship where you can trust each other.

It's good to trust your intuition when you first speak with a counselor. But keep in mind a trusting relationship takes time to build. You want to find someone you can see yourself working together with.

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Alcohol Counseling FAQs

What are the benefits of alcohol counseling?

Alcohol counseling can help you overcome your problem with alcohol.

Going to counseling for alcohol also means that you’re not alone in your journey. You have trained professionals with you and, likely, other people in similar situations. 

How does alcohol counseling work?

Substance use counseling varies depending on what type of counseling you seek.

Typically, you or your group will be paired with a substance use counselor to help you identify your alcohol dependency. They can also address any alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

They’ll do this through various counseling sessions over time. This is whether you seek individual counseling or group therapy.

How effective is alcohol counseling?

Alcohol counseling with mental health professionals is effective for many people.

Research suggests that about one-third of those who receive alcohol counseling show no other symptoms after one year. Meanwhile, others significantly reduce their drinking and report far fewer issues related to alcohol.16

Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse & Addiction

There are many treatment options available for alcohol abuse and addiction.

Inpatient Programs

Inpatient treatment takes place at a licensed residential treatment center.

These programs provide 24/7 comprehensive, structured care. Patients live in safe, substance-free housing. They have access to medical monitoring.

The first step of an inpatient program is detox. Then behavioral therapy and other services are introduced.

Inpatient programs typically last 30, 60, or 90 days. Sometimes they last longer.

Most programs help set up your aftercare once you complete the inpatient treatment.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)

Partial hospitalization programs provide similar services to inpatient programs.

These may include:

  • Medical services
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Support groups
  • Other customized therapies

However, in a PHP, you return home to sleep.

Some services provide food and transportation. However, services vary by program.

Outpatient Programs

Outpatient treatment is less intensive than inpatient or partial hospitalization programs. These programs organize your treatment session based on your schedule.

The goal of outpatient treatment is to provide the following in a flexible environment:

  • Therapy
  • Education
  • Support

These programs are often part of aftercare programs once you complete an inpatient or PHP program.

Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT)

Medications may be used in alcohol addiction treatment.

Some medicines can help reduce the negative side effects of detox and withdrawal. Others can help you reduce cravings and normalize body functions.

The most common medications to treat AUD are:

  • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
  • Acamprosate (Campral)
  • Naltrexone

When combined with other therapies, MAT can help prevent relapse and increase your chance of recovery. For example, with behavioral therapies.

Support Groups

Support groups are peer-led organizations dedicated to helping each other remain sober. They can be the first step towards recovery or part of a long-term aftercare plan.

Resources

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(1) “Alcohol Questions and Answers.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 Jan. 2020

(2) “Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 29 Apr. 2020

(3) “Alcohol Use Disorder.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 4 June 2020

(4) “Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comparison Between DSM–IV and DSM–5.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 13 Mar. 2020

(5) Bob. “Biofeedback Therapy for Substance Use Disorders: Sober College.” Drug & Alcohol, Substance Abuse Certification | SoberCollege.com, 24 Nov. 2017

(6) Bonnie, Richard J. “Teen Treatment: Addressing Alcohol Problems Among Adolescents.” Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 1970

(7) “Holistic Alcohol Rehab.”, The Canyon

(8) Holland, Kimberly. “Alcoholic Addiction: Get the Treatment You Need.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 26 Nov. 2014

(9) Holland, Kimberly. “Staging an Intervention for an Alcoholic.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 10 Nov. 2014

(10) Publishing, Harvard Health. “Alcohol Abuse.” Harvard Health

(11) “Role of Counselor in Addiction Recovery: Wake Forest University.” WFU Online Counseling, 13 July 2020

(12) “Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 5 Mar. 2020

(13) “What Is AA?”, Aa.org

(14) Binge Drinking, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), December 2019

(15) Alcohol Facts and Statistics, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH), February 2020

(16) Miller, W R et al. “How effective is alcoholism treatment in the United States?.” Journal of studies on alcohol vol. 62,2 (2001): 211-20

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