Most people initially attempt giving up alcohol on their own. Unfortunately, many find it quite difficult to stop drinking. If that is the case for you, you might need alcohol counseling.
Working with a professional therapist or counselor can be quite useful. Some have specialized training in the area of “addictions” (often called addiction specialists). Others may be general practitioners who have experience and training in addictions. It is helpful to shop around and find someone you feel comfortable with before you commit to alcohol counseling.
How to Find the Right Alcohol Counselor
Contact your insurance company and request a list of counselors who are on their provider list. You might also ask friends and family members if they have any suggestions of people they have worked with in the past. If your employer has an EAP (Employee Assistance Program), you should be able to get a referral for a few free sessions. EAP services are confidential, so your counselor will not share any information with your employer. You might also look online at:
Here are some questions to ask when you are interviewing alcohol counselors:
- What specific training do you have in counseling people with drinking problems?
- How many problem drinkers do you counsel each year?
- Do you know about alcohol treatment besides the 12-step groups?
- What are your requirements for people with drinking problems (groups, homework, etc.)?
- Do you work with families of people with drinking problems?
- Do you work with the problem drinker and family members in family counseling?
- How often do you usually meet with people who are trying to stop drinking?
Other research needs to be done with regard to what providers your insurance company will cover, what services they cover (outpatient therapy, intensive outpatient groups, inpatient hospitalization, etc.) and what your out of pocket expenses will be before and after your deductible is met.
What to Expect in Alcohol Counseling
All counselors do things differently, but generally, your first session entails gathering background information, filling out forms and completing an assessment of your strengths and needs. The alcohol counselor will be:
- Determining how to best assist you
- Your level or readiness to make lasting changes
- Developing rapport as you get acquainted
Make sure you are honest with the counselor. Holding back information will not help you.
In the first or second session, you will be setting goals for your counseling. You will likely be working together to decide on short and long-term goals and the action steps to help you reach them.
Depending on your needs, there may be referrals to other medical or psychological service providers. For example, the alcohol counselor may want you to get a thorough physical if you haven’t had one recently. It is important that the counselor know if you are medically stable, and if not, exactly what physical issues need monitoring or treatment by other providers. Because the effects of alcohol use can cause serious health problems (liver, kidneys, etc.), having a doctor involved in your recovery is a wise choice.
By the third session, you should have a plan for how you are going to cope with the typical problems that arise when one tries to stop drinking. These include triggers: people, places or situations that might make it difficult to resist having a drink. If you typically stop at the pub on your way home from work to relax over a beer, your counselor will help you identify other ways to unwind at the end of the workday.
You may be keeping a diary of each day listing your cravings, the situations you were in when you had a drink or wanted a drink, your moods and other patterns. This is good information to discuss in counseling sessions as it helps identify triggers you may not think of initially.
There is no set time limit for counseling. Some people go for a few months and others for years. This is determined by your progress and level of need and your counselor will help you with this.
Why Work with an Alcohol Counselor?
Your alcohol counselor will be there for support, accountability, problem solving, learning new skills and working through difficult situations. The skill-building phase of counseling is ongoing, living a sober lifestyle requires many new skills. Your alcohol counselor will be your partner in recovery. In many cases, he or she will guide you in ways to repair any broken relationships or other damage that has occurred as a result of your drinking.
If you find your first attempt at alcohol counseling is unsuccessful, try again with a different counselor. Finding the right person to help you on your journey is critical – nobody wants to tell their private thoughts to a person they don’t connect with. You are paying for the service, so make sure you get what you need!
If you are interested in learning how to counsel people through their alcohol addiction, click here.
If you want to learn how to stop drinking, sign up for our Give up Alcohol Course today.