Types of Therapy for Alcoholism

Alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorders can range from mild to severe, all characterised by the hindered ability to stop drinking alcohol, or limit your intake.

People who are addicted to alcohol usually find themselves looking for excuses to drink, such as social events or ‘hard days in the office’.

If you find yourself thinking about alcohol more than usual, and using it to cope with aspects of your life, you may be addicted to or dependent on alcohol.

There are a huge number of successful types of therapy for alcoholism, which are wide ranging to suit different people’s needs.

What is Alcoholism?

A man turning away

Alcoholism is defined as the most severe form of alcohol abuse, where you lack the ability to manage your drinking habits and behaviour.

This is also known as an alcohol use disorder, or AUD, characterised by your constant addiction to the consumption of alcohol.

Heavy drinking is often seen as a socially acceptable hobby, specifically at university or during high-intensity jobs.

However, individuals who suffer from alcoholism tend to experience both physical and mental challenges, where the disease impacts their personal life too.

You are likely to feel as though you cannot function ‘normally’ without regular alcohol, and participate in ‘heavy drinking’ during non-social settings.

The effects of alcohol are vast in nature, often leading to extreme anxiety, depression, and stress.

At Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we offer free advice from a team of non-judgemental professionals, many of whom are in recovery and understand how hard can be to change your relationship with addiction.

For more information about types of therapy for alcoholism, simply reach out to our 24/7, confidential hotline on 0800 111 4108.

Am I an Alcoholic?

An older man looking at a laptop

There are many reasons why you might start drinking more, or develop a dependency on alcohol:

  • High levels of stress
  • Relaxation
  • Coping with loss or grieving
  • To aid anxiety levels
  • Embarrassment or shame
  • Trauma 
  • Mental health conditions

Sometimes the warning signs of alcohol addiction are obvious, but sometimes they aren’t and therefore take longer to become recognisable.

The following are the most common signs of alcoholism or alcohol abuse:

  • You are unable to control your consumption of alcohol, especially on days when you have important responsibilities
  • You suffer from alcohol cravings the majority of the time
  • You start to place alcohol above regular responsibilities
  • You feel the need to continue drinking, even when you have had enough
  • You spend a lot of money on alcohol, and tend to lie about how much you spend or drink
  • You behave in a non-social manner when you have been drinking

One way to figure out if you are suffering from alcohol abuse is the CAGE questionnaire[1].

This is a set of 4 questions, all scored on a YES (1) or NO (0) basis; a score of 2 or over means you are exhibiting behaviours associated with alcohol addiction:

  1. Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
  2. Have people annoyed you by criticising your drinking?
  3. Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
  4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (eye-opener)?

If you have scored 2 or more, it might be time to consider the different therapy options available to you or your loved one who is struggling with alcohol addiction.

There is treatment available for alcohol dependency and addiction, offering medical care and alcohol counselling.

Not only do health care professionals help people with substance use disorders, but they recraft family relationships, building strong family bonds.

This is done through an ongoing process of varying types of therapy for alcoholism, curving alcohol behaviour, alcohol intake, and alcohol misuse.

The first step in the right direction is acknowledging your relationship with alcohol, and being ready to change your alcoholic behaviour and alcohol dependency.

Get in touch with us today to discuss the following therapy options for alcohol abuse, or other forms of addiction.

What Types of Therapy for Alcoholism are Available?

Women talking 1-1

If you catch your addiction early and seek help when you can, the chance of successful recovery increases significantly.

Therapy for alcoholism is offered through both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programmes for addiction.

This will offer a variety of different options, all tailored toward the needs of your addiction.

Outpatient treatment for alcoholism involves living at home, but attending an outpatient centre for therapy, counselling, and medication monitoring.

Inpatient treatment involves moving into a residential facility, where you receive 24-hour care from trained professionals.

Both types of treatment have benefits and drawbacks, entirely dependent on the nature of your addiction.

Inpatient treatment means you can dedicate more time to your therapy sessions, with highly trained professionals on call all the time.

Outpatient treatment, however, is more flexible and you can fit this into your daily routine.

If you have a mild addiction to alcohol, outpatient may be a good starting point, whereas inpatient treatment is more suited to severe addiction.

If you are unsure, get in contact with us. Tell us your story, and we can help.

At Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we offer free advice from a team of non-judgemental professionals, many of whom are in recovery and understand how hard can be to change your relationship with addiction.

For more information about types of therapy for alcoholism, simply reach out to our 24/7, confidential hotline on 0800 111 4108.

Types of Therapy for Alcoholism – Psychotherapy Counselling

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Psychotherapy is a personal form of counselling with a specialised therapist.

Psychotherapy’s goal is to help you understand your emotions, why you drink and the issues behind your drinking habits.

These types of therapy for alcoholism will motivate you to cut down.

Psychotherapy will then teach you healthy coping skills and mechanisms that are easy enough for you to start putting in place immediately.

This can range from self-observation, to patterns of thought. This has proven to be a successful treatment for alcoholism, discussing the root cause of drinking in excess.

Psychotherapy can also be used to treat co-occurring conditions, such as anxiety or schizophrenia.

It is common for those with mental health issues to self-medicate with alcohol, often making mental health issues worse without realising it.

Psychotherapy comes in different forms, from 1-to-1 counselling to group psychotherapy sessions.

The group sessions are very popular, where numerous patients are treated at the same time by a professional.

This offers many clients a feeling of mutual support and a sense of community, where they can share their experiences with each other.

Types of Therapy for Alcoholism – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, known commonly as CBT, has been one of the most longstanding effective types of therapy for alcoholism.

The foundation of CBT is built on identifying negative thought patterns that directly link to behaviours.

You will be taught how to identify negative thoughts and replace them with positive thinking patterns in order to change the outcome of your actions. [2]

CBT is a largely scientific and behavioural approach, developed alongside the understanding of the nature of alcoholism.

Two types of CBT have been developed, individual treatment and group treatment, both focusing on relapse prevention, management, and motivational intervention.

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) is a form of CBT – another evidence-based talking therapy.

However, DBT is different in that it specifically targets emotions and distress.

DBT therapy teaches you to not dwell on the past, and how to effectively practice communication whilst managing your overwhelming emotions.

This helps you embrace positive change instead of staying in the same negative cycle of emotions.

DBT will also help you to accept your past in order to create a healthier future, along with coping mechanisms to maintain sobriety.

DBT teaches 4 main modules to the patients:

  1. Core mindfulness
  2. Tolerance of distress
  3. Emotional regulation
  4. Interpersonal communication and effectiveness

Types of Therapy for Alcoholism – Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

A woman with her hands clasped and eyes shut

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, known as REBT is one of the types of therapy for alcoholism has its origins in the 1950s.

REBT is an approach that identifies your irrational beliefs and negative thought cycles that are directly linked to your behaviour.

This is a form of CBT, developed by renowned psychologist Albert Ellis.

When you start to develop irrational beliefs, this can result in negative behaviour and overwhelming emotions.

Our emotions and behaviours are directly connected. REBT helps you overcome your psychological issues and negative thoughts in order to reduce mental distress.

To fully understand the impact of addiction and behaviour on the user and those around them, it is critical to discuss the experiences and emotions that are caused by these beliefs.

The core concept of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy is the ABC model (acting event, belief, and consequence).

This model clearly explains how our interpretation of external events is the direct cause of our distress and unhappiness.

During REBT, therapists will apply the ABC model to you and your experiences, working with you to develop your emotional responses to trauma and conflict.

At Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we offer free advice from a team of non-judgemental professionals, many of whom are in recovery and understand how hard can be to change your relationship with addiction.

For more information about types of therapy for alcoholism, simply reach out to our 24/7, confidential hotline on 0800 111 4108.

Types of Therapy for Alcoholism – 12-Step Group Therapy

Two women talking

12-step programme for alcoholism is arguably one of the most popular types of therapy for alcoholism out of the group choices.

Supportive groups gather together to discuss stories, relapse, and coping mechanisms. This provides a feeling of safety, comfort, empathy, and support to its clients.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are the two most famous programmes for alcohol and drug abuse.

Both groups follow 12 steps to provide support to each member, helping you connect with one another to maintain sobriety.

Staying sober is far from easy, and it is not a straight path to an alcohol-free future, which is why the AA and NA are there to help you.

These are the 12 steps followed by AA, often incorporated into other therapy treatments: [3]

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The huge success of the programme has been attributed to the mutual support it provides.

Past and present alcoholics pass on stories, from the origins of their problems to their relapse techniques, all helping fellow drinkers.

If you are new to the AA or NA, you are not asked to follow the 12 steps if you do not feel ready or if you feel unable to do so.

All you are asked to do is keep an open mind when attending the meetings, and spend time reading AA literature to help understand the nature of alcohol addiction.

Types of Therapy for Alcoholism – Motivational Interviewing

Group Therapy

Also called MI, Motivational Interviewing is a therapy designed for behavioural change.

This is another evidence-based approach to alcoholism, with particular attention paid to the language of change and communication. [4]

Motivational Interviewing helps people change their behaviour towards alcohol by exploring avenues of motivation, reasons for change, and their attitude towards acceptance.

This type of therapy is specifically designed to empower you to want to transform yourself, drawing attention to the meaning of life and autonomy over decisions.

This is important because, with diseases such as alcoholism, you may have lost total control and handed over the power of decision-making.

You may be no longer able to say no to drinking or complete usual tasks.

You will not be confronted during motivational interview sessions – the clinician and patient are held as equals, where the professionals do not force you, warn you, or provide unsolicited advice to you.

Like the 12-step programmes, motivational interviewing is not a ‘quick fix’, but a long-term solution that provides techniques that require self-awareness. This is done through: [5]

Core skills:

  1. Open questions
  2. Affirmation
  3. Reflections
  4. Summarising
  5. Attention to language
  6. Exchanging information

Fundamental Processes:

  1. Engage
  2. Focus
  3. Evoking
  4. Planning

This is not an intervention, but a method of communication, often incorporated or combined with other methods of counselling and therapy.

Types of Therapy for Alcoholism – Holistic Therapy

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Holistic therapy is an ‘all inclusive’ treatment for the mind, spirit, emotions, and body.

This style of treatment for alcoholism doesn’t just focus on one symptom or problem, but on you as a whole person.

This is commonly known as CAM, complementary and alternative medicine, aimed at balancing the energy that exists within you as a person. [6]

Used for centuries, this kind of therapy is efficient at maintaining general wellbeing and health – key ingredients for overcoming alcohol addiction.

When addressing the whole body, mind, and soul, holistic therapy identifies underlying causes and how these can be addressed.

There are various types of holistic treatment, all as successful as one another.

The nature of your addiction determines which type of alcohol treatment works best for you, so consider all available options.

The most common types of holistic therapy are:

  • Art and adventure therapy
  • Reflexology and acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Equine therapy 

Holistic therapists work on the foundation that health is holistic – health is dependent on the alignment of the body, mind, soul, and emotions.

When energy is balanced, it is more likely that you will lead a sustainable and rewarding quality of life.

At Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we offer free advice from a team of non-judgemental professionals, many of whom are in recovery and understand how hard can be to change your relationship with addiction.

For more information about types of therapy for alcoholism, simply reach out to our 24/7, confidential hotline on 0800 111 4108.

Types of Therapy for Alcoholism – Contingency Management Therapy

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Contingency management focuses on positive behavioural change.

This approach is a behavioural therapy for addiction, where users are reinforced and rewarded for evidence of positive behaviour.

Behavioural modification reinforces anti-using and pro-social behaviour through incentives to promote abstinence from drugs and treatment adherence. [7]

Despite its success, contingency management is known by few psychiatrists, where mental health professionals tend to stick to the standard methods of behavioural reinforcement.

Contingency Management has been recommended by NICE (the national institute for health and care excellence), due to increased treatment engagement.

Some examples of the incentives of contingency management:

  • Low-value cash
  • Vouchers
  • Prize-draw
  • Clinical privileges

For example, some contingency management programmes offer supermarket vouchers to those who:

  • Maintain their treatment attendance
  • Complete drug-free urine tests
  • Score highly on their motivational analysis

This therapeutic approach is based on behavioural analysis. This is used in everyday life, often unnoticed.

If a parent gave their child a sweet every time they cleaned up their toys, they would start to clean up their mess more often.

This is seen in all aspects of life, such as employment and dog training. This principle of reinforcement is then applied to addiction and substance use disorders.

Urine samples are collected multiple times per week, and if drug use is detected then rewards are removed.

In the most effective and efficient contingency management therapy sessions, the rewards increase when users prove a sustained period of abstinence. [8]

Types of Therapy for Alcoholism – Medications & MAT

A stethescope. plasters and pills

Medication-assisted treatment, called MAT, is a combination of medication and behavioural therapy. [9]

SAMHSA state that MAT and medication lead to healthier and sustainable outcomes for patients with alcohol use disorders.

Behavioural therapies and group counselling sessions are key components of MAT. In behavioural sessions, patients learn the underlying causes of their addiction, addressing the discomfort and harsh realities of alcoholism.

The primary medications used in MAT for alcoholism are acamprosate, disulfiram and naltrexone.

Disulfiram is administered to those in very early stages of recovery. It is designed for those who have completed their alcohol detoxification, administered once a day as a tablet.

This produces unpleasant effects if the patient consumes even the smallest amount of alcohol, acting as a deterrent.

The effects start 10 minutes after ingesting alcohol and can go on for over an hour.  The side effects are usually:

  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing

Acamprosate is suitable for patients who have been through the initial stages of detoxification and withdrawals, administered on the 5th day of abstinence.

Acamprosate will be in full effect from day 5-8 after the first dosage. This is a tablet that you take 3 times a day, reducing cravings for alcohol.

Naltrexone helps patients disassociate alcohol from pleasure, blocking its euphoric effects.

This usually means that if the patient does try and drink again, the reasons for drinking (emotions, euphoria, pleasure), are all gone, meaning that drinking becomes futile.

This is administered in tablets or as an injection, most effective when used with CBT.

Dual Diagnosis and Co-Occurring Disorder

A man turning away

Some patients that present themselves for treatment appear to be suffering from two illnesses: addiction and a psychiatric disorder.

This is known as co-occurring disorders, where the two are inherently linked. [10]

Those that struggle with mental illness tend to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol as a way of soothing their disordered thinking, used as an escape.

Long term, this does the exact opposite of what the user desires it to, making their mental health deteriorate.

For example, many people with severe anxiety tend to find they drink more than others for its sedative effect.

Alcohol induces both anxiety and depression, and will only produce larger psychological issues in the future.

Those that start using drugs and alcohol don’t usually recognise the mental illness straight away, it is usually built up over time.

Individuals with a dual diagnosis such as anxiety and alcoholism require an integrated style of treatment, addressing both disorders and their interconnected issues.

For example, CBT is a common therapy that can be used for both addiction and mental health.

The most common mental health disorders that are linked to substance abuse tend to be:

  • ADHD: people with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder feel inclined to use drugs and alcohol as a way of coping with their symptoms.
  • Bipolar disorder: Around 50% of those with bipolar disorder struggle with addiction, using substances as a temporary source of relief from symptoms.
  • Depression: this is arguably the most common mental health disorder associated with alcoholism, as alcohol is a depressant it adds to an already depressive condition.
  • Anxiety disorder: along with depression, many people that drink tend to feel ‘hangxiety’ the next day as a result of drinking, or self-medicate their nervous energy and soothe their emotions.

At Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we offer free advice from a team of non-judgemental professionals, many of whom are in recovery and understand how hard can be to change your relationship with addiction.

For more information about types of therapy for alcoholism, simply reach out to our 24/7, confidential hotline on 0800 111 4108.

Relapse Prevention

Person sitting down with a coffee and notepad

Staying sober after treatment is a foundational part of treatment. This will prepare you to go home and battle your conditions following your time at rehab.

If you attend inpatient rehabilitation, there is a physical barrier that prevents you from drinking, but once you return home, this barrier is gone.

This puts you at risk of drinking again, but these programmes will make sure you are ready and equipped to face these challenges alone.

Returning home may be daunting, but this is a step in the right direction.

You will have the cognitive skills and abilities to put the methods you have learnt into practice, recognising and coping with temptations when they arrive.

You will be inevitably exposed to places, people, and situations that will trigger you to drink, but rehab will teach you how to use your coping mechanisms and test them out.

The most common addiction triggers are:

  • Certain streets and areas you used to drink or buy alcohol from
  • Certain people you used to drink with or around
  • Attending events where alcohol is readily available or free to drink
  • Certain emotions that remind you of traumatic events or periods in your life

Here are some basic coping mechanisms, which will be developed by your treatment clinic into complete strategies to help you avoid relapse:

  • Remove any alcohol or alcohol reminders from your house
  • Surround yourself with supportive friends and family, those who understand the journey you have been on
  • Replace bad habits with healthier and sustainable alternatives
  • Attend aftercare sessions at the rehab clinic
  • Avoid pubs, bars, and nightclubs until you feel as though you can resist
  • Write down your recovery goals, make them visible, and journal your emotions

The best way to avoid relapse is to attend self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery.

These self-help groups offer an abundance of support, with beneficial sharing of stories and relapses.

This can provide patients with a sense of motivation and empowerment.

Constant feedback and conversation with other members of the group can help attendees face their problems faster than they would have on their own.

This approach is tailored – there are many different support groups. You just have to find one that suits you.

Finding a therapy for alcoholism can begin today, where we can assist you or a loved one with our range of services available.

This not only covers alcohol, but substances and mental health conditions, where you will be offered therapy and treatment available in both inpatient and outpatient centres.

Contact our helpline today for more information on therapy for alcoholism.

At Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we offer free advice from a team of non-judgemental professionals, many of whom are in recovery and understand how hard can be to change your relationship with addiction.

For more information about types of therapy for alcoholism, simply reach out to our 24/7, confidential hotline on 0800 111 4108.

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Types of Therapy for Alcoholism – References

[1] https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/johns_hopkins_healthcare/downloads/all_plans/CAGE%20Substance%20Screening%20Tool.pdf

[2] McHugh RK, Hearon BA, Otto MW. Cognitive behavioral therapy for substance use disorders. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2010 Sep;33(3):511-25. doi: 10.1016/j.psc.2010.04.012. PMID: 20599130; PMCID: PMC2897895.

[3] https://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/about-aa/the-12-steps-of-aa

[4] https://motivationalinterviewing.org/understanding-motivational-interviewing

[5] Miller, W. R.  & Rollnick, S. (2013) Motivational Interviewing: Helping people to change (3rd Edition). Guilford Press.

[6] https://www.therapy-directory.org.uk/content/what-is-holistic-therapy.html

[7] Petry NM. Contingency management: what it is and why psychiatrists should want to use it. Psychiatrist. 2011 May;35(5):161-163. doi: 10.1192/pb.bp.110.031831. PMID: 22558006; PMCID: PMC3083448.

[8] Higgins ST, Budney AJ, Bickel WK, Foerg FE, Donham R, Badger GJ. Incentives improve outcome in outpatient behavioral treatment of cocaine dependence. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1994; 51: 568-76.

[9] https://www.fda.gov/drugs/information-drug-class/information-about-medication-assisted-treatment-mat#:~:text=Medication%2Dassisted%20treatment%20(MAT)%20is%20the%20use%20of%20medications,some%20people%20to%20sustain%20recovery.

[10] Patricia Rose Attia MSW, CAC (1989) Dual Diagnosis, Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 5:3-4, 53-63, DOI: 10.1300/J020V05N03_05