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What Is Alcohol Counseling?

Alcohol counseling is an effective and valuable option for treating an alcohol use disorder (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, therapists, 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 assist in developing skills to help quit problematic drinking and maintain sobriety.

While some may need short, solution-focused counseling sessions, others may benefit from long-term therapy to address other mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Since alcohol withdrawal can be potentially fatal, detoxification is sometimes required to medically and physically stabilize the individual before treatment begins. Most rehabilitation facilities incorporate comprehensive treatment plans that include one-one-one counseling, psychoeducation, and process group therapy.

What Does An Alcohol Counselor Do?

Alcohol counselors provide a safe, therapeutic relationship where individuals can explore reasons for drinking, become aware of maladaptive patterns and behaviors, and learn how to identify and articulate feelings healthily. In an outpatient or residential setting, this is achieved through a series of individual and process 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

For alcohol counseling to be effective, an individual needs to find a counselor with whom they can be open and honest, and they must be willing to receive feedback and modify behavior. 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 an AUD 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 teaching individuals how negative and maladaptive thoughts affect feelings and behavior. Learning to change negative thought processes helps individuals anticipate problems and develop self-control and healthy 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

Addiction is a family disease. This type of therapy includes spouses and other family members in the treatment process to help all parties identify codependent, enabling behavior, and unhealthy communication, learn how to express emotions healthily, and rebuild trust within the family. Studies show that a strong support system through family therapy can increase the chances of maintaining abstinence from alcohol.

Brief Interventions

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 harm reduction 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 struggling with heavy drinking and experiencing harmful consequences can benefit from talking to a counselor about their behavior and habits. Contact a treatment provider today to talk about treatment options.

  • Author: Ginni Correa | Last Updated: June 22, 2022

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    Ginni Correa

    Digital Content Writer

    Ginni Correa is a writer who earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida and double majored in Psychology and Spanish. Ginni has worked as an art therapist in a behavioral health hospital where she found a passion working with at-risk populations.

  • Medical Reviewer: Dayna Smith-Slade

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