What Therapies are Used to Treat Alcoholism?

woman drinking who needs help to treat her alcoholism

Alcoholism is a severe and progressive disease, affecting many individuals across the nation. In fact, 14.4 million adults ages 18 and older suffered from alcoholism in 2018. Since alcoholism negatively affects almost every facet of an individual’s life, professional treatment is necessary. Alcohol addiction treatment typically includes detox, inpatient rehab, and/or outpatient programming. Throughout the process, there are various therapies used to treat alcoholism.

During alcohol addiction treatment, individuals will receive individualized treatment plans. Additionally, these treatment plans include a multitude of therapies that help alcoholics to recover from the psychological aspect of their substance use disorder. To explain further, many effective and evidence-based therapies treat alcoholism. Most alcoholism treatment centers utilize some or all of the following therapies.


Psychotherapy is a classic form of therapy. Typically, psychotherapy is the type of therapy displayed in movies or TV shows that uses the approach of basic conversation. During psychotherapy, patients discuss their problems and experiences with a trained psychologist. For example, patients may discuss daily challenges, long-standing issues, and past traumas. Otherwise known as talk therapy, psychotherapy could take place in a one-on-one, group, or family setting. Overall, the purpose of psychotherapy is for the psychologist to formulate a mental health diagnosis based upon their psychoanalysis.

Psychotherapy is commonly used to treat alcoholism. In this case, the psychologist will work with their patient to better understand or manage their cravings. Additionally, patients also learn how to stay motivated and achieve their goal of sobriety. Psychotherapy for alcoholism may last anywhere from several weeks to several months. This gives patients the opportunity to develop a relationship with their therapist and peers based on trust, openness, and confidentiality.

Furthermore, psychotherapy is a form of therapy that helps clinicians to better understand their clients. As a result, psychologists are able to develop individualized solutions for their patient’s problems. Because of the individualized approach of psychotherapy, this therapy is extremely beneficial for alcoholics and people suffering from alcohol use disorder. Psychotherapy contains many different approaches, including psychoanalysis, behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy, and integrative or holistic therapy.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Similar to psychotherapy, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is evidence-based talk therapy. However, DBT methods differ slightly. DBT relies on the belief that everything is connected, the world constantly changes, and opposite elements may synthesize into a better element or a greater truth. These assumptions are based upon the philosophical system of dialects. During DBT therapy sessions individuals learn a variety of new skills. For example, these include learning to live in the present, how to manage emotions and distress, and how to communicate honestly. Overall, DBT is designed to help patients find emotional balance and embrace positive change. Research has proven DBT as an effective therapy used to treat alcoholism and other substance use disorders.

DBT includes four main strategies that are taught by a psychologist during alcohol treatment:

  • Core Mindfulness
  • Distress Tolerance
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness
  • Emotion Regulation

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a proven method for treating the effects of alcoholism. Basically, CBT focuses on identifying negative thoughts and behaviors and replacing them with positive ones. Additionally, CBT sessions are a form of talk therapy, as they are conversions between clinicians and patients. Unlike other forms of therapy, CBT focuses less on diagnosis and more on constructive action. For example, patients will learn to challenge harmful beliefs, confront fears, role-play to improve social interactions, and craft strategies to stop drinking alcohol. Surprisingly, CBT hs the potential to be effective after only 5 sessions. As a result, cognitive-behavioral therapy has a significant role in the treatment of alcoholism.

Motivational Interviewing

Another form of therapy used to treat alcoholism is known as motivational interviewing (MI). This therapy method helps patients to overcome ambivalence, set direct goals for self-improvement, and stay motivated to realize them. Because of this, MI helps alcoholics feel less powerless in regard to their alcoholism with the motivation to take action against it. During a motivational interview, therapists will encourage a patient to commit to change, such as quitting alcohol.

To explain further, motivational interviews are brief, client-centered, and semi-directive. This psychological treatment approach concentrates on improving and strengthening a client’s motivations for change. Typically, MI is utilized with patients who are less motivated to make a change in regards to their alcoholism. Additionally, MI sessions are brief, as clients may only attend 1 to 4 sessions.

Motivational interviewing incorporates four principles of therapy:

  • Expressing empathy
  • Rolling with resistance
  • Developing self-efficacy
  • Developing discrepancy

MI is always utilized in combination with other methods of alcoholism therapy.

Yoga and Meditation

Oftentimes, alcohol treatment centers utilize yoga and meditation as a form of therapy. These tactics can be helpful in managing alcohol cravings and staying focused during recovery. Basically speaking, yoga is a collection of physical and mental exercises. Contrary to popular belief, yoga and meditation do not have to involve a spiritual or religious practice. (Adipex) Meditation is solely a form of relaxation that allows the patient to remain calm, become emotionally at peace, and form clarity. Consequently, many psychologists incorporate meditation and yoga into alcoholism treatment plans.

Alcoholism Treatment and Therapy at PAX Memphis

There are a variety of therapies used to treat alcoholism to ensure that each patient’s individual needs are met. If you or a loved one suffer from alcoholism, PAX Memphis is here to help.

“Our experienced doctors and staff will provide you with an individualized treatment plan which will help you transition back into your life without the need for alcohol. We will also help get you into group therapy sessions that will allow you to share your thoughts with other individuals who have had similar experiences with alcohol and who can provide you support from this difficult time in your life.”

Alcoholism is a difficult disease to deal with on your own. No one should have to recover from alcoholism alone. Contact us today for more information on our alcoholism treatment program and the therapies we provide.

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.