If you have an alcohol use disorder and you seek treatment, you may go through addiction treatment. Early on in the treatment process, you’ll create a treatment plan, which is the foundation of effective treatment. In most cases, you’ll receive a treatment plan on your first day. If you have high-level medical needs, your plan may consist of steps to achieve medical stability. If you are medically stable, your treatment plan may involve therapies that can help you address some of the underlying causes and consequences of alcoholism.

A successful treatment plan for recovery from alcohol abuse starts with a good framework. Tailor the template with realistic personal goals and actionable steps, so that you can track your progress and keep yourself accountable.

What is a Treatment Plan?

A treatment plan is essentially your map to recovery. It outlines the therapies you will participate in and the actions you will take to achieve sobriety and to build a new life that is free from alcohol abuse.

Your treatment plan will specify your strengths and areas where you struggle. This will help to identify where you need additional help.

In addiction treatment, your treatment team will create this plan with you.

You’ll be given an assessment at the start of treatment. After this assessment, your team will create a rough plan with you. This plan will be honed throughout treatment because your needs will change as you progress in recovery.

Getting Started

You can start the creation of an alcohol abuse treatment plan on your own. You can bring this draft with you to treatment or have your therapist review it.

Creating a Treatment Plan for an Alcohol Use Disorder

Creating a treatment plan will involve working with your therapist to find the right therapies for your needs. Each treatment plan is unique, and there is no single treatment plan that works for every person. Instead, an individualized treatment plan can help address your specific needs through treatment. 

Your therapist may guide you through a biopsychosocial assessment, which is a list of questions designed to determine your biological, psychological, and social needs. This thorough assessment can help guide the course of your treatment plan. It’s also important to note that creating your treatment plan is a collaborative process, and your therapist will encourage you to participate in planning as much as you can. 

A classic way to get started is to make a list of the pros and cons of your alcohol use. A cost-benefit analysis will help you gauge how drastic your drinking problem is. The severity of the issue will influence what is included in your treatment plan.

While it may seem that drinking provides you with many benefits, like relaxing after a stressful day or helping you to socialize and have fun, these benefits may be greatly outweighed by potential cons. The following negatives may be associated with your drinking:

  • Damaged relationships
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Weight gain
  • Being hungover often
  • Feeling tired a lot
  • Regretting things you did while drunk
  • A lot of money spent on drinking

When you get honest about your drinking, you may see the reality of the situation. This can motivate you to get help.

Just taking this first step to write out these things shows that you likely recognize that a problem exists.

Setting Goals

A good alcohol abuse treatment plan is based on identifiable goals.

While the ultimate goal is to build a balanced life in sobriety and to quit abusing alcohol, this can be broken down into smaller goals. These smaller goals can be used to measure progress in treatment.

Get specific with these goals. Examples include safely withdrawing from alcohol, repairing relationships with family members, getting a job that doesn’t involve alcohol, and making friends who don’t binge drink. Specific goals related to therapy may include the following:

  • Identify triggers that make you want to drink
  • Devise strategies to avoid or manage these triggers
  • Develop a support system where you can turn when you are tempted to drink

At the outset of treatment, you might not have a clear idea of what your goals are. Your initial goal could just be to stop drinking. You can then further define these goals throughout treatment. Your therapist will help with this process.

Goals Versus Objecteves

Goals and objectives sound like synonyms, but they are actually two separate but related components of a treatment plan. Goals are large, broad achievements that serve to direct your treatment plan. A goal may not be a tangible, measurable achievement. Instead, it’s a general target you want for your treatment progress or for your life. For instance, most alcoholism treatment programs involve the goal to free yourself of active addiction through sobriety. While goals should be realistic, they may seem large enough that it’s difficult to accomplish them in a single week. 

By contrast, objectives are smaller, more specific achievements that help you move toward a goal. An objective is also simple to achieve, even if it’s not easy. For instance, an objective may be to attend group therapy and share an experience you had during active addiction. For many people, that will be a hard task, but it’s a simple one, and it’s easy to measure when you’ve accomplished it. Objectives serve to break goals into smaller, more manageable pieces that you can accomplish week to week through the treatment process.

Components of a Treatment Plan

Your treatment team will heavily advise you on the components of your ideal treatment plan. These therapies should be included to help you recover from alcohol abuse. Examples include:

Detox. If you have a severe alcohol abuse issue, you are likely physically dependent on alcohol. Attempting to stop drinking on your own is dangerous. You will experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. In rare instances, people can develop delirium tremens (DTs) during alcohol withdrawal, and this can be deadly.

Medical detox is necessary for alcohol withdrawal. This will be the first step of your treatment plan. Support staff will help you get through the withdrawal process safely and without relapse. Often, medications like benzodiazepines are prescribed to prevent seizures and other dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Medication. In some instances, medications may be recommended to reduce cravings for alcohol. Antabuse (disulfiram), naltrexone, and Campral (acamprosate) are all FDA-approved to treat alcohol abuse. Other medications are sometimes used off-label to address alcohol addiction.

Your supervising physician will assess whether the use of medications is right for you. If it is, this will be part of your treatment plan.

Traditional therapy. The majority of your work in addiction recovery will take place in therapy. Most treatment programs for alcohol abuse offer this in both individual and group forms.

In individual therapy, you’ll identify the underlying issues that contributed to your use of alcohol. You may see how you used alcohol as a coping mechanism for stress. You may address emotional pain that you tried to numb with alcohol abuse.

Group therapy will allow you to learn from others who have also struggled with alcohol abuse. This form of therapy is still led by a professional therapist.

Virtually all alcohol abuse treatment plans include both individual and group therapy.

Complementary therapies. Many alcohol abuse treatment programs offer various forms of complementary treatments. While these won’t take the place of traditional, evidence-based therapy, they can add to your overall treatment plan.

Examples include equine-assisted therapy, art therapy, music therapy, wilderness therapy, and adventure therapy. Your therapist and supervising physician can recommend alternatives treatment that may work well for you.

Support groups. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) can be beneficial in recovery. While they don’t take the place of traditional therapy, they can help you to build a support and accountability network in recovery.

Many alcohol abuse treatment plans include a goal to attend a certain number of AA or other peer support group meetings per week.

Aftercare. The work is not done once you have exited a formal addiction treatment program. Reintegrating back into everyday life is a critical transition, and this is a vulnerable time in recovery. A solid aftercare plan can help to prevent relapse.

Elements of an Aftercare Plan May Include:

  • Attending 12-step or other peer support meetings
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Sleeping seven to nine hours each night
  • Continually weekly therapy sessions
  • Meditating daily
  • Spending time with sober friends regularly

A Personalized Approach

Most alcohol abuse treatment plans will include these core elements. Additional elements may be added, and in some instances, some of these items may not be appropriate for everyone. 

Alcohol use disorders can come with a variety of co-occurring problems, complications, and underlying causes that make each person unique. Because alcohol addiction is a complex disease, there is no treatment plan that works for every person. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there is no single treatment approach that’s always appropriate and effective treatment will be tailored to individual needs. 

Early in your journey through addiction treatment, you’ll meet with a clinician to create an individualized addiction treatment plan. Your plan may involve medical treatments and psychotherapies that you need to address biological, psychological, and social issues you may have. NIDA also says that your plan should be assessed regularly. Generally, you’ll meet with a therapist each week to talk about your treatment plan and make adjustments as needed. 

There are many common treatment approaches that may be used in the majority of people seeking alcohol abuse therapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy. However, the course of your treatment schedule, the therapies you go through, and your experience in those therapies shouldn’t be identical to other people’s treatment plans. Personalized treatment is an important key in achieving lasting sobriety.

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