types of therapy for alcohol addiction

Why can’t an alcoholic just quit drinking? This seems like a reasonable question, and one that is asked countless times a day by loved ones of an alcoholic. They stand by witnessing the alcoholic’s life imploding in wonder; why, they ask, doesn’t he or she just stop abusing alcohol? Can’t they see what they are doing to their life? Don’t they want to stop suffering all the negative consequences that have been caused by their excessive drinking?

Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive, relapsing disease of the brain. When the brain and body have become dependent on the daily consumption of alcohol, the alcoholic virtually loses their free will. No longer can the individual just “stop drinking.” Altered brain chemistry and neural pathways are now wired for alcohol. The person no longer has the ability to walk away from the bottle, not without help anyway.

To overcome alcoholism there are certain types of therapy for alcohol addiction that can be accessed through a comprehensive treatment program. Generally the types of therapy for alcohol addiction include behavioral therapies that help the individual make core changes in the way they think and behave when faced with triggers. Without this type of intensive and focused psychotherapy someone with a moderate to severe alcohol use disorder is unlikely to overcome the addiction.

Psychotherapy as a Core Treatment Element Within an Integrated Rehab Program

It takes time to establish new habits. Old self-destructive habits may become so entrenched that they follow a predictable path, from trigger to irrational thought to turning to alcohol. To break the reflexive thought-behavior pattern that keeps someone tethered to the alcohol addiction, a new way of thinking must be introduced and then actively practiced. This can be accomplished through targeted types of therapy for alcohol addiction.

Psychotherapy is applied in both individual one-on-one sessions with a clinical psychotherapist, and also in small group formats. The individual sessions allow for confidential discussions that help individuals explore unresolved emotional pain or past traumas that may be contributory to the alcohol addiction. Also during these private sessions, the therapist can guide the client to identify dysfunctional thoughts and behavior patterns.

Group therapy sessions are facilitated by a therapist or clinician who guides the topics of discussion. A group format provides an open forum where individuals can share their own personal experiences and challenges, learn from one another, and derive peer support.

Types of Therapy for Alcohol Addiction Recovery

The most effective types of therapy for treating individuals with alcohol addiction include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT focuses on both the cognitive (thoughts) and behavioral (actions) of the individual by helping them modify thought-behavior patterns that are keeping them trapped in alcoholism. For example, someone may be convinced that they cannot function at a social function without alcohol, therefore use alcohol to calm their anxiety. CBT teaches them to exchange that irrational belief to a positive statement, such as “Of course I can enjoy the event without needing alcohol. I want to be clear headed and present to get the most out of the experience.”
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy: DBT is focused on shifting negative self-messaging and self-criticism to acceptance while encouraging improvement in four areas, including mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance. DBT can be especially helpful for individuals with a dual diagnosis, such as alcoholism and depression or anxiety, as it helps them learn to regulate emotions and mood swings.
  • Contingency Management: CM is an incentive-based therapy that provides small rewards in exchange for continued sobriety. A clean breathylzer and drug test will result in a reward, which helps strengthen the resolve to remain sober and avoid relapse.
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy: MET is a short-term therapy consisting of four steps. It is often used in conjunction with other types of therapies at the outset of a treatment program, as it deals with the ambivalence that many may feel about sobriety. MET helps persuade the individual to embrace recovery and to become internally motivated to change their life for the better.

Therapy is the fundamental cornerstone in addiction treatment, as it helps individuals work toward positive change that will result in a sustained recovery and a new sober lifestyle.

Phoenix Rising Addiction Center Provides Intensive Outpatient Treatment for Alcoholism

Phoenix Rising Addiction Center is an Orange County-based provider of outpatient alcohol treatment. The types of therapy for alcohol addiction recovery utilized at Phoenix Rising include cognitive behavioral therapy with a focus on attachment theory. Using 12-step programming and an emphasis on creating a safe, accepting, secure treatment environment, Phoenix Rising helps individuals conquer alcoholism and reclaim their lives. For more details about our outpatient program and sober living resources, please connect with Phoenix Rising today at (877) 299-5694.


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