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What Is Alcohol Counseling?

Alcohol counseling is available to anyone struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD). This includes binge drinking, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism. It is also available to family members, partners, and their loved ones. 

Recognizing one’s problem with alcohol is the first step in taking the initiative to seek help and pursue alcohol counseling. If you think your drinking habits may be unhealthy, alcohol counseling can also help you pinpoint your problem.

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

However, an occasional binge drinker is not necessarily an alcohol abuser. Alcohol abusers continue to drink alcohol despite the following effects drinking has on their lives:

  • Recurrent, alcohol-induced health problems
  • Relationship problems
  • Occupational consequences
  • Social consequences
  • Legal consequences

Still, alcohol abusers tend to have easier times breaking their drinking habits than alcoholics who are actually addicted to alcohol.

Alcoholics have a dependency on alcohol and may suffer withdrawals when they’re not drinking. This is due to a chemical change in their brain that drives them to drink more, more often. 

However, alcohol counseling can help binge drinkers, alcohol abusers, and alcoholics alike break unhealthy drinking patterns.

Role of a Substance Abuse Counselor

A substance use counselor helps you understand and overcome your problems with alcohol (or with drug abuse). They teach you to identify triggers, come up with ways to stop or reduce drinking and help you get through withdrawal symptoms. 

An alcohol counselor builds trust with their patients and provides the support and resources that you need, free of judgment. They assist you throughout the recovery period, whether that requires immediate intervention or carries out through a long-term plan.

Find Help For Your Addiction

You don’t have to overcome your addiction alone. Professional guidance and support is available. Begin a life of recovery by reaching out to a specialist today.

Types of Addiction Counseling

There’s a wealth of resources out there to help anyone with an alcohol dependency confront binge drinking, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism. Here are some of your options.

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapy involves working with a health professional, such as an addiction counselor, who can identify any behaviors that lead to heavy drinking and help patients change them. This includes developing the skills you need to stop or reduce drinking, building a strong social support system, and coping with triggers. A behavioral therapist can help you set reachable goals and work toward them with a treatment plan.

Biofeedback Therapy

Biofeedback therapy, which is also known as neurofeedback therapy, trains 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 their brainwave activity in a treatment facility. Since many people who suffer from substance dependencies have mental health disorders as well, this form of therapy can help them identify triggers and correct stress-induced psychological responses.

Holistic Therapy

Holistic therapy targets a person’s mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health as a form of substance abuse treatment. Holistic alcohol rehabilitation uses several types of therapies and services to treat the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual effects of alcohol.

These alcoholism treatment programs vary depending on your needs and the holistic rehabilitation center resources. They can include everything from art therapy and horseback riding to nutrition planning and yoga.

Family Therapy

Family counseling is a popular option because family members can be a big part of the treatment process. Family therapy incorporates family members and loved ones in the therapy sessions so they can play an important support role.

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

Alcohol Interventions

Alcohol interventions with family and/or 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. T

his 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 and offer their support before the alcohol problem escalates.

Alcoholics Anonymous 

There are various support groups for alcoholics, but Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is arguably the most well-known one. It touts itself as being “nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere.” In short, AA is a global, community-driven program that involves regular accountability meetings and group discussions about addiction.

AA also uses a 12-Step program to help members overcome alcohol addictions, which they can revisit whenever they need it. These steps include admitting to addiction, making conscious choices to change their behaviors, and using prayer and meditation to overcome their addictions.

Teen Alcohol Counseling

About 11.4 percent of 12- to 20-year-olds (4.3 million underage people) are binge drinkers, 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, and even inpatient rehab centers for teens with substance use problems.

How to Choose an Alcohol Counselor

Finding the right counselor will aid your recovery process. Look for someone that you trust, feel comfortable with, and talk to easily.

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

It's important that you 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. Patient reviews, complaints, or recommendations may help your decision.

What types of therapy do they use?

There are many types of therapies used in addition treatment. A good counselor will make a therapy recommendation based on your individual circumstance. They may even use multiple 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 and 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.

Alcohol Counseling FAQs

What are the benefits of alcohol counseling?

Alcohol counseling can help you overcome your problem with alcohol, whatever it may be. 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 the same or similar situations. 

How does alcohol counseling work?

Substance use counseling varies depending on what type of counseling you seek. Whether you’re paired one-on-one with a substance use counselor or counseled in a group setting depends on the type of counseling that you choose. 

Typically, however, you or your group will be paired with a substance use counselor who can help you identify your alcohol dependency and address any alcohol withdrawal symptoms. They’ll do this through various counseling sessions over time, whether you seek individual counseling or group counseling meetings for 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 further symptoms after one year. Meanwhile, others significantly reduce their drinking and report far fewer issues related to alcohol.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse & Addiction

There are many treatment options available for alcohol abuse and addiction, including:

  • Inpatient ProgramsInpatient treatment takes place at a licensed residential treatment center. These programs provide 24/7 comprehensive, structured care. You'll live in safe, substance-free housing and have access to medical monitoring. The first step of an inpatient program is detoxification. Then behavioral therapy and other services are introduced. These programs typically last 30, 60, or 90 days, sometimes longer. Most programs help set up your aftercare once you complete the inpatient portion of your treatment.
  • Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs) Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) are sometimes referred to as intensive outpatient programs (IOP). Compared to inpatient programs, partial hospitalization programs provide similar services. These include medical services, behavioral therapy, and support groups, along with other customized therapies. However, in a PHP you return home to sleep. Some services provide food and transportation, but services vary by program. PHPs accept new patients as well as people who have completed an inpatient program and still need intensive treatment.
  • 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 therapy, education, and support in a flexible environment. They are best for people who have a high motivation to recover and cannot leave their responsibilities at home, work, or school. Outpatient programs are often part of aftercare programs once you complete an inpatient or PHP program.
  • Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT) Sometimes, medications may be used in alcohol addiction treatment. Some medicines can help reduce the negative side effects of detoxification and withdrawal. Others can help you reduce cravings and normalize body functions. Disulfiram (Antabuse), acamprosate (Campral), and naltrexone are the most common medications used to treat AUD. When combined with other evidence-based therapies (such as cognitive behavioral therapy), MAT can help prevent relapse and increase your chance of recovery.
  • Support Groups Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery are open to anyone with a substance abuse problem. They 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.

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Resources

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“Alcohol Questions and Answers.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 Jan. 2020, www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm

“Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 29 Apr. 2020, www.medlineplus.gov/alcoholusedisorderaud.html.

“Alcohol Use Disorder.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 4 June 2020, www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders

“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, www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-use-disorder-comparison-between-dsm

Bob. “Biofeedback Therapy for Substance Use Disorders: Sober College.” Drug & Alcohol, Substance Abuse Certification | SoberCollege.com, 24 Nov. 2017, sobercollege.com/addiction-blog/biofeedback-therapy/

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, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK37585/

“Holistic Alcohol Rehab.” The Canyon, thecanyonmalibu.com/treatment/alcohol-treatment/holistic/.

Holland, Kimberly. “Alcoholic Addiction: Get the Treatment You Need.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 26 Nov. 2014, www.healthline.com/health/alcohol-addiction-treatment

Holland, Kimberly. “Staging an Intervention for an Alcoholic.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 10 Nov. 2014, www.healthline.com/health/alcohol-addiction-intervention

Publishing, Harvard Health. “Alcohol Abuse.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/addiction/alcohol-abuse

“Role of Counselor in Addiction Recovery: Wake Forest University.” WFU Online Counseling, 13 July 2020, counseling.online.wfu.edu/blog/the-role-of-the-counselor-in-addiction-recovery/

“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, www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/treatment-alcohol-problems-finding-and-getting-help

“What Is AA?” Aa.org, www.aa.org/pages/en_US/what-is-aa

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