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Substance Abuse and Addiction - Treatment Overview


What's the best treatment program for you?

Your doctor can help you decide which type of program is best for you.

  • In outpatient treatment, you regularly go to a mental health clinic, counselor's office, hospital clinic, or local health department for treatment.
  • In inpatient treatment, you stay at a facility and have treatment during the day or evening. This usually lasts 1 to 6 weeks. You most likely will then go to outpatient treatment.
  • In residential treatment, you live at the facility while you recover. These programs may last for months. This may be a good option if you have a long history of alcohol or drug use, have a bad home situation, or don't have social support.

If you are thinking about going into a treatment program, here are some questions to ask.

What does a treatment program include?


Treatment programs usually include counseling, such as:

  • Individual and group therapy, where you talk about your recovery with a counselor or with other people who are trying to quit. You can get support from others who have struggled with alcohol.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), where you learn to change thoughts and actions that make you more likely to use alcohol. A counselor teaches you ways to deal with cravings and avoid going back to alcohol.
  • Motivational interviewing (MI), where you resolve mixed feelings about quitting and getting treatment. A counselor helps you find personal motivation to change.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy (MET), which uses motivational interviewing to help you find motivation to quit. It usually lasts for 2 to 4 sessions.
  • Brief intervention therapy, which provides feedback, advice, and goal-setting in very short counseling sessions.
  • Couples and family therapy, which can help you become and stay sober and keep good relationships within your family.


A treatment program may include medicines that can help keep you sober during recovery. You may take medicine that can help reduce your craving for alcohol or that makes you sick to your stomach when you drink.


Most programs provide education about alcohol abuse and dependence. Understanding alcohol problems can help you and your family know how to overcome them. Some programs also offer job or career training.

Support groups

Treatment programs often include going to a support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Your family members also might want to attend a support group such as Al-Anon or Alateen.

What else should you think about?

  • If you have an alcohol problem and a mental health problem, such as depression, you will need treatment for both problems. Doctors call this a dual diagnosis.
  • Alcohol typically affects older adults more strongly than younger adults.
  • Alcohol abuse in the military can interfere with military readiness.
  • Some people are sent to alcohol treatment because of a court decision. This may happen if you have an alcohol problem and you commit a crime. A court may require treatment and keep track of your progress. Treatment often is available in prison.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 17, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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