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Alcohol Counselling: What is it and How does it Work?


Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 6/23/2022

Alcohol counseling is an important part of alcoholism treatment. Counselors can help people in many ways and are involved at almost every level of care. Alcohol counselors can be found at every level of care. This includes inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, and even some alcohol detox programs. 

Alcohol counseling is also flexible. There are alcohol counselors who provide one-on-one sessions but group and family counseling are also common. Ultimately, alcohol counselors are there to help people talk about their addiction and its causes. Counselors can also recommend treatment programs and help treat addiction and co-occurring disorders.

What Is Alcohol Counseling?

Alcohol counseling is a type of alcoholism treatment that helps alcoholics through supportive guidance. A good alcohol counselor can come up with a comprehensive treatment plan that can manage symptoms of withdrawal, recommend therapy, and help with social relationships that are impacted by alcohol addiction. 

Alcohol counselors can also recommend inpatient, outpatient, or sober living homes. Some alcohol counselors also run support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.), which are group counseling sessions that give alcoholics a platform to speak about their relationship with alcohol and addiction. For these reasons, alcohol counseling is one of the most flexible types of alcohol treatment.

That said, it’s important to note that alcohol counseling and alcohol therapy are not the same things. While some counselors can provide alcoholics with therapy, licensed therapists provide a different type of treatment that’s more specialized. For example, a therapist for alcoholism might specialize in Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or Dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT).

Additionally, alcohol counselors can be found at inpatient rehab centers to provide group and family counseling sessions. These are valuable sessions that give patients a platform to speak about their addiction within groups. Group sessions can also help alcoholics find peers that can check-in and help with maintaining sobriety.

Counselors can also help families understand alcoholism and how it impacts relationships and people. This can be valuable if alcoholics live with family members or have a family. Getting a person’s family involved can sometimes be the difference between staying sober and relapsing.

Alcohol counseling may also be recommended for aftercare treatment, which is focused on preventing relapse. In fact, some inpatient programs include this type of treatment to reduce the chance of relapse. Alcohol counseling can last for a few weeks, months, or even years.

How Does Alcohol Counselling Work?

Alcohol counseling works by giving alcoholics a chance to speak about their addiction with a professional counselor. Giving alcoholics a chance to speak about their addiction without judgment makes it easier for counselors to recommend effective programs for them. Alcohol counselors can help one-on-one, in groups, or with family members.

While alcohol counselors use similar methods to treat people with alcohol abuse disorder (AUD), counseling programs are unique because everyone has different needs. Therefore, no two experiences with an alcohol counselor are the same. Because of the unique treatment, alcohol counseling is flexible, diverse, and adaptable.

Typically, people meet with an alcohol counselor weekly. Sessions can be one-on-one and or in groups and the length of treatment depends on the person. For the first few months of alcohol recovery counseling is recommended and people meet with their counselors often. Addiction counselors can also help people cope with therapy and other treatment methods like alcohol detox.

Alcohol counselors can also help people in other ways. A counselor can help people with co-occurring disorders and recommend changes to treatment plans if there are no results. Alcoholics also have a better chance of staying sober if they meet with a counselor for a few months after outpatient or inpatient treatment comes to an end. People may also choose to work with counselors for the rest of their lives or as often as needed.

Another core component of alcohol counseling is encouragement. Counselors can encourage people with alcohol abuse disorder (AUD) to stick to the plan. When people begin to falter, alcohol counselors can prevent relapse and provide reassurance.

What are the Types of Alcohol Counseling?

The three main types of alcohol counseling are one-on-one counseling, group counseling, and family counseling. Each of these types of counseling can use methods like behavioral therapy, biofeedback, and holistic therapy. Depending on the needs of a patient, counseling can include one or all of these treatment modalities.

Behavioral therapy is a type of treatment that gives patients the tools to cope with addiction. These tools can be mantras to live by that prevent relapse and coping mechanisms. An example of behavioral therapy is Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT uses a strategy that teaches people to change their patterns of thinking. An example of this would be teaching a patient to recognize distorted thinking patterns that cause them to abuse substances like alcohol.

Biofeedback is a mind and body therapy. It can help people by using sensors to measure bodily functions. These sensors are painless and can show practitioners what’s going on with the mind and body. An example of this is biofeedback during alcohol withdrawal. Practitioners can measure a person’s heart rate, blood pressure, and other bodily functions to see how they’re doing during the withdrawal process. According to Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute (MHNI), biofeedback can treat headaches (a symptom of alcohol withdrawal) as effectively as some medications. Some studies suggest that it has a success rate between 40 and 70 percent.

Holistic therapy is different from biofeedback and behavioral therapy. Therapy that uses holistic treatment can include things like yoga, exercise, and nutrition to help with addiction. The goal of holistic therapy is to treat alcoholism and other conditions comprehensively. A great benefit of holistic therapy is that healthy lifestyle changes can reverse the damage caused by alcoholism. For example, fatty liver disease can be treated with a healthy diet and exercise.

While there are additional counseling methods for alcoholism, these are the most common. These methods can also be integrated into outpatient or inpatient therapy. That said, treatment modalities like biofeedback and holistic therapy are more common in residential rehabilitation centers.

How Much Does it Cost To See a Counselor?

Alcohol counselors cost between $100 and $200 per session. The cost of an alcohol counselor is based on how many hours you see them and the average session is about an hour. So, over many weeks or months, alcohol counseling can cost a few thousand dollars. The cost of alcohol counseling can also be factored into some inpatient alcoholism programs. In these cases, alcohol counseling can cost thousands of dollars per month.

While some alcohol counselors charge per hour, there are some free alcohol counseling options. Free alcohol counseling is typically conducted through groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.), which is a support group for recovering alcoholics. These sessions are free but not as in-depth as professional counseling.

What are the Benefits of Alcohol Counseling?

Alcohol counseling has many benefits that can help with alcohol addiction. The primary benefit of alcohol counseling is that it can help people remain sober and avoid relapse. 

Still, alcohol counseling has other benefits that go beyond alcohol addiction. One example is that alcohol counseling can uncover co-occurring disorders that lead to alcohol abuse and substance abuse. When co-occurring disorders are found and resolved, the chances of relapse are reduced.

Alcohol counseling also has benefits that help families. Alcoholics can impact their entire families and children. When alcohol counselors get the whole family involved it can reduce the impact of the harm caused by alcoholism on the family. Furthermore, alcohol counseling can give family members the tools to help recovering alcoholics remain sober.

When alcohol counseling is done in groups there are also several benefits. Alcoholics who participate in group counseling sessions can develop bonds with their peers. When people form bonds with other recovering alcoholics it’s beneficial because they can check in with each other and prevent relapse. After all, going through addiction recovery is easier when you’re not alone. Having people understand what you’re going through is also beneficial.

What is the Best Way to Find a Counselor?

Recovering alcoholics need to trust their counselors to create the bond that’s needed for recovery. Therefore, it’s essential to find alcohol counselors that you trust. While most alcohol counselors are great, finding one that you can work with is easier said than done. You need to vet potential counselors and ask as many questions as possible.

When choosing a counselor for addiction treatment it’s also important to look into their credentials. Take a look at the requirements and guidelines that your state provides for alcohol counseling. Then, make sure the counselor you’re going to work with has the proper licensing and meets those requirements. Every state is different, so it’s important to look into specific licenses and requirements for your state.

Another factor to consider is insurance. Alcohol counseling can be expensive, so make sure the counselor you’re going to work with accepts your insurance. If you can’t afford to pay for alcohol counseling without insurance, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Keep in mind that not all alcohol counselors accept insurance. This is one of the first things you should consider before moving forward with an alcohol counselor.

Lastly, consider the types of counseling programs they have and listen to your intuition. If you have a bad feeling about the treatment a counselor offers you should look elsewhere. The same rule applies to their personality. Ultimately, make sure you work with a counselor that you like, trust, and respect. Otherwise, an alcohol counselor can be ineffective for alcoholism treatment.

How Long Should I Keep Going to Counseling Sessions?

You should continue to go to counseling sessions until your alcohol counselor comes up with an end date. In most cases, alcohol counseling lasts for between a few months and one year. Some alcohol counselors also recommend lifelong alcohol counseling through support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. Therefore, alcohol counseling can last for a few weeks or the rest of your life.

When it comes to alcohol counseling you should attend counseling for as long as you feel you need it. Then, add a few months of counseling to ensure that you won’t relapse. We also recommend attending support groups like A.A. to avoid relapse. Staying sober is a lifelong commitment, so having peers that support you can go a long way.