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Alcohol Detox Programs

What Happens in an Alcohol Rehab Program?

Alcohol rehab programs may be residential (a person lives on site during treatment) or outpatient. They all have these elements in common:

Initial assessment. When a person is first admitted to an alcohol rehab program, he or she receives a thorough clinical assessment. The assessment is then used to help determine the best approach to treatment. It is also used to help develop the treatment plan.

During the initial assessment, a counselor will ask questions about:

  • The amount of alcohol a person drinks
  • How long the person has been using alcohol
  • Cultural issues around the use of alcohol
  • The effect alcohol has had on the person's life
  • Medical history
  • Current medical problems or needs
  • Medications being taken
  • Mental health or behavioral issues
  • Family and social issues and needs
  • Legal and financial issues the person is confronting
  • Educational background and needs
  • Current living situation
  • Home environment
  • Employment history, stability, problems, and needs
  • Previous experience with rehab or attempts to quit using alcohol

If it's determined during the initial assessment that there are urgent medical issues that need to be addressed or that the person needs a detox program, the person will be referred to a doctor who will oversee this part of the person's care.

Development of a plan. Following the assessment and, if needed, a detox program or other medical care, the person will be assigned a counselor or case manager. Together, they will work out a detailed treatment plan that identifies problems, goals, and details about how to address the problems and reach the goals. That plan will be carried out by a team of trained individuals that can include a social worker, counselor, nurse, psychologist, psychiatrist, or other professional.

Group and individual counseling. Counseling is an integral part of the treatment for alcoholism. Counseling gives the individual in rehab tools to accomplish important goals:

  • Overcome denial
  • Recognize problems
  • Become motivated to solve problems
  • Address mental health issues such as depression or anxiety disorders
  • Change behavior
  • Re-establish healthy connections with family and friends
  • Build new friendships with people who don't use alcohol
  • Create a recovery lifestyle

Individual assignments. Throughout the rehabilitation process, the person will be given materials to read, listen to, and watch, will be asked to write about his or her experiences or responses to treatment, and given new behaviors to try.

Education about substance use disorders. Often, people who have a substance use disorder like alcoholism are in a state of denial, believing their drinking is normal. In order to progress in recovery, they need to confront the fact that they do have a problem with alcohol and acknowledge the dangers that the problem present.

Life skills training. When someone who has been dependent on alcohol goes into recovery, he or she may need training in these areas: managing anger, stress, or frustration; employment skills; goal setting; spending leisure time; developing social and communication skills; and managing money and time.

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