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How to Create a Treatment Plan for Alcohol Abuse

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.

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.

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.

doctor shows a treatment plan for alcohol use disorder

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.

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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.

Your alcohol abuse treatment plan should be personalized. Your treatment team will help you create one that works best for your situation.

Sources

(January 2019) Overcoming Alcohol Addiction. HelpGuide. from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/addictions/overcoming-alcohol-addiction.htm/ https://www.occrp.org/en/27-ccwatch/cc-watch-briefs/8055-new-report-shows-more-people-buying-illegal-drugs-online

Is Recovery Planning Any Different Than Treatment Planning? Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S074054729700247X

(2018) Why Seek Professional Help for Alcohol Addiction. Thedoctorweighsin.com. from https://thedoctorweighsin.com/the-many-benefits-of-professional-help-for-alcohol-addiction/

Working Toward Goals for Recovery. SMART Recovery. from https://www.smartrecovery.org/working-towards-goals-for-recovery/

(April 2019) Delirium tremens. MedlinePlus. from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000766.htm

(July 2018) Can Medicine Help With Alcohol Use Disorder? WebMD. from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/features/fighting-alcoholism-with-medications#1

(July 2018) Alcohol use disorder. Mayo Clinic. from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20369250

(2014) Complementary and Alternative Therapies in Addictions Treatment. Journal of Addictions Nursing. from https://journals.lww.com/jan/Citation/2014/10000/Complementary_and_Alternative_Therapies_in.12.aspx

(2005) Substance Abuse Treatment for Adults in the Criminal Justice System. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64138/

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