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What are the Types of Therapy for Alcoholism?


Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 6/05/2023

Alcoholism is a condition that requires many types of treatment. One of the most effective methods for treating alcoholism is therapy. While Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most common type of therapy for alcoholism cases, there are also alternative therapies and treatment modalities that medical professionals use. Moreover, serious cases of alcoholism can require a combination of medication and therapy to prevent relapse and severe symptoms of withdrawal.

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most common methods for alcoholism treatment. Out of therapy options for alcoholism, CBT has proven results and a high rate of success. In fact, patients begin to see improvement from alcohol addiction in about five therapy sessions. The purpose of CBT is to help patients identify negative thoughts and triggers. Once these triggers have been identified, therapists provide patients with tools to replace negative thoughts and triggers with positive thoughts and emotions.

CBT is also an action-based treatment plan for patients with alcoholism. With CBT, the purpose is to identify what draws someone to alcohol and provide tools to prevent patients from turning to the substance for relief. For this reason, CBT focuses on confronting a patient’s fears, negative emotions, and even harmful belief systems. CBT can also help with social interaction and prevent people from turning to alcohol because they’re surrounded by it. People with long-term alcohol dependence benefit the most from CBT because it focuses on changing habits.

CBT typically costs between $100 and $200 per session. The cost depends on where the sessions are held and how long each session lasts. In most cases, CBT sessions take place once per week and can last for weeks or months depending on the patient.

2. Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a counseling method that helps patients manage change and set goals. It’s less direct than psychotherapy but works well for patients who feel powerless against alcohol addiction. Counselors will interview patients in a one-on-one setting and encourage positive change. The goal of the counselor is to help patients understand that change is okay and to show patients that they’re in control of their minds and addiction.

While other types of therapy for alcoholism can take weeks or months, MI is a short-term treatment modality. Counselors spend (on average) four or five sessions with patients and work on a few key concepts to promote change. These concepts include working on rolling resistance, helping patients with empathy, developing self-efficacy, and developing discrepancy. Ultimately, the goal of MI is to help patients see the importance of change and to motivate them to change.

Motivational interviewing varies in price based on where sessions are held. Some workshops cost about $200 per person but some MI sessions are included in rehab programs. MI can also be included in CBT and DBT sessions, which cost between $100 and $200 per session.

3. Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is one of the most common types of therapy. While it can be used for alcoholism, it’s also effective for people who struggle with other issues in their life. The most common approach for psychotherapy is to have patients speak to a therapist and discuss their issues, experiences, trauma, and general thoughts. Because psychotherapy is based on communication and open-ended, it’s effective one-on-one and in groups. In some cases, psychotherapy can also be used for families, couples, and more.

When it comes to alcoholism psychotherapy is popular for a few reasons. First and foremost, it gives patients the ability to discuss their addiction and what they believe triggers it. Psychotherapy is also effective for severe cases of alcoholism because therapists can make a diagnosis and prescribe medication if it’s necessary for treatment. Patients can also participate in psychotherapy for weeks or months depending on the severity of the addiction. Psychotherapy sessions can consist of open-ended discussions but some therapists will use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy if a patient needs that approach.

The cost of psychotherapy varies based on the length of each session, where it’s held, and the duration of the treatment program. When it comes to alcoholism treatment, psychotherapy sessions are typically held once per week and cost between $100 and $200 for about 50 minutes. Some inpatient rehab centers provide psychotherapy and include it with the cost of admission.

4. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is another evidence-based treatment method for alcohol abuse disorder (AUD). Compared to CBT, DBT is more philosophical and focuses on the world around a patient. For this reason, DBT is great for patients who have turned to alcohol to cope with external factors like the past, future, or trauma. DBT is also a therapy that can be used in group sessions because it focuses on helping patients achieve emotional balance. In groups, learning balance helps because people can connect and bond over the addiction and factors that contribute to alcohol use.

DBT is also an innovative treatment and there is a reason that it’s dialectical. It was created to help patients accept positive change to live a better life. While DBT is used to help many types of people, research shows that it’s an effective treatment for alcohol addiction and other substance abuse disorders. For DBT, there are a few core principles that therapists employ. These include core mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is about $150 per session. That said, DBT is more affordable in groups because the cost is often shared between multiple people. DBT can also be included with residential rehab programs.

5. Art and Music Therapy

Art and music therapy is a unique method for treating alcoholism that’s used by several inpatient rehab centers. While it’s less focused than CBT and DBT, music and art are effective at generating creativity and reducing mental health disorders. Listening to comforting music can help patients manage anxiety, depression, and other co-occurring disorders that develop alongside alcoholism. In most cases, art and music therapy are used alongside more traditional therapy methods and rehabilitation techniques.

While art and music therapy is less direct than other treatments for alcoholism, it stimulates the brain and body with positive emotions. Listening to music is proven to boost mood and when people express themselves with art it helps with emotional understanding. Art and music therapy can also show people that life can be enjoyed without intoxicating substances like alcohol. Furthermore, art and music therapy can encourage people to pursue an addiction treatment and encourage patients to express their emotions in helpful ways. The cost of art and music therapy is based on the rehab program a patient enrolls in.

6. 12-Step Facilitation

One of the most popular treatment methods for alcoholism is the 12-Step Program. Unlike direct therapy, the 12-Step Program is designed for group settings and gives patients a place to express themselves without judgment. While Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the most popular version of the 12-Step Program, it’s not the only one. For example, principles from the 12-Step Program can be used for treating multiple substance abuse disorders like cocaine addiction, gambling, and even heroin.

The 12-Step Program is best-suited for people who need a support group to maintain long-term sobriety. Therefore, it’s typically a treatment modality that’s used after people are treated for alcoholism. In these cases, therapists and rehab centers will provide patients with guidance on joining local Alcoholics Anonymous groups. Another benefit to the 12-Step Program is accountability. People are paired with sponsors that provide support and a listening ear when sobriety becomes challenging. While people aren’t forced to participate in AA groups, many people who recover from alcoholism follow the 12-Step Program for the rest of their lives. Plus, Alcoholics Anonymous programs are typically free of charge, which makes it affordable for anyone who needs help with alcoholism and other substance abuse disorders.

7. Yoga and Meditation

Yoga and meditation are tools that people with alcoholism can use on their own, with a counselor, and in groups. Yoga incorporates mind and body exercises that help people connect with their muscles, mind, and breathing. While some rehab centers have yoga programs available, yoga can be done at public gyms, with trainers, and even at home. Yoga can also include meditation but that depends on the instructor and type of session. Yoga sessions vary in price depending on where sessions are held. At-home yoga classes are free and some gyms offer yoga classes as part of a membership. Gym memberships can cost between $10 and $50 per month (on average).

While similar to yoga, meditation focuses more on the mind than the body. Meditation can be guided by a professional but techniques can be mastered at home. For alcoholism treatment, guided meditation is recommended because it can target thoughts that induce alcohol cravings. The most common type of meditation involves controlled breathing that helps people channel their negative thoughts and emotions. While meditation can be done by anyone, it takes a few weeks or months to master. For alcoholism treatment, yoga and meditation are great companions to traditional treatment methods like therapy and medication.

8. Contingency Management

Contingency management (CM) is a well-rounded treatment for mental health disorders, substance abuse disorders, alcohol abuse disorder (AUD). CM is a type of therapy that’s based on the three-term contingency. Three-term contingency is similar to the principles found in CBT because it focuses on providing patients with the tools to channel their negative emotions on their own. That said, CM is different because it’s based on a reward system. When patients display signs of positive change, they’re reinforced for their good work and mental development.

For alcoholism treatment, CM has become popular and effective. Some examples of CM can be found in the 12-Step Program because the program provides patients with tokens as a reward for abstinence from alcohol. Still, CM has a few problems when it comes to treating addiction. Primarily, the effectiveness of CM decreases once rewards are taken away. To prevent this, CM is often combined with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and other types of Psychotherapy for long-term results. With CM results are often faster than other therapy methods but maintaining sobriety is more challenging because of the loss of rewards.

The cost of CM is affordable compared to psychotherapy. In some cases, sessions can cost as little as $50 for 50 minutes. That said, CM is often used alongside more expensive therapies like CBT. Using CM alongside other treatment modalities will increase the overall cost of treatment.

9. Family Behavior Therapy

Family Behavior Therapy (FBT) is an evidence-based treatment modality for alcoholism and other disorders. FBT focuses on family intervention to help people with mental health disorders and addiction. While FBT uses a combination of concepts found in psychotherapy, it’s focused on family connection and co-occurring disorders. For alcoholism, FBT is effective for adults and adolescents because it addresses family-based issues, depression, anxiety, and other co-occurring disorders.

For FBT to be considered FBT, it requires a primary patient and someone who is a significant other or family member. The objective is to help patients open up to family members about their issues and addictions. When patients open up to family, it gives families the ability to support patients at home. FBT is effective because the principles discussed in each session are reinforced by family members at home.

When it comes to the cost of FBT, it depends on several factors. These factors include how many family members are present during a session, how long the sessions are, and how severe the addiction is. For alcoholism treatment, FBT can be included at inpatient rehabilitation centers and it can be covered by insurance for outpatient programs. On average, FBT costs between $100 and $200 per session.

How Effective are Therapies for Quit Drinking?

Therapies are effective treatment methods for alcoholism. While it’s not the only treatment method for alcoholism, it has a success rate higher than 75% for helping people quit drinking. Furthermore, a therapy used alongside 12-Step Programs and medication is even more effective at helping people quit drinking. Therapy is also a cost-effective treatment option when used in both outpatient and inpatient settings. In fact, therapy has a fast recovery rate for alcoholism treatment. Some therapies like CBT can help patients recover in as little as one month.

Which Therapy is the Most Effective for the Treatment of Alcoholism?

The most effective therapy for treating alcoholism is typically Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is considered the best because it has a high success rate and has been researched over several decades. That said, CBT isn’t the most effective treatment for everyone who suffers from alcoholism. Depending on the patient, evidence-based therapy methods like Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) can be more effective.

When it comes to treating alcoholism more than one approach is often necessary. Therefore, a combination of CBT and meditation can be more effective than CBT or DBT on their own. Some people also benefit from art and music therapy, motivational interviewing, and Family Behavior Therapy (FBT). For people who have a history of alcoholism in their family, FBT is often the best type of therapy for treating alcoholism.

How Long Does It Take to Treat Alcoholism with Therapy?

Treating alcoholism with therapy depends on the type of therapy. Some types of therapy like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can treat alcohol addiction in about one month (5 weeks). There are also therapy methods that take longer to treat alcoholism. One example is Family Behavior Therapy (FBT), which can take a few months to treat alcoholism. Using alternative therapy methods like art and music therapy or yoga and meditation can also take months to provide results.

What are the Average Costs of Therapies for Alcoholism?

The average cost of therapy is based on several factors. These factors include the type of therapy, where sessions are located, and the length of each therapy session. On average, direct therapy sessions like CBT, psychotherapy, and DBT cost between $100 and $200 (on average). The cost of alcohol rehab can also be about $5,000 if a patient is recovering from alcoholism at a residential rehabilitation center.

While direct therapy and inpatient treatment are expensive, an alternative therapy is more affordable. Yoga and meditation can cost as little as $30 per session and art and music therapy can be done at home. While alternative therapies are more affordable, they’re typically less effective than traditional therapies like CBT.

Are There Free Therapy Options?

Yes, there are free therapy options. While psychotherapy sessions are typically not free, people with alcoholism can use free support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. There are also free online meditation tools and therapy resources for people to use if the cost of treatment is a factor. People can also use mobile applications and online communities for free alcoholism treatment.

Are Therapies FDA-Approved?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a government agency within the United States Department of Health and Human Services. As an agency, the FDA is responsible for the safety of food, medications for humans and animals, vaccines, and other biological products that humans use. The FDA also protects the United States’ food supply, regulates tobacco products, dietary supplements, radiation, and cosmetic products.

While therapy doesn’t need to be approved by the FDA, there are types of therapy that require FDA approval. Therapies that require FDA approval typically have medications or supplements involved. In fact, some types of CBT require FDA approval because the therapy uses psychoactive drugs and chemicals. The FDA is also responsible for approving alcoholism treatments that use medications for medically-assisted treatment (MAT).