In the U.S., excessive drinking leads to 88,000 deaths every year. If you or a loved one is struggling with an alcohol addiction, it’s vital to reach out for help as soon as possible. There are several options available, so it’s not hard to find alcoholism treatment. Before you choose one, read this guide to alcohol treatment. Then you can move forward knowing you’re doing what’s right for you.

Start by Seeing Your Doctor

If you think you have a problem with alcohol, visit your doctor. They’ll listen to your symptoms and situation to help you figure out whether you need medical detox and then whether inpatient or outpatient rehab is best for you.

Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Rehab: How Severe Is the Situation?

Alcohol treatment programs come in two broad categories:

  1. Inpatient treatment
  2. Outpatient treatment

Some treatment facilities offer one or the other. Others have both. But which type is most appropriate?

The main difference between them is that inpatient programs offer more intensive treatment. In an inpatient program, you’ll live at the rehab center 24/7. This can be an advantage because it takes you out of a daily routine that revolves around alcohol. Inpatient programs provide a ‘round-the-clock’ sober and supportive environment.

Outpatient programs are often good for people with mild to moderate alcohol problems. They’re completed on a less demanding schedule, and they don’t involve living-in at the rehab center. Many do involve daily sessions of several hours. An outpatient program could be right for you if you want to focus on treatment and continue to meet your daily responsibilities.

Whether you need inpatient or outpatient treatment, it’s a good idea to choose a treatment center that offers both levels of care. You can complete inpatient care and transition to an outpatient program at the same treatment facility.

Inpatient Quick Facts

  • Intensive treatment program suitable for anyone who struggles with alcoholism and wants to quit drinking
  • Helps you establish your sobriety in a 100% alcohol-free environment
  • 24/7 residential rehab means your job and home life may be affected for the duration of the program.
  • More comfortable and safe detox option with medical support

Outpatient Quick Facts

  • A less intensive treatment program ideal for people with mild to moderate alcohol use disorder, but not always suitable for long-term alcoholics or heavy drinkers
  • You live at home but attend outpatient sessions at the rehab center.
  • Different addiction facilities offer different session lengths and scheduling.
  • You receive treatment while meeting your day-to-day obligations – The downside is that the temptation of alcohol is still around you while you’re learning how to be sober.

Detoxification Services: Helping You Sober Up Safely

Detoxification, or detox, is the process of “getting clean.” This means you stop drinking and rid your body of alcohol’s immediate effects. It’s more than just sobering up. When you’ve been abusing alcohol for a long time, your brain adapts to the constant influx of the drug. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and even life-threatening. For long-term alcohol abusers, it’s important that it’s done under medical supervision.

Most inpatient treatment programs offer support for people who are detoxing. Some outpatient programs also offer detox programs beforehand, for those who need them. Whether you choose inpatient or outpatient care, make sure the program provides support for the kind of detox you need. This is especially important if you’re a heavy drinker or have been abusing alcohol for a long time.

Detox Quick Facts

  • Completed before starting an inpatient or outpatient treatment program
  • Helps you get sober safely, under medical supervision if needed
  • Most important for people who have been drinking heavily or for a long time

Approaches to Treatment: Traditional, Complementary, or Both?

When you’re looking at alcohol treatment options, it’s also important to consider what specific types of treatment each program uses. Most rehab centers offer:

  • Traditional substance abuse treatments or
  • Complementary or alternative treatments or
  • A mixture of both

Traditional treatment is the backbone of most alcoholism treatment programs. This includes 12-step programs and psychotherapy methods, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. These are used at treatment facilities across the country. They’re considered conventional addiction and alcoholism treatments.

Alternative and complementary therapies include a wider range of treatment options. Some common therapies include:

  • Art therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Yoga

These are options many people struggling with addiction find to be helpful, but they’re less widely used.

When you’re thinking about how to choose rehab for alcoholism, make sure the treatments match your personality and preferences. For the best chance at long-term sobriety, your treatment program should include evidence-based approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Complementary and alternative options are valuable additions to these kinds of programs. Many rehab centers offer a combination of both approaches.

Traditional Treatment Quick Facts

  • Evidence-based therapies that are proven effective, such as 12-step and psychotherapy
  • Forms the backbone of most rehab center programs
  • Gives you the framework to build a new and sober life
  • Not everyone finds 12-step programs helpful – If you know the 12-step way isn’t for you, this can limit your choices when looking for a rehab program for alcoholism.

Complementary Treatment Quick Facts

  • Not effective as sole or main treatments for alcohol addiction
  • Most helpful when used as additions to a 12-step program and/or psychotherapy
  • Therapy options, such as yoga and meditation, help you deal with stress and are valuable tools for helping you stay sober.
  • Not all complementary therapies are suitable for everyone – Many programs offer multiple types and let you choose which one(s) you want to pursue.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

Many people with an alcohol addiction have other problems they need to address during recovery. When this is a mental health problem such as depression, anxiety disorder or bipolar disorder, you have co-occurring disorders or a dual diagnosis.

For some alcoholics, a mental health problem is a pre-existing condition that led them to alcohol as a coping mechanism. In these cases, people try to self-medicate their mental health problems by using alcohol.

For others, alcoholism leads to depression or anxiety. This is common because long-term alcohol abuse causes chemical changes in your brain that can increase your risk of mental health problems.

A thorough assessment is vital when you get treatment for alcoholism so you can identify any co-occurring disorders. This ensures you get the right treatment for the problems you’re facing. It’s important to be treated for both disorders at the same time. If you only treat your alcoholism, the untreated depression or anxiety may lead you back to drinking in the future.

Choose Your Alcohol Rehab Program Carefully for the Best Chance of Success

There are decisions to make when entering rehab. If you think about your needs and preferences, ensure you have medical support for detox, and choose a program with evidence-based methods, you’re on the right track. Once you’ve picked a rehab program, it’s time to focus on staying sober and changing your life for the better.

Krisi Herron

Medically Reviewed by

Krisi Herron, LCDC

Choose a better life. Choose recovery.