How Alcohol Treatment Works

How Alcoholism Treatment Programs Work

Maybe you spend the entire day drinking instead of working – or maybe your spouse is threatening to leave you if you don’t ‘get yourself together.’ Unfortunately, these are just some of the many telltale signs of alcohol use disorder, wherein habitual drinking can lead to distress or harm. This does not only affect you – more often than not, it can influence your loved one as well. 

Staying away from liquor is not an easy task – especially if you have been drinking a lot for far too long. Your body has been used to alcoholic binges that your brain has re-wired to work around the drink’s depressive effects. And when this happens, abstaining from drinking can become a nightmare – literally. Tremors, seizures, and hallucinations – these are just some of the unpleasant symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. 

Although quitting alcohol might sound like a hard thing to do, the fact of the matter is it can be done with proper treatment. If you are thinking of finally checking yourself in, then read on to know more about rehab and how it works. 

What is an Alcoholism Treatment Program, Anyway?

Also known as rehab, it refers to the different types of programs that are designed to help people with severe alcoholism issues. Due to many scientific advancements, there is now a wide variety of options for treatment. What you choose will depend on you – or the advice of a licensed professional. 

Outpatient vs. Inpatient Treatment

Outpatient Treatment Options


Recommended for those who have just begun or those who have just started abusing alcohol, the standard outpatient treatment allows you to remain at home. You can resume normal daily activities granted that you attend at least 10 hours of group or individual therapy every week. 


You will be permitted to stay at home, granted that you attend individual therapy for four to five times a week. Apart from this, you might be prescribed medication to help with withdrawal or other issues. 

Inpatient Treatment

The inpatient treatment option, which requires admission to a medical facility, is recommended for alcoholics with severe mental or physical health issues. Such a program involves medications, rigorous therapy sessions, and 24-hour monitoring. Treatment usually lasts for 3-6 months, although it can be shortened or lengthened depending on the person’s condition.

Residential Rehab

A popular form of treatment, rehab is an intensive program recommended for alcoholics with serious issues. This is similar to inpatient treatment, however, you get admitted to a commune where you can leave anytime (though this is usually not recommended). Rehab can last anywhere from 1-3 months. 

What Does Rehab Feel Like?

According to a study published in the Journal of Alcohol Disorders, rehab can help patients decrease (if not eliminate) their alcohol intake. As such, it is considered as one of the best options for long-time alcoholics. 

If you are considering inpatient treatment, then you might be anxious (or curious) as to what goes on in the facility. Don’t be scared at the thought of being admitted!

Here are some things you can expect while undergoing residential rehab: 

  • Classes

Education is the main focus of most rehab centers. It includes teaching about the nature of alcoholism, the effects it has on the body, and what might happen should the abuse to continue.

Education is useful for new patients who are usually in denial of their alcohol problems. Classes can give a bird’s eye view of the situation that can help the person accept his situation and deal with it. 

  • Individual Counseling 

As a resident in a rehab facility, you will spend most of your time attending individual counseling. This one-on-one meeting starts with building trust and rapport. Individual counseling can help you learn the coping mechanisms needed to live alcohol-free outside rehab. You will be taught how to recognize situations where you might be tempted to drink, and what you need to do to avoid such pitfalls. 

  • Group Therapy

This treatment involves trained professionals who can help you heal or recover from addiction. Depending on your situation, you might be asked to attend any of these groups:

Type of Group Therapy Purpose
Psychoeducational Group To educate the individual about alcohol abuse
Skills Development Group To teach skills that can help you recover from alcoholism
Cognitive-Behavioral Group
To help a person change thoughts and actions that might lead to alcohol abuse
Support Group To gather members who have the same problems, so they can expose their usual excuses and help each other change for the better
Interpersonal Process Psychotherapy/ Interpersonal Process Group/ Therapy Group To allow the patient to think of their past ways and analyze how these have caused various problems

Source: Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy

Group therapy is favored amongst many because of its many benefits. They include lesser feelings of isolation, the presence of peer support, constructive confrontation, and the hope of recovery from alcoholism. 

  • Family Meetings 

The family usually takes the brunt of an individual’s alcoholic ways. They might be the enablers – or they might be the punching bags. Because of the importance of the family in the addict’s road to sobriety, rehab programs usually involve family and friends throughout the entire healing process. After all, research suggests that it can help motivate commitment, as well as improve drinking outcomes upon discharge. 

Like the addict himself, family members are taught about alcoholism – and how they can be affected by this habit. They are taught how to cope with the problems that stem from a family member’s alcohol addiction. They are given access to resources that can help them ‘recover’ as well. 

  • Other Therapies

Apart from counseling and group therapy, other forms of treatment may be employed as well. Creative people may benefit from art or music therapy, while those with control issues may be prescribed with biofeedback or the act of gaining awareness of the body’s functions. 

Alcoholics who are resistant to conventional treatment may be prescribed with neurofeedback, or the use of an electroencephalogram to help regulate brain function. This is a promising treatment for alcoholism (and other substance addictions,) according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. 

The Takeaway

The body’s way of adapting to alcohol makes it hard to stay sober. Fortunately, there are treatments such as rehab that can help you stay away from liquor for good. Do remember that it will all depend on you though! As long as you’re determined to quit alcohol, rehab can help you find the eventual road to recovery. 

Latest posts by Raychel Ria Agramon, BSN, RN, MPM (see all)

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