For many people needing professional treatment for alcohol abuse or dependency, there are some common treatments employed by most facilities. Here we want to take a closer look at the basics of alcohol rehabilitation in an attempt to dispel any myths and encourage more people with alcohol issues to take the first step towards sobriety.

Alcohol Rehab Treatment Definition

Treatment for problem drinkers and alcoholics is usually delivered in personalized programs with the goal of helping addicted people to stop the compulsive behavior that drives alcohol seeking and use. Specialist treatment also addresses the underlying reasons for why people drink, getting to the root of the problem in order to effect change.

Rehabilitation takes place in a variety of environments and settings and takes several different forms. Every person experiences their own journey from alcohol abuse or dependence to sobriety and the treatment program that gets them there most effectively will be one that has been adapted to their individual case history.

There are three principal treatment protocols in alcohol rehabilitation:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT
  • Prescription medications
  • A combination of the two approaches

Rehabilitation Treatment Goals

Every patient in rehab will have their own specific treatment programs with respective long and short-term goals. In the majority of alcohol rehab facilities, programs aim towards achieving three generalized objectives:

Goal 1: To Reduce Abuse and Achieve Sobriety

The principal goal of treatment is to provide the life skills to navigate daily stressors without resorting to alcohol as a support mechanism. Before it is possible to embark on an alcohol rehab program, the individual has to completely accept their need to abstain from using. Through individual and group counseling, rehab is underpinned by education to enable patients to walk away from negative behaviors and the people and places that enable them.

Goal 2: Maximize Quality of Life

There are many reasons why people become dependent on alcohol and every individual has their own backstory. Sometimes mental illness, traumatic events, loss of a loved one or the breakdown of a relationship can trigger a negative response that seeks alcohol as a way of easing the associated pain. Alcohol rehab centers seek to determine the conditions prevalent in a patient’s life that drive their issues with alcohol and help them find the solutions.

Goal 3: Reduce the possibility of relapse

One of the most effective aspects of rehabilitation is that it has been shown to stop compulsive abuse and misuse of alcohol, making it less likely for patients to relapse when treatment has been completed. In general, the patients leaving rehab who abstain from using the longest are more likely to continue with their success.

What Happens During Rehabilitation Treatment?

When patients first enter a rehab facility, they participate in a complete assessment including full physical examination and clinical evaluation. The information gathered during this first-phase rehab process is then used to devise a personalized treatment program, its intensity and also its duration.

There are several different treatment strategies:


When someone has become dependent on alcohol, they will suffer from cravings and withdrawal symptoms when they are not using. The first part of rehab involves ridding the body of all toxins related to alcohol in the system and this is done by abstaining completely while under medical supervision. The advantage of a professional rehab facility is that patients have access to highly-qualified medical staff to ensure the process is as comfortable as possible.

Individual Therapy

Once patients have accepted they have a problem they are more inclined to open up and talk about it, particularly with a counselor they don’t know personally. This is an integral part of rehab treatment that allows clinicians to determine the best course of treatment for each individual patient. Individual therapy also sets a good trust foundation between patient and counselor which is important in providing the most effective care.

Group Therapy

Many people with alcohol issues become withdrawn from those close to them and so they generally respond very well to talking with others on the same journey in treatment. Having a direct line of communication with others who are or have walked in the same shoes is an effective way of reinforcing treatment programs and also provides an invaluable support network to patients when they have left the rehab facility.

Pharmacological Therapy

Prescription medications can be highly effective in alcohol treatment, particularly if a patient is also suffering from depression or another mental illness. Rehab medications work by removing cravings for alcohol or by creating strong reactions to it so as to deter drinking.

Toxicology Screening and Monitoring

The majority of rehab programs monitor continued abstinence from alcohol to ensure adherence to treatment. This is usually achieved through blood or breath tests and is often a condition that has to be met if a patient is required to attend rehab by the court or child welfare system.

Vocational Rehabilitation

Because many people with alcohol issues have had employment difficulties or have become unemployable, a vocational treatment component is often necessary. This is delivered by a vocational specialist who will equip patients with the tools they need to further their careers after treatment has finished including help writing resumes, educational assistance and support in finding employment.

Family Counseling

When someone is abusing alcohol or has developed alcoholism, their families and close friends are often significantly affected. Negative behaviors associated with alcoholism can drive a wedge between family members requiring professional help for them to overcome. Rehab opens the channels of communication for the friends and relatives of patients, providing them with a platform to re-connect with each other within a supportive framework.