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What Can Alcoholism Support Services Do to Help?

Lisa Taylor
Lisa TaylorAddiction Counsellor

Most individuals and organisations within the alcohol recovery community treat alcoholism as a medical condition. There is some debate over whether or not this approach is appropriate, given the fact that alcoholism affects the mind and emotions as much as it does the body. Still, any disagreement is of no consequence as long as treatment programmes address the whole person – in body, mind, and spirit.

Alcoholism support after physical detox is an important component here. Support services address the mental and emotional aspects of addiction and, where appropriate, the spiritual as well. Without the additional help provided by support services, detox alone is not likely to help people with the most severe alcohol problems.

Alcoholism support takes on many different forms. It can include any or all of the following:

  • One-on-one counselling
  • Group counselling
  • Support group fellowship
  • Emergency intervention
  • Life skills training
  • Employment and integration assistance
  • Family counselling and assistance.

We will discuss each of these forms of support in detail. As you read the information below, write down any questions you might have about alcoholism support. We can answer those questions when you call our 24-hour helpline. If you need professional treatment for a drinking problem, we can also connect you with a private clinic or another service provider in your local area.

One-On-One Counselling

A hallmark of rehabilitative therapy for alcoholics is the tried and trusted option of one-on-one counselling. This kind of counselling forces a client to look at his or her drinking problem and its root causes, without the distraction of other people or circumstances. Perhaps the most popular and effective form of one-on-one counselling is known as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

CBT is a goal-oriented, closed-ended counselling approach that provides a tangible way to measure success. It can usually be completed in 12 to 15 sessions, as the client progresses from one goal to the next. It is a counselling approach that attempts to get to the root causes of individual addiction.

Other one-on-one counselling strategies also work well in individual cases. Some are based on positive reinforcement, others on recognising the triggers of alcoholism, and still others that depend on visualisation and other forms of positive, self-empowering thought.

Group Counselling and Support

We can address group counselling and support group fellowship together because they often go hand-in-hand. Group counselling in a residential rehab programme involves all of the clients currently at the facility gathering together on a regular basis with a variety of therapists. These sessions are geared toward teaching clients what causes addictive behaviour, how to recognise those causes, and how to deal with future temptations. Mutual support among participants is a by-product of this counselling.

When a recovering alcoholic leaves residential rehab, one of the first steps toward preventing relapse is to find and begin participating in a support group. These groups offer the same kind of group counselling as well as additional support by way of fellowship meetings, shared activities, and mutual accountability among group members.

Emergency Intervention

Recovering alcoholics typically face the most severe temptations to relapse within the first year of completing a rehab programme. Those who make it through the first year are less likely to ever relapse while those who do relapse within the first year are more likely to go on to have more serious alcohol problems. It should be obvious that preventing relapse is paramount for the recovering alcoholic.

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Many alcoholism support services include emergency interventions. What does this mean? It means that a person in recovery is given a way to contact a counsellor or therapist in the event the temptation to drink again becomes overwhelming. The person needs to make a phone call or meet a counsellor in person. This sort of immediate intervention can be critical to stopping an individual from taking another drink.

Life Skills Training

Progressing along the path from problem drinking to alcoholism almost always involves a loss of essential life skills that would enable a person to avoid drinking. For example, consider the simple act of self-control. A casual drinker able to enjoy alcohol without exceeding the generally recommended levels of safe drinking possesses a certain amount of self-control that keeps his or her drinking in check. Those who develop drinking problems gradually lose whatever amount of self-control they previously possessed.

Life skills training teaches recovering alcoholics effective strategies for dealing with future temptations to drink. Among those strategies are those designed to help a person regain lost self-control. Clients are also taught how to avoid temptation, how to avoid being a temptation to others, and how to create new things in their lives that will take the place of alcohol consumption.

Employment and Integration Assistance

It can be extremely difficult for the recovering alcoholic to reintegrate into society after completing a residential rehab programme. Therefore, alcoholism support involves providing integration assistance. Through counselling, support, and practice, recovering alcoholics can learn how to retake their place in society without reverting to the kinds of behaviours that enabled them to drink in the past.

Along those same lines, it has been found that providing recovering alcoholics with meaningful employment goes a long way toward preventing relapse. Many of the private clinics we work with have relationships with employers willing to hire those who have completed recovery. There are also alcohol charities that have established places of business they use to fund their operations. Those businesses employ recovering alcoholics as a means of giving them new opportunities in life.

Family Counselling and Assistance

Lastly, effective alcoholism support includes support for the family. As we often say in the recovery community, alcoholism is a family problem in that it affects spouses and partners, children, siblings, and extended family members. Those family members need counselling and support of their own.

Counselling and assistance for family members can take many forms. For example, family members may need help coping with the difficulties of living with an alcoholic until that person makes a conscious decision to get help. While in treatment, the alcoholic's family members may undergo counselling to prepare them for the day when their loved one returns home. Finally, the entire family may go through counselling together to complete the reintegration process.

Providing alcoholism support without addressing the family is usually not a wise idea. Why? Because recovering alcoholics need solid support from their family members in order to avoid relapse. Those family members will not be able to provide that support unless they are, themselves, supported as well.

Support with Professional Treatment

There are plenty of charities and support groups offering alcoholics and their families the services listed above. But alcoholism support alone may not be enough in your case. The question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you have a drinking problem severe enough to require professional treatment. The answer is an unequivocal 'yes' if a doctor has already diagnosed you as an alcoholic.

If you are not sure, we invite you to contact our 24-hour helpline for a comprehensive assessment. The assessments we provide are based on the latest standards within the recovery community. Our counsellors use the well-known alcohol dependence scale and a list of professionally-developed questions to determine the seriousness of a client's alcohol problem. Should our assessment reveal that you are either an alcohol abuser or alcoholic, we recommend you get professional treatment.

We are an independent organisation offering free advice, assessments, and referrals to alcoholism support and treatment. We can help you by providing advice and information about alcohol rehab and support services in your local area.

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