The more we learn about how alcohol addiction develops, including the genetic and socioeconomic factors that contribute to addiction, the more we see the emergence of diversified options for alcohol addiction treatment. Traditional methods for treating alcoholism, while successful on many levels, had a narrow focus on the disease and often failed to examine underlying issues or co-occurring mental disorders contributing to the addiction. Today, a wide range of methods may be applied and co-implemented in the creation of a comprehensive plan that works best for individual seeking treatment for alcoholism.
Traditional 12-Step Program
Beginning in the 1930s, Alcoholics Anonymous became the foundation for the traditional 12-step program. These models focus on the addiction’s hold on the person and its impact on others and ask the individual to evoke a sense of trust in a higher power for strength during recovery.
Someone adhering to a traditional 12-step program like AA asks an individual to assess the damage from alcohol abuse, and as part of working the steps, to correct past mistakes, when possible. Twelve-step programs rely heavily on a peer-support structure. This structure includes others in various stages of the program, as well as a sponsor, or someone who is sober and has successfully graduated from the program. This peer-support structure has a strong focus on equality and anonymity, making it easier for participants to share their experiences and receive as well as offer constructive feedback.
In many ways, this type of program is beneficial in that it mirrors back behaviors someone may be reluctant to acknowledge. When someone sees a behavior in someone else, it is easier to recognize it when they behave similarly. This feedback can be beneficial in correcting bad behaviors as well as promoting good behaviors.
While the traditional 12-step program evokes a belief in a higher power, cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on self-awareness to alter a person’s perception of their environment in the development of positive coping skills.
Research has demonstrated that a need for positive coping strategies is key in helping a person recover from alcohol addiction. It is also essential in the prevention of relapse. While it is difficult for someone to change their environment to ensure treatment success, it is possible to alter their perception of their environment. This is the basis for cognitive-behavioral therapy in addressing alcohol addiction.
By addressing the core beliefs a person has about their situation or surroundings, they can begin to examine ways to positively cope or manage their emotional responses, rather than turning to alcohol.
Helping the alcohol-addicted individual recognize those moments when they feel a need to use alcohol and teaching them to cope is an invaluable tool in managing the challenges inherent in addiction. Redirecting those feelings toward a more positive solution, can result in a life-long shift in perspective and an independence from addictive behaviors.
Trauma Recovery And Empowerment Model (TREM)
For years, women have had few options other than the traditional 12-step program to assist them in their recovery from alcohol addiction. Ultimately, though, the program had one flaw. It failed to recognize some of the damaging effects of sexual and physical abuse and how these traumas relate to abuse of alcohol, particularly on the part of women. The program was developed as an increasing number of treatment professionals began to notice a trend in histories of sexual and physical violence and alcohol abuse. More than 70% of women who abuse alcohol have been sexually abused. That number increases to more than 90% when physical abuse is co-factored. While men are more apt to be social drinkers who get into trouble with abuse of alcohol, women are more likely to drink to numb pain inflicted by these past traumas.
The Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model (TREM) was developed in the 1990s to address the needs of women. The program addresses issues of empowerment, trauma recovery, and behavioral modification or improved coping strategies.
In a TREM intervention, women learn how to cope with feelings relating to their abuse and how to set boundaries to safe-guard their physical and emotional well-being. Helping women assess the abuse and how the abuse continues to manifest, while exploring ways to address these issues, is one step toward building positive coping strategies. The program also teaches women how to develop a trusting relationship with someone free from violence and codependent behaviors, while improving communication.
Like the traditional 12-step program, TREM is based on peer-support and relies on graduating steps. A corresponding program designed for men called M-TREM applies similar strategies, in context with gender-specific issues for men who are survivors of sexual and physical abuse. The Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model is one major step forward in recognizing the diversity of needs between genders, as well as the significance of life events on addiction behavior.
Mutual Support Groups
Support groups can come in the form of established groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, or be gender or group-specific. Group support may come in the form of face to face meetings, or available online as a forum. The advantage to using mutual support groups is greater flexibility. Smaller face to face groups can meet at a time that is convenient for all and that coincides with the time of day in which cravings hit the hardest. Online support improves access to your support network around the clock, making it a great tool in maintaining sobriety.
Medications And Alternative Care
There are a few medications that may be used in conjunction with other therapies to combat alcoholism. The most well-known is disulfiram, or Antabuse, though others include naltrexone, and acamprosate. Some of these medications are designed to react with alcohol to make a person feel ill whenever they attempt to drink alcohol while taking the medication and others reduce cravings for the drug.
These drugs have proven effective over the years, the longer they are in use by an individual, and specifically, when taken at the same time each day or night when cravings are the least likely to emerge, to prevent relapse.
Alternatives to western medicine like acupuncture have also proven effective in curbing the intensity of cravings that come with the initial recovery process. While not effective as a sole means to address alcoholism, they offer a complimentary approach to traditional and individualized models.
Effective Alcohol Addiction Treatment Components
Regardless of the model someone uses to get free from an alcohol addiction, understanding the successful components of any program is one way to improve your chance for a positive treatment outcome. Effective alcohol addiction treatment includes early screening, comprehensive evidence-based programming, values complimentary therapies, and facilitates long-term support.
Essential components of a successful alcohol treatment program:
- Screening and early detection
- Individualized, evidence-based plan
- Comprehensive plan that involves family
- Complementary approaches
- Long-term care and support
Get Help For Your Alcohol Addiction
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If you’ve reached this page with the hope of reaching out, now is the time to connect with someone in confidence who can guide you through the process of getting started on the first leg of your recovery journey.
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