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Learn About Alcohol Rehabilitation

One of the most important decisions for a person with a substance use disorder is choosing the right treatment center. Entering treatment signifies the beginning of a new life; the support network and insights gained will form the basis of recovery for years to come. Keeping this in mind will help you understand the importance of determining which program best fits your individual needs.

There are many factors to take into consideration when choosing an alcohol rehab. These factors include the level of care, treatment modalities and therapies offered, affordability and insurance coverage, and the availability of any specialty programs that you may want. Before starting the admission process at a rehab, take time to do your own research and figure out what you’re looking for.

Selecting which level of care you need is the first step in choosing an alcohol rehab.

Detoxification (Detox)

The first step in the recovery process is detoxification (detox). Detox is ‌a safe way to rid the body of alcohol, while preventing dangerous or even life-threatening side effects, such as delirium tremens (DTs). Alcohol detox must be completed before starting residential (inpatient) or outpatient treatment. Residential programs provide 24/7 observation and medical intervention by physicians and nurses who address drug cravings, and physical symptoms that often occur when a person suddenly stops drinking. Medical detox is also offered at local hospitals or clinics.

Residential (Inpatient) Treatment

Residential treatment is a 24/7, live-in treatment, usually lasting between 60 to 90 days. Intensive programming includes modalities such as group therapy, education groups, 12-step groups, family therapy, and more. Inpatient treatment is often considered the most effective treatment for people with a chronic substance use disorder.

Outpatient Treatment

An outpatient program is less intensive than an inpatient program; it involves various types of groups and treatment methods, as well as a range of scheduling options. Some programs offer daily programming; others meet several days per week. Outpatient treatment may serve as a stand-alone program, but it often follows inpatient treatment and serves as a step-down option to maintain structured recovery while returning to a normal home/work life routine.

Types Of Therapy

Each alcohol rehab program, including inpatient and outpatient facilities, has a variety of treatment modalities and therapies. Upon your admission to rehab, a licensed treatment professional should work with you to create an individualized plan that includes a combination of treatment methods.

Evidence-Based Practice

Facilities that offer therapies deemed effective by clinical research studies are quality programs. Some common evidence-based therapies include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – helps clients identify and change negative thinking and addictive behaviors by replacing old, unproductive actions with new perspectives and positive coping skills.
  • Medication-assisted Therapies – the use of medication, such as Antabuse or Vivitrol, that inhibits the euphoric effects of alcohol consumption, preventing relapse.
  • 12 Step Facilitation Therapy (TSF) – a type of programming that encourages participation in a fellowship of peers that supports abstinence from substance use.
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy – a counseling approach aimed at helping people resolve their ambivalence about treatment, often used for people who are court ordered to complete treatment.
  • Family Behavior Therapy (FBT) – a type of therapy that employs behavioral therapies for healthy family interactions.
  • Contingency Management Interventions – a type of behavioral therapy that rewards and reinforces positive behavior (e.g., participating in groups, maintaining abstinence, and more).
  • Community Reinforcement Approach Plus Vouchers (CRA) – treatment aimed at managing substance-related behaviors through a multifaceted treatment plan.

Specialty Treatment

Specialty programs are aimed at treating substance use disorders while considering certain other factors or demographics. For example, some programs focus on the treatment of teens or young adults. Another type of specialty treatment program is a dual diagnosis program for people with co-occurring disorders (e.g., alcohol use disorder and depression, or anxiety).

Establish Treatment Goals

Setting treatment goals can help you pinpoint the right alcohol rehab program for you. Here are some guidelines for creating a list of the goals:

  1. Which behaviors do you want to overcome as part of your recovery path (e.g., negative thinking, trouble coping with emotions, overcoming triggers for alcohol use or other substances, etc.)?
  2. Do you have any mental or physical health conditions that need addressed during treatment?
  3. What does recovery mean to you, is your goal to detox and stay sober for 30 days, 6 months, or permanently?
  4. Is your goal for long-term recovery complete abstinence from all alcohol and drug use or are you aiming to engage in a harm reduction approach at controlled drinking? Note, harm reduction and controlled drinking is not recommended for people with a physical dependence on alcohol.
  5. Do you plan to invite your family to engage in your recovery program?
  6. Are you able to commit to a 24/7 inpatient program, or do you need an outpatient schedule that will work around your work schedule and other obligations?

These goals should be considered when selecting the alcohol rehab program. You should discuss your goals with each facility you contact.

Establish Credibility

Ensuring the perspective program is credible is an important step in finding the right alcohol treatment program. A simple way to do this is to ensure the program is accredited. Accredited programs employ evidence-based treatment modalities and therapies. (e.g., cognitive behavior therapy, 12-Step programs, and more).


The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) or the Joint Commission is an accrediting agency that thoroughly reviews the program’s facility, providers (e.g., therapists, counselors, and MDs) and programs to ensure each aspect of the program is credible and treatments and therapies are backed by clinical research studies.

Ensure Affordability

Once you’ve established a list of treatment programs, it’s time to narrow down the contenders. Perhaps one of the most important parameters to consider is cost. Alcohol rehab can be expensive; be sure to check for programs that are in-network with your insurance company. Contact your insurance provider to ask about a preferred provider network, or for questions you have about information you gather when conducting initial screening calls.

Be aware that even if a treatment program is in-network, there may be some types of treatment that are not covered. Be sure to ask about any out-of-pocket expenses when speaking with your insurance provider.


Many treatment facilities offer provisions for people without insurance, such as reduced fees or grants to help pay for treatment. If you don’t have insurance, be sure to ask about any financial discounts you may qualify for. You can find out more about grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Consider The Length Of Stay

The average duration of a residential alcohol rehab program is 30 to 90 days. Typically, experts suggest 60 and 90-day programs because studies have shown the longer the treatment period, and the greater the number of sessions, the better the outcome. However, other important factors may affect your ability to stay longer than 30 days, such as affordability.

You can ask about success rates, but keep in mind that some institutions may inflate the numbers; if you hear about astronomically high success rates, be wary. Research-based collection methods should ‌be used to gather and report data on information pertaining to patient success rates.

Make A List of Questions to Ask

Before contacting potential treatment facilities, be sure to list all the questions and concerns you have. Here are some questions that may help you in your search:

  1. Is your facility accredited? If so, what organization granted the accreditation?
  2. What credentials do your counselors and therapists have (e.g., LADC, MSW, PsyD, LICSW, and others)?
  3. How many program participants are in the average group and how many staff members do you have on the grounds (patient/staff ratio)?
  4. Do you offer evidence-based treatment modalities/therapies?
  5. Do you have any specialty programs?
  6. Is your program gender-specific?
  7. Do you offer any medical or mental health services?
  8. Is your facility in-network with my insurance company?
  9. Do you offer any special discounts or grants for people without insurance?
  10. What is the length of your program?
  11. Do you have any scientific data on patient outcomes (e.g., completion rates, length of sobriety after treatment, etc.)?
  12. Do you offer intake assessments performed by a licensed professional, such as a Licensed Alcohol & Drug Counselor (LADC)?

Start Your Search Today

If you are ready to take the next step and begin contacting treatment centers, contact a treatment provider for free today. They can answer your existing questions about rehab and the following recovery process.

  • Author: Sherry Christiansen | Last Updated: October 25, 2022

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    Sherry Christiansen

    Sherry Christiansen is a Freelance Medical Writer with an extensive clinical background in mental health and chemical dependency. Sherry has over a decade of experience writing health and wellness articles (including mental health and substance use disorder topics); she also led a small team of writers in the role of Chief Editor for a health and wellness website for seniors. With diverse research, writing and editing skills, Sherry has written & edited hundreds of published articles backed by the most recent scientific research.

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