Treatment for drinking problems involves individualized assessment, with treatment tailored to your particular problem and to your goals of moderation or abstinence.
There are many effective treatment options for alcohol problems — some based on abstinence-oriented approaches and others based on approaches involving Moderation Training. Which one is right for you will depend on the severity of the drinking problem, external pressures (i.e. health concerns, pressure from a partner, employer or court), and what you have already tried.
Along with the focus on drinking, alcohol treatment, both traditional and non-traditional, attends to family and work stress, self esteem and loneliness — all of which may contribute to problems with alcohol. And, at times, particularly when feeling isolated, guilty, depressed or anxious, it can be helpful to know that someone understands the complicated feelings that can come up about alcohol use and can help you address these feelings constructively.
A good choice for a therapist is one who has specialized in treating individuals with alcohol problems, with expertise indicated by books about alcohol treatment, as well as articles describing treatment of alcohol abuse.
Treatment Options for Alcohol Problems
Traditional Abstinence-Oriented Treatments
Abstinence-based treatments continue to be extremely effective for many people. Treatment options include one-on-one therapy, therapy groups that support recovery, self-help programs such as AA and Smart Recovery, and medication to help with drinking urges (such as naltrexone and antabuse), anxiety, and depression. Usually a combination of these options is most useful. In addition, collateral treatment in which your spouse or partner attends some sessions with you may further support your recovery.
Other individuals who are concerned about their drinking may feel that traditional alcohol treatment approaches do not fit their pattern of drinking or their own personal goals. If you are one of these people you may have been reluctant to seek help, fearing that you would be pigeon-holed into an alcohol treatment that does not match your view of what is needed. For you, an alternative approach may be useful — a non-traditional, research-based treatment, tailored after the Guided Self Management approach of the Addictions Research Foundation.
How is a systematic moderation approach different from trying to control my drinking?
Moderation Training (MT) is a systematic intensive training with specific target goals, ongoing guidance until one’s goals with regard to drinking are reached, and training to support maintenance of the goals after treatment is terminated. Further information about this alternative option can be found on my Posts/Resources page.
How will my partner and loved ones view a moderation approach to drinking?
Unlike attempts at ‘controlled drinking’ tried by many drinkers, MT generally receives greater support from partners and loved ones who appreciate the specificity of the goals and the detailed attention to long-term training for maintaining them. It is often useful for partners to meet in collateral sessions with the MT coach to learn more about the approach. Collateral sessions may also be useful for family members who want to learn more about how they can effectively support a loved one who is dealing with an alcohol problem.
How long does Moderation Training take?
This varies from one person to the next but many individuals are able to successfully achieve the goals they have set for themselves within 2-3 months. Progress can be enhanced by simultaneous attendance in the self help program MM (Moderation Management).
Is Moderation Training appropriate for all drinkers?
Initial assessment will provide information that will be shared with you about how experts would view your drinking problem and the extent to which you would be considered a good candidate for this approach. Appropriate candidates would meet criteria that include the following: can reliably commit to refrain from driving after drinking, are not physiologically dependent on alcohol, do not have health problems that might be made worse by drinking, do not act in abusive or self-destructive ways after drinking even small amounts, do not abuse other mood-changing drugs.
If a careful effort at moderate drinking does not result in progress, abstinence is advised.
Alcohol Assessment Questionnaires
If you are are meeting with me about a potential problem with alcohol, please print out the following questionnaires, but wait to fill them out until we talk further about their purpose and how they may be helpful in your treatment.
Links to Relevant Resources
- Cottonwood de Tucson
- Crossroads Centre, Antiqua
Antigua, St. John’s, West Indies
- Fernside Center
Cape Cod, MA
- Hampstead Hospital
- McLean Ambulatory Treatment
Center at Naukeag
- McLean Hospital Alcohol and Drug
Abuse Treatment Center, ADAP
- Silver Hills
New Cannon, CT
- Spring Hill
Day and Evening Programs
- Faulkner Hospital
- Right Turn
- St. Elizabeth’s Comprehensive Addiction Program (SECAP)
- West End Clinic
Outpatient Treatment Centers
Residential Extended Care
- Caron Rennaisance
Boca Raton, FL
- Caron Foundation
Cape Cod, MA
- Emerson House
Cape Cod, MA
- The Strathmore House
- Granada House
- High Watch Recovery Center
- Little Hill-Alina Lodge
- Right Turn
- Spring Hill
- The Plymouth House
- Webster Place Recovery Center
Self Help Programs