You may have more paths to alcohol abuse recovery than you realize.
If you or someone you love struggles with alcohol abuse, rest assured, there are many different paths to help and recovery. The first ideas that come to mind are likely rehab and AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)—and while these are the right recovery fits for some people, they aren’t the only options out there.
This guide will introduce you to a few options you may not be aware of. I’ve put them in order of what tends to be a better fit at lower levels of alcohol abuse, scaling up to more intensive treatment for alcohol dependence, but note that different solutions are right for different people at different points in recovery. Substance use professionals are trained to evaluate alcohol use disorders and recommend the right level of care for you—reach out to a substance use counselor in your state for a professionally informed opinion.
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Alcohol Support Groups
Recovery Skills Groups
Intensive Outpatient Programs
How to Get Help for Alcoholism
Below, learn about a few paths to alcohol recovery. For many people, a combination of several resources is most helpful, and having the support of other people in your life cannot be overstated. If you're feeling alone in your recovery and would like to connect with an alcohol counselor in your area, please reach out and I'd be happy to help you navigate that process!
1. Self-Help for Alcohol Abuse
What is self-help for alcohol? This generally refers to books, apps, online resources, self-guided courses—anything that you do on your own that motivates you and progresses your relationship with alcohol in a more desirable direction.
Who it’s for? Self-help strategies can be supportive for anyone at any stage in recovery, but as a standalone source of help, it may be best suited for people with early or mildly problematic drinking patterns.
Where to find self-help for alcohol: There’s an abundance of self-help resources online: books, sobriety apps, moderation apps, podcasts, workbooks, etc. See what speaks to you. Self-led approaches to recovery often incorporate lifestyle changes, so it may also be worth exploring how to engage your interests through volunteering, classes, courses, clubs, community groups, or other means.
2. Alcohol Support Groups
What are alcohol support groups? Alcohol support groups are typically peer-facilitated groups meant to give members a sense of support and community while achieving their drinking goals. Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, is the one most people think of, but it’s far from the only option. Peer-support groups usually offer in-person or virtual meetings regularly.
Who it’s for? Peer-support groups are a great option for any stage of recovery if you think a sense of community would be helpful for reducing isolation and increasing accountability. These groups can be great places to receive validation, build skills, and establish a social circle supportive of your lifestyle shift.
Where to alcohol abuse support groups: While AA is the largest organization, other options include SMART Recovery, Moderation Management, SOS, Refuge Recovery, and many other Buddhism-based peer recovery groups.
3. Alcohol Counseling
What is alcohol counseling? Alcohol counseling involves working with a licensed counselor or substance use professional to address your drinking patterns in a trusting, nonjudgmental relationship. These professionals are trained to understand why and how addictive behaviors develop, and equip you with insight and tools to support lasting change.
Who it’s for? Alcohol counseling can benefit anyone who feels stuck in their drinking patterns despite putting forth effort to change. Working with a therapist can be especially useful if mental health issues like anxiety, depression, ADHD, or trauma are present, as these issues sometimes need to be resolved to see sustained transformation.
Where to find alcohol counseling: If you live in Washington State, feel free to reach out to me directly and I’d be happy to explore how we might fit in counseling—or connect you to someone who may be. For those living outside the U.S., you can use PsychologyToday and its filters to search for counselors who specialize in substance use and meet other criteria such as location, insurance, etc.
4. Alcohol Recovery Skills Groups
What are alcohol skill recovery groups? These groups are designed to equip participants with useful insight and skills to meet your drinking goals in a small group environment. They’re usually time-limited and led by a trained counselor and are intended to cultivate coping and relapse prevention strategies. Think of these as falling somewhere between professional counseling and peer recovery groups—they provide both a sense of community and clinically-informed tools.
Who it’s for? Alcohol recovery skills groups might be a good fit for someone who wants to build practical strategies in a cost-effective way for a set period of time. It may also benefit those who wish to feel less isolated, and maybe feel that groups help to create a sense of accountability.
Where to find alcohol skills recovery groups: This is a difficult one to direct readers toward because these groups are highly local and running only at certain times. The best way to find a group like this near you might be to reach out to a local substance use counselor or clinic and ask if they know of any skill groups that will be running soon. They often have a good network of providers to check with for you.
5. Medication-Assisted Alcohol Treatment
What is medication-assisted alcohol treatment? Certain medical professionals are able to prescribe medications like naltrexone, disulfiram (Antabuse), and Acamprosate. These medications work in different ways, but generally modify the effects of alcohol on the body to reduce the risk of relapse.
Who it’s for? Knowing if medication-assisted treatment is right for you is a question to bring to your doctor or another professional well-versed in these medications. For some people, medication can be a useful tool to curb the intensity of symptoms while building new habits, altering their environment, and addressing underlying causes in therapy or counseling.
Where to find alcohol skills recovery groups: Talk to your primary care provider or another healthcare professional you trust to see if they are able to assess suitability of medication-assisted treatment, or provide a referral to a professional who can.
6. Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
What are intensive outpatient programs? Intensive outpatient programs, or IOPs for short, are a type of treatment that involves frequent care contact throughout the week to support more severe cases of alcohol abuse. It’s usually a combination of individual counseling and recovery skills groups, amounting to 9 or more hours a week of treatment.
Who it’s for? Enrollment in an IOP may be recommended following a substance use evaluation for individuals experiencing more severe symptoms of alcohol abuse who at higher risk of medical harm as a result.
Where to an intensive outpatient program: Intensive outpatient programs are most often available at local substance use agencies and treatment facilities. Use the treatment locator on SAMHSA’s website to locate these services near you (search with the “Outpatient” filter), or call their national helpline for a list of local resources.
7. Alcohol Rehab
What is alcohol rehab? Alcohol rehab refers to residential treatment, which means an individual stays overnight for an extended period of time. These programs are intended to provide around-the-clock support and generally include services like one-on-one counseling, group therapy, skill building, and lifestyle development.
Who it’s for? Residential programs may be best suited for alcohol-dependent individuals who need a supportive, focused environment removed from the many triggers of their home life and routine. Re-emerging back into the home environment can be a huge challenge for many, which emphasizes the importance of tapering into other forms of treatment/support upon your exit.
Where to a rehab center: SAMHSA’s treatment locator is a great tool for this—use the filters for “Residential” to surface facilities offering these extended, overnight treatment options. Volunteers at their national helpline can also connect you to options in your area.
8. Alcohol Detox
What is alcohol detox? Alcohol withdrawals are not only uncomfortable—they can be fatal. Detox is a level of care that involves medical intervention to reduce the discomfort and health risks associated with heavy and prolonged alcohol use. Through medical monitoring and medication, a person who is alcohol dependent is able to more safely discontinue use and stabilize before engaging in other forms of treatment.
Who it’s for? Detox or hospitalization may be an essential level of care for individuals who have developed a severe physical dependence to alcohol. If you experience any signs of alcohol withdrawal—sweating, tremors, shakiness, rapid heart rate, confusion, or other symptoms—call your medical provider. If you’re experiencing signs of delirium tremens (DT), such as fever, seizures, severe confusion, irregular heartbeat, or hallucinations, call 911 immediately or go to the nearest emergency room.
Where to alcohol detox services: Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if you are experiencing the above signs of DT. SAMHSA’s national helpline or your local hospitals may be able to provide a directory of detox services nearby.
This article is written for the sole purpose of providing information on mental health topics. It is not medical or legal advice, nor a substitute for medical intervention or professional mental health counseling, diagnosis, or treatment. It should not replace or alter any treatment or care you are receiving without direct consultation from your mental health or medical providers. Any questions regarding your treatment should be brought directly to your professional and medical practitioners. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.