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Alcohol Treatment & Recovery

Taking the next step: The benefits of therapy and other treatment options.

The recovery journey is a personal, and at times emotional, experience. Treatment such as counseling or group therapy equips people with the tools they need to handle the ups and downs of living sober. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. It’s important to understand your options and consider what plan may be best for you.

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Types of treatment

Treatment for alcohol addiction or abuse can help people:

  • Learn about alcohol addiction, alcohol abuse, and the recovery process.
  • Feel a sense of calm about and acceptance of what they’ve gone through — the good and the bad.
  • Understand that sobriety is a lifelong journey.
  • Address and manage underlying emotional or mental health challenges.
  • Learn strategies for overcoming cravings and avoiding negative habits related to alcohol problems.
  • Feel connected with others through support from mental health professionals and peers who have had similar experiences.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. While some people prefer to speak with a mental health professional one-on-one, others may find support group sessions to be more effective, and still others may prefer a combination of both. It’s common to go through a “shopping around” period as you look for the treatment plan that is best for you.

Before choosing a treatment path, it’s important to understand your options and consider what plan may be best for you. The many types of treatment fit into two broad categories: inpatient and outpatient care.

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Inpatient care

During inpatient care, patients live at a treatment facility where they receive 24/7 support, allowing them to focus on addressing an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, maintaining their newfound sobriety, and learning skills for long-term recovery.

Patients typically live full-time at the facility for 30 to 90 days. While this may seem like a drawback, it can be a tremendous benefit to recovery. Inpatient care removes patients from their normal surroundings, eliminating temptations to drink and keeping them in a healthy environment. It also provides the types of ongoing skills training and education that are associated with higher rates of long-term recovery.

Phases of inpatient care:

Detox. The first phase of treatment takes place in the first seven days. It involves reducing or entirely discontinuing alcohol use — depending on the program and the severity of addiction. Three to four days after the initial detox, patients begin to see their strength come back as they begin a daily regimen of eating well and exercising.

Reflection. After completing detox and regaining their strength, patients are educated about abuse, addiction, and recovery. It's important to understand what a substance use disorder is and why the patient became addicted to alcohol. This phase also helps patients find their sense of identity — without the effects of alcohol.

Growth. The final phase of treatment begins at the inpatient facility and continues as the patient transitions back home. The duration of a patient’s stay varies, but statistics show that the longer patients remain at the facility, the less likely they are to relapse and the more likely they are to stay sober throughout their lifetime.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. Before choosing a treatment path, it’s important to understand your options and consider what plan may be best for you.

Outpatient care

Outpatient care typically involves some amount of daily treatment at a clinic or facility and allows the patient to return home during nontreatment hours. It may include individual and/or group counseling, depending on what the client and the facility’s clinicians think is best. Although outpatient care does not involve the same level of immersive, 24-hour care that inpatient care provides, outpatient care allows patients to live at home and continue working or going to school during their treatment. Patients can remain close to their friends and family and use them as a support system while learning how to live sober through therapy and education.

Types of therapy for outpatient care:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients recognize thoughts and behaviors that may be unhealthy and contributing to alcohol use. Individual therapy provides patients with the tools necessary to manage addictive behaviors.
  • Contingency management includes positive reinforcement to motivate patients to abstain from drinking. This can take the form of movie tickets or gift cards for attending therapy sessions or passing a drug test.
  • Motivational interviewing involves a therapist helping a patient to identify and overcome any hesitation or ambivalence to treatment, allowing a more open mind to other forms of therapy.
  • Matrix model is a hybrid of several different approaches, including cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, drug testing, and contingency management.
  • Multidimensional family therapy is a method used to work on family dynamics and relationships, commonly used for adolescents with alcohol addiction. This type of therapy benefits patients and helps their families cope while living sober.

Medication

The idea of taking medicine to cope with an addiction might seem scary or illogical. You may worry that you will become addicted to the medicine, too, or that while taking the medicine you won’t feel like yourself anymore. Several medications have been shown to give people a leg up in their road to recovery, increasing the likelihood of continued abstinence or restraint from heavy drinking. Certified mental health professionals work closely with their patients to determine if medicine is the right option. While there are certain prescriptions that can help people overcome addiction, medication is not for everyone.