What Is Alcohol Counseling?
Alcohol counseling is an effective and valuable option for treating various alcohol use disorders (AUD). This type of counseling involves working with a health professional to identify and change behaviors that lead to heavy drinking. Counselors can be psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and in certain states, individuals can apply to become certified alcohol counselors. Alcohol counseling, sometimes referred to as behavioral treatments, generally includes cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, and brief interventions. These types of behavioral treatments help in developing skills to help quit drinking and stay sober.
While some may need short, focused counseling sessions, others may benefit from long-term therapy to address other mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Most rehabilitation facilities incorporate comprehensive treatment plans that include one-one-one counseling and group therapy. Many times, these treatments will continue after detox in order to help maintain sobriety.
What Does an Alcohol Counselor Do?
An alcohol counselor’s main purpose is to help you identify and change behaviors that lead to heavy drinking. This is often done through a series of individual or group therapy sessions over the course of a few months. Once the counselor believes you’ve made progress in your recovery, you may start meeting less often. Every experience with alcohol counseling is unique. Alcohol counselors can help:
- Provide information about AUDs and the recovery process.
- Set realistic goals and develop a treatment and recovery plan.
- Identify triggers or underlying issues that cause heavy drinking.
- Find and develop new behaviors to cope with stress.
- Provide regular assessments and feedback on your progress.
- Build a strong support system.
How to Choose an Alcohol Counselor
In order for alcohol counseling to be effective, you should find a counselor with who you can be open and honest. It is also important to recognize that counselors are there to support and guide you but it’s up to you to apply what you’ve learned through alcohol counseling. If you are able to do research and choose your own counselor, consider the following:
- Find someone experienced in treating AUDs. Most counselors treat more than one condition but specialize in certain ones.
- Find out your state’s requirements for licensed and/or certified alcohol counselors and check for credentials.
- Ask the counselor the types of therapies they use. Depending on the condition being treated, counselors will use different types of therapies or a mix of them.
- Confirm accepted insurance plans and ask for a list of counselors within your network. Some insurance plans will cover all or a portion of the cost of alcohol counseling.
Types of Therapy
There are many types of therapy that can be used to treat alcoholism and co-occurring disorders such as anxiety and depression. An alcohol counselor may include one or several of the following:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a method of therapy that helps prevent relapse by anticipating problems and developing a person’s self-control and coping mechanisms. Techniques that may be learned during CBT include:
- Exploring the positive and negative consequences of drinking.
- Self-monitoring to recognize cravings or triggers.
- Identifying situations that might put you at risk for relapse.
- Developing strategies for coping with cravings and avoiding high-risk situations.
Motivational Enhancement Therapy
Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) is most beneficial for those who are in denial of their alcohol problem or lacking motivation to change their behavior. This type of therapy is conducted over a short period of time and aims to strengthen internal motivation. MET focuses on:
- Providing feedback on initial assessment and stimulating discussion about personal alcohol use.
- Identifying the pros and cons of seeking treatment.
- Forming a plan for making changes to one’s drinking behavior.
- Building confidence.
- Developing skills needed to follow through with plans made in therapy.
Marital and Family Counseling
This type of therapy includes spouses and/or other family members in the treatment process and can help in improving family relationships. Studies show that a strong support system through family therapy can increase the chances of maintaining abstinence from alcohol.
This type of alcohol counseling involves short, one-on-one or small group therapy sessions with a time limitation. The counselor provides information or feedback about the person’s drinking pattern and potential risks. After receiving feedback, you will work with the counselor to set goals and come up with ideas to change behavior. These brief interventions are common when attending residential rehabilitation in order to keep track of your progress during treatment.
Benefits of Alcohol Counseling
Alcohol counseling has benefits that can help an individual stay sober and deal with other stressors from everyday life. Counseling can help you uncover underlying issues that lead to heavy drinking and how to resolve or overcome them. In addition to learning how to effectively quit drinking, other benefits of alcohol counseling include:
- Setting up goals and receiving feedback.
- Identifying, managing, and preventing triggers.
- Finding new, healthy hobbies.
- Fixing or strengthening relationships with yourself and others.
Quit Drinking Today
Alcohol counseling can sometimes be the first step on the road to recovery. Those who are struggling with heavy drinking can benefit from talking to a counselor about their behavior and habits. Contact a dedicated treatment provider to talk about your options.
Author: Ginni Correa | Last Edited: June 15, 2021