Alcoholism Counseling: Finding Help to Beat Addiction

Last Updated: June 10, 2020

Authored by Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Millions of people in America and around the world are battling a dependence on alcoholic drinks. These individuals, and their friends and family, sometimes feel overwhelmed by choice of treatments available to overcome alcoholism. Is alcohol counseling necessary? Does it work for everyone? How can alcohol counselors help someone beat addiction?
Addiction to alcoholic beverages is not just a physical dependence. Once the detoxification process is completed, social and psychological factors play a powerful role in remaining sober. Stress, environmental triggers, and social cues, such as meeting friends who were previously drinking buddies, can all lead to a relapse. This is the reason counseling for alcoholics is so important.

Alcohol Counselling: How Does It Help?

Counselors for alcohol addiction are professionals who are trained to help individuals from diverse backgrounds accomplish their goals. Alcoholism counseling can help a person with an addiction change their thinking and behavior. Alcohol abuse counseling is a collaborative process with a specific objective.
An alcohol counselor is a non-judgmental and supportive professional who helps addicts develops strategies to remain sober. Alcohol counselors offer advice and provide solutions to help a person recovering from alcoholism overcome the challenges of giving up drinking. Professional alcoholic counseling is especially helpful for people who have attempted and failed to give up drinking on their own. Confidentiality is extremely important part of addiction treatment.

Giving Up Drinking: Is Alcohol Abuse Counseling Necessary?

Overcoming a dependence on alcoholic beverages is a major accomplishment that takes immense determination. An alcohol abuse counselor can make it easier to kick an addiction to intoxicating drinks. Detoxification is only the first step in a long battle with the bottle. Once the withdrawal symptoms subside, it is an ongoing struggle to fight cravings and avoid falling off the wagon.
Counseling for alcoholics is beneficial, and even necessary, for many people trying to give up drinking. The therapies and behavior modifications suggested by alcohol counselors help people recovering from an addiction stay clean. Counseling for alcoholics also addresses the associated mental health conditions that contribute to the abuse of alcoholic drinks. Recovering alcoholics suffer from irresistible cravings. Alcohol counselors help addicts deal with these urges and cope with life without drinking.

Signs of a Problem: Who Should Seek Help from Alcohol Counselors

When a person is drinking so much that it is affecting their health and causing them harm, the condition is called alcohol use disorder. This condition can be mild in some people and severe in others. Some of the signs that a person may benefit from alcohol counseling include:

  • Drinking more than intended on several occasions
  • Trying and failing to cut down on drinking
  • Experiencing strong cravings for alcoholic beverages
  • Neglecting home and family due to drinking
  • Performing poorly at school or work due to excessive alcohol use
  • Being unable to give up drinking in spite of trouble with family and friends
  • Giving up previously enjoyed activities and hobbies
  • Putting one’s self and others at harm (for example, drinking and driving or operating machinery when drunk)
  • Suffering from anxiety and depression due to drinking problems
  • Needing to drink more and more to get high
  • Having withdrawal symptoms (such as irritability, anxiety, shakiness, restlessness, and nausea) when the effects of drinks wear off

Counseling for Alcohol Abuse: How Long Does It Take to Get Sober?

There are some outpatient and inpatient treatment programs available to people trying to beat an addiction to alcoholic drinks. The most well-known options, such as the 12-step program or the 28-day inpatient rehab, do not necessarily work for everyone. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for alcoholism. People who are heavy drinkers or have been drinking for a long period of time typically take longer to recover.
Alcoholism counseling should ideally continue until the problem is resolved or at least until it becomes manageable. The duration of alcohol counseling may also be dictated by the number of sessions that an individual’s insurance company will pay for.

Types of Therapy: What is the Best Alcoholic Counseling?

No one therapy can be said to be better than the other. For some recovering alcoholics, individual therapy is necessary to develop the skills to reduce drinking and set achievable goals. Other people battling an addiction benefit from the challenges and support offered by group therapy. Peer support groups, which are not led by trained professionals, may be of benefit to some individuals as part of the recovery process.
People who are trying to overcome addiction to alcoholic beverages while also suffering from significant mental health issues are more likely to require personalized counseling for alcohol abuse. Residential alcoholic counseling is useful because it removes the addicted person from the usual environment and helps them learn behaviors and skills to remain sober. Outpatient programs for alcoholic counseling are less expensive and can be continued for a longer duration of time. Some of the options for alcoholism counseling and treatment include:

  • Seeking help from the primary care physician to determine whether an individual has a drinking problem, evaluate their overall health, and provide advice on the type of care necessary.
  • Undergoing behavioral therapy with a professional counselor for alcohol addiction to change drinking patterns and habits that trigger the consumption of alcohol.
  • Being prescribed medications to reduce or stop drinking and prevent relapse to alcoholism.
  • Attending mutual-support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to quit or cut back on drinking.
  • Going to group therapy sessions with a qualified counselor for alcohol addiction.
  • Receiving one-on-one help from an alcoholism counselor.

Treatments Offered by Counselors for Alcohol Addiction

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This therapy is offered as a one-on-one session or in a group. It focuses on the situations and feelings that lead a person to drink. The triggers for heavy drinking are identified during this type of alcohol counseling. Ways to manage stress and avoid relapse are taught. The goal of this therapy is to teach the recovering alcoholic to lead day-to-day life and avoid the cues that trigger problematic drinking patterns.

Family and Marital Counseling

In this type of therapy, alcohol counselors involve the recovering alcoholic’s family in the healing process. The goal is to improve and repair the relationships damaged by an individual’s dependence on alcoholic beverages. Seeking help from a counselor for alcohol addiction through family sessions has proven efficacy. Research has shown that people with strong family support are more likely to remain sober compared to people who are trying to kick the habit on their own.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

This is a short-duration therapy that helps a recovering alcoholic build strong motivation to change drinking patterns. The focus is on understanding the benefits of seeking help, formulating a plan to change behavior, building motivation, and developing skills to remain sober.

Brief Interventions

These are limited-time sessions, either personalized or in a group, in which alcohol counselors provide information about the risks of drinking, obtain feedback, develop specific goals, and suggest solutions to remain abstinent.

Choosing the Best Alcoholism Counseling

The first step in selecting the best option for alcohol addiction counseling is to gather information. If someone in the immediate family or friend circle has battled a similar problem, it is a good idea to ask them about their personal experience with counseling for alcoholics. Individuals seeking treatment for alcoholism should understand the types of therapies offered by the alcoholic counselors at a facility. Some of the questions that can help in choosing an effective alcohol counseling program are:

  • Does the program include the use of medications to reduce drinking?
  • What therapies does the alcohol abuse counselor specialize in?
  • Is the treatment tailored to each?
  • What is the patient expected to do as part of the recovery process?
  • How is the success of alcoholic counseling measured?
  • How does the alcoholism counselor handle relapse?

Most importantly, a professional alcohol abuse counselor should make an addicted person feel respected and understood. Whether it is offered in individual or group sessions, the success of alcohol addiction counseling relies on trust developed over time.

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Published on: March 9th, 2018

Updated on: June 10th, 2020

About Author

Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Nena Messina is a specialist in drug-related domestic violence. She devoted her life to the study of the connection between crime, mental health, and substance abuse. Apart from her work as management at addiction center, Nena regularly takes part in the educational program as a lecturer.


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  • Michelle Catapang
    Helpful content! Thank you for the guide and explanation.