The most common form of counseling for alcohol addiction is having one-on-one sessions with a trained therapist. Goals of individual counseling can include identifying root causes of addiction, ‘triggers’ that set off strong cravings for alcohol, and other factors that contribute to alcohol abuse. The identification of causes and triggers is followed by the development of new, healthier coping strategies, improvement in decision-making skills, and creation of strategies for staying sober. Individual counseling can also be useful for people who have other mental health issues occurring alongside their addiction, such as depression, anxiety, trauma, or other psychological distress.

Counseling Methodology

One approach commonly used to treat addiction is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is generally short term and results-oriented, and based upon the premise that in order to change behavior, one must first change one’s thoughts. Therapy focuses upon the thoughts and feelings that trigger unwanted behaviors, and works to correct destructive or inaccurate patterns of self-talk.

Research by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has found that various approaches to psychological treatment have been equally effective for long-term recovery from alcoholism, that is, different approaches work for different people. There are varying types of individual or family counseling available. When interviewing a potential therapist, ask about the methods in which he or she is trained, and how those methods will be used to help your situation. The NIAAA states that “getting help in itself appears to be more important than the particular approach used, as long as it offers empathy, avoids heavy confrontation, strengthens motivation, and provides concrete ways to change drinking behavior.”

Individuals seeking a one-on-one relationship with their therapist, and/or those who seek to heal other mental health issues alongside their addiction.

Contact your primary care physician or insurance provider for a recommendation or referral for a therapist in your area.

Getting Started with Pharmaceutical Treatment or Counseling

Other resources for finding a therapist include:

American Psychological Association (APA)

American Counseling Association (ACA): Find A Counselor

National Association of Social Workers (NASW): 202-408-8600

Find A

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)Center for Mental Health Services: (click on Mental Health Services Locator)

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)


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