Psychosocial Treatments for Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.)
A.A. is a nonprofessional, self-supporting international fellowship program, which offers group support to men and women who’ve had a drinking problem. It is the most-frequently used resource by people striving to get sober. A.A. meetings provide members with acceptance, understanding, forgiveness, confrontation, and a means for positive identification.
New A.A. members are asked to admit to a problem, give up a sense of personal control over the disease, do a personal assessment, make amends, and help others. Telephone numbers are exchanged, and new members pick “sponsors” (more experienced members who guide them through their recovery).
Although A.A. doesn’t appeal to everyone with a drinking problem, it’s been extremely successful with many. This might be due to some of the components of the “12 step” program, such as acknowledging your addiction, making amends, using prayer, and cultivating a spiritual connection.
General Tips & Considerations
These are general tips and considerations to keep in mind when treating and recovering from alcohol use disorder:
- There is no “right” treatment method that works for everyone. Every intervention has strengths and limitations. The best treatment for you will depend on individual factors and patterns, such as triggers for drinking. For example, ABCT may be ideal if conflict in your marriage was a significant reason you turned to alcohol.
- Substance use disorders are among the most difficult to treat. Which is why it’s important to try a variety of strategies and alternatives when a given treatment doesn’t work.
- Become your greatest advocate in your recovery. Treatments are most successful when they instill a sense of personal responsibility, capability, and motivation.
- Take advantage of social support to bolster your success of abstinence. Communicate openly and frequently to those who give you encouragement. Another way to leverage social support is by developing new connections, such as through A.A. or in other support groups among fellow individuals recovering from alcohol use disorders. Al-Anon is organized similarly to A.A., and is for loved ones of individuals struggling with alcohol. Alateen is for younger family members and friends. You also can find online communities with individuals and advocates living fulfilling, sober lives (e.g., on social media sites such as Instagram).
- Read blogs and books on sober living, and listen to related podcasts. You can learn so much from individuals who’ve been there, and are thriving today.
- Learn how to set firm boundaries, including ways to say no when someone offers you a drink (or tries to pressure you into drinking).
- Engage in physical activities. Because exercise is a potent stress reducer and mood booster, incorporating it into your days can be tremendously helpful. The key is to pick activities that are enjoyable. So, if the idea of going to the gym sounds awful to you, try taking a dance class, joining a running group, or walking outside.
- Focus on your values, goals, and dreams outside of alcohol. What is most important to you? What do you enjoy doing? How would you like to care for yourself mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually? This might include practicing yoga, reading fiction, volunteering, writing, and exploring other hobbies and healthy habits. While quitting drinking can be incredibly difficult, doing so isn’t a punishment or a loss. It doesn’t doom you to some boring, dull, empty existence. It’s the exact opposite. It is an opportunity to fill your life with the things that truly nourish, support, and inspire you. It is an opportunity to live a meaningful, satisfying life.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Najavits, L, Piotrowski, N., Hampton, A., Worley, M. Alcohol: Psychosocial treatments. Society of Clinical Psychology, Division 12 American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.div12.org/diagnosis/alcohol/.
Ray L.A, Bujarski, S., Grodin E., Hartwell E., Green R., Venegas A., Lim A.C., Gillis A., Miotto K. (2018). State-of-the-art behavioral and pharmacological treatments for alcohol use disorder. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 1-17.
Medina, J. (2020). Psychosocial Treatments for Alcohol Use Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 3, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/addictions/alcohol-use-disorder-psychosocial-treatments/