Most people with AUD need help to recover from their disease. In addition to medications, AUD treatment programs use counseling and group therapy to help stop drinking, maintain abstinence, and refocus on other aspects of life. It may take time to find the right treatment combination for each individual. With support and treatment, many people are able to stop drinking and rebuild their lives.

Brief Interventions

Brief interventions involve counseling from primary care doctors or nursing staff during 5 or fewer standard office visits. In brief interventions, you will receive information on the negative consequences of AUD. You will also learn about strategies and community resources to help you achieve moderation or abstinence.

Most brief interventions are designed to help with problematic drinking and addiction. They are designed to help reduce alcohol consumption. However, if you are alcohol-dependent, you are encouraged to enter specialized treatment with the goal of complete abstinence.


Counseling may be one-on-one, in a group, or with other family members. It can help to identify thought processes that contribute to AUD and teach better coping skills for stress or pain. The type of therapy will depend on individual needs and preferences.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

A number of cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBTs) may be used in the treatment of AUD. These approaches target thoughts and behaviors that may contribute to problematic drinking.

Therapists use a variety of coping skills and management techniques. Different types of CBT have different goals. For example, aversive conditioning associates negative stimuli with alcohol use. Other methods employ a system of rewards and privileges for not drinking. Self-control training can help reduce alcohol intake without complete abstinence.

It is important to understand that relapse is a common occurrence. Therapists will help you recognize early warning signs of relapse. You will identify high-risk situations, such as parties and sporting events, and learn to assess your own vulnerability to relapse. You will learn coping skills to help you avoid or remove yourself from risky situations. If relapse occurs, these skills will you know where to get help and regain confidence.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) is based on the assumption that you have the responsibility and capacity for change. The therapist begins by providing you with individualized feedback about the effects of your drinking. Working closely together, you and your therapist will explore the benefits of abstinence, review treatment options, and design a plan to implement treatment goals.

Couples and Family Therapy

AUD affects everyone in your world, including spouses, children, colleagues, friends, and other family members. People in your life play an important role in helping with recovery. Some types of therapy incorporate spouses and family members in the treatment process to help repair fractured relationships. This type of support is important in improving chances of successful treatment. Some therapists may employ this method in combination with individual counseling.

Alcohol behavioral couple therapy (ABCT) helps treat individuals with their spouse or partner. ABCT helps couple recognize potential pitfalls that lead to relapse. It enhances the positive nature of the intimate relationship. Coping strategies are also used to help the couple work together to rebuild their relationship and improve the person's ability to maintain abstinence.

Support Groups

Support groups are the most commonly sought source of help for alcohol-related problems. Support groups are helpful for the person with AUD or for others affected by AUD. The most popular support groups include:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)—Emphasizes person-to-person, group relationships, and commitment to recovery. Meetings consist mainly of discussions about problems with alcohol and testimonials from those who have recovered. AA outlines 12 specific steps that should be done during the recovery process.
  • Al-Anon/ALATEEN—Group therapy and support for friends and family affected by a parent or loved with AUD.
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA)—Focus is on adults who grew up in an alcohol-dependent or dysfunctional home. People with similar backgrounds talk about how their childhood experiences affect their adulthood. ACA members offer support to each other.

Local support groups can be found using Internet directories and websites. Talk to your healthcare provider for assistance.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
  • Review Date: 03/2018 -
  • Update Date: 04/10/2015 -