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Understanding the Various Types of Alcohol Rehab

Posted in Alcoholism Treatment

Alcoholism is a very serious disorder that often destroys the lives of those afflicted with it. While some alcoholics go through life able to function well enough to keep their addiction hidden form most, others are less fortunate – slowly losing everything they have until they finally hit rock bottom. Sadly, it is often not until then that they dig deep within to find the courage and motivation to seek alcohol rehab. Others still end up in situations where alcohol treatment is no longer a choice; rather it is mandated by the courts.

Perhaps you or a loved one is struggling with an alcohol addiction. You want to get clean and sober, but the idea of going to an alcohol treatment program is a bit scary – which is often the case with something new and unfamiliar. Fortunately, there are a variety of programs and treatment approaches from which to choose. In order to have the greatest success it is important that you choose one tailored to your particular needs and situation.

The short range goals of alcohol rehab typically include detoxing, abstaining from all alcohol use, addressing and minimizing any medical and health issues related to your alcohol use, and helping you understand your addiction. The long term goals are to help you come to terms with your addiction, understand the underlying issues and triggers, and remain sober from that point on.

Understanding your options will help you determine the best fit for your needs.

Alcohol Treatment and the 12-Step Model

As a general rule, the vast majority of alcohol rehab programs still utilize the traditional 12-step model. Each of the steps is designed to help you become more self-aware as you become sober and maintain that sobriety. Many drug and alcohol experts believe that combining this well-known model with other types of treatment for alcoholism will give you the best chance of avoiding relapse in the future.

The philosophy behind the 12-step model is that, as an alcoholic, you don’t have any power over your addiction. It includes a spiritual component that many people find very helpful, as they relinquish control to whatever higher power they believe in.

Alcohol Detox

For most alcoholics, the first step in any type of alcohol rehab program is detoxification. This is often referred to as "alcohol detox" for short. Some cities have detox facilities that don’t provide any type of addiction treatment. They provide a safe, medically supervised environment for anyone who’s been on a drinking binge to sober up safely. Whether you pursue any further treatment beyond detox is usually up to you. Often, these places are often a revolving door for alcoholics who aren’t ready to get into alcohol rehab.

In many cases, alcohol detox takes place in a hospital setting. Alcohol detox usually lasts from as little as four days up to 10 days. During this time your body is eliminating the alcohol from your system.

If you’ve ever tried to significantly reduce your alcohol intake or stop drinking altogether, then you know how challenging and unpleasant the withdrawal process can be. For alcoholics who have a long history of heavy drinking, the symptoms can be very serious and require close monitoring and treatment. Your body has developed a dependence on alcohol.

Detox programs often utilize a combination of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and medication to help ease the withdrawal symptoms, which often include shakiness and anxiety. Medical detox also helps prevent very serious side effects such as seizures and delirium tremors ("DTs"). DT symptoms include a rapid heartbeat, fever, and confusion (delirium). A small number of people – approximately 1% to 5% – die from DTs, which is why medical detox is very important.

Alcohol withdrawal also has a psychological impact as well. Ideally, your detox treatment will provide support for the psychological aspects of withdrawal and not just the physical / medical issues. This is one of the reasons why the best approach (if sobriety is the goal) is when the detox is part of an alcohol rehab program.

Inpatient or Residential Alcohol Treatment

Many alcoholics do very well with an inpatient or residential treatment rehab program. These intensive treatment programs usually last for at least 4 weeks, but some residential programs last for 90 days or longer. If you opt for a short term program, the treatment focus will be primarily on medical stabilization, initial sobriety, and making important changes in your day to day habits and overall lifestyle that will help you stay sober once you leave alcohol rehab.

Longer term residential treatment programs often provide more in depth treatment, addressing the underlying psychological issues that contributed to your addiction and may make you vulnerable to relapse. The therapeutic setting often includes individual, group, and family therapy, life skills training, and a more in depth focus on preventing relapse. Other treatment modalities, such as equine therapy, may also be part of the program. Equine therapy involves the use of horses to help patients increase self-awareness and self-acceptance.

One of the greatest advantages of long term residential alcohol rehab is that it gives you a break from all the typical pressures and stress of day to day life. As a result, you can focus on your recovery without other distractions. These programs are also highly structured, which many patients find to be very beneficial. That structure can be very helpful in terms of ensuring ongoing success upon leaving rehab.

Specialized Inpatient and Residential Programs

There are three primary types of specialized alcohol rehab programs: faith-based programs, holistic treatment programs, and dual diagnosis programs.

Faith-based treatment programs are especially appealing to individuals who have strong religious beliefs. Christian rehab programs are one type of faith-based programs. Even if you don’t have a particular religious affiliation, you may find that a faith-based program has a stronger sense of community and support than a secular program.

Holistic treatment centers focus on treatment the whole person rather than just one aspect. In other words, they treat your mind, body, and spirit. Many alcoholics find these types of programs to be very beneficial when it comes to their recovery. Yoga, acupuncture, and other alternative therapies are included in holistic treatment programs.

Dual diagnosis treatment programs are for individuals who have a mental health disorder, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, or depression, along with their addiction. Alcohol rehab can easily fail if co-occurring disorders are not addressed as well. For many alcoholics, drinking was a way to self-medicate the symptoms. Without the alcohol, they will be very vulnerable to relapse unless they receive treatment for their mental health issues as well.

Since many alcohol treatment programs are not equipped to treat mental health issues, it can be vital to choose one that does if you know or suspect you may have a psychiatric disorder. That being said, in many cases any underlying mental health problems were masked by the alcohol for years and don’t become evident until the person is sober. In that case, the best approach is to seek outpatient dual diagnosis treatment once it does become evident.

Outpatient Alcohol Treatment

For less severe cases of alcoholism, an outpatient alcohol rehab program may be sufficient. Granted, many of these programs do not provide the structure and serene setting that most inpatient and residential treatment programs offer. However, some outpatient facilities do have it set up so you can actually stay at the treatment center, but are able to come and go.

Like other programs, most outpatient programs use a multidisciplinary approach that includes a 12-step model. Individual, group, and / or family therapy are often part of the treatment protocol. Developing a good support network and making healthy lifestyle changes are important aspects of treatment as well. Outpatient alcohol rehab is usually best for someone whose addiction is only mild to moderate.

12-Step and Other Support Groups

Many alcoholics find it very beneficial to continue attending support groups or meetings long after they have finished alcohol rehab. Of course, this is always a very personal decision that only you can make. Group meetings are often held multiple times a day, making it possible for almost anyone to find a meeting that fits their schedule or is available in a time of need. Alcoholics Anonymous is the most well-known 12-step support program available. Many alcoholics attribute their ongoing sobriety to AA meetings.

For those who don’t care for the 12-step model, there are many other types of alcohol support groups available. Finding the right fit may require attending a few different groups or meetings at first.

Sober Living

Some alcoholics find that a sober living house provides the alcohol-free environment that they need in order to maintain their sobriety, especially immediately following an inpatient or residential alcohol rehab program. These types of homes, inhabited by other alcoholics in recovery, may help prevent relapse if going back to your own home will put you at risk.

Choosing the best alcohol rehab program for you can feel like a daunting task. If you’re not sure, spend some time making calls and visiting a few treatment facilities to determine which one feels right to you. Be sure to check for appropriate licenses, as well as what they offer in terms of care and support once you leave the program. You might also talk to your physician or other healthcare provider to help you make the best choice based on your individual needs. Recovering from alcoholism and maintaining your sobriety will be one of the most rewarding things you ever do.