Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

CBT Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol is a widely accepted part of Australian culture and the consumption of alcohol here is widespread. Having a drink is normalised within Australia that it can actually seem strange for an adult not to be drinking at a BBQ or social event. The National Health Survey conducted in 2017-2018 reported that 79% of Australians aged 18 and over, had consumed alcohol in the past year. It identified a further 8.5% respondents had consumed alcohol 12 or more months ago, and 11.6% had never consumed alcohol. Research showed that 1 in 4 Australian’s consume alcohol placing them at risk of harm. Also, 1 in 6 Australians consume alcohol levels that place them at risk of lifetime alcohol related disease or injury. This blog will look at when is it time for treatment for alchol abuse and what treatments are available for alcohol abuse.

When is it time for treatment?

How do people know when treatment for alcohol is needed? Sometimes people seek help because they have been pressured by loved ones. For the best success a person must recognise their own need for change and have a motivation to stop drinking. Ask yourself these questions if considering if you need treatment – “Does it feel like you have to drink?”  “Can you control how much you drink”, and “does it feel bad when you can’t drink?”

Doctors may diagnose a person with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) if their drinking causes distress or harm. The condition can range from mild or severe. These people are recommended to seek treatment.

Research has shown that one third of patients that are treated for alcohol abuse do not report any further symptoms the following year. In addition, a lot of other people who completed treatment report fewer alcohol-related problems and reduced their drinking. If left untreated people who abuse alcohol can experience a wide range of problems such as health complications, relationship issues, professional disruptions and financial troubles. The sooner the treatment, the best chance of lasting sobriety.

Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

Research supports three main types of treatment that can help people with alcohol abuse. A combination of treatments works best for most people.


There are medications approved for use to help with stopping or reducing alcohol use. These medications are prescribed by your doctor and best used in conjunction with therapy. The non-addictive medications are designed to help manage chronic disease. If you are a heavy daily drinker, it may be dangerous for you to stop drinking altogether without the assistance of medication to support your body to physically detox. This is why it is important for you to discuss your drinking use and plans to quit drinking with your doctor, before you do so.

Mutual-Support Groups

Attending support groups, such as Alcohol Anonymous, offer support and encouragement with others in recovery.


Counselling was the most common (40%) treatment type for Australians in 2017-2018. The most effective counselling strategy for alcohol abuse is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT can include individual or group work. This can occur in rehabilitation facilities or private practices.

Psychologists or alcohol counsellors focus on getting people to identify feelings and situations that are associated with drinking. The next step is to come up with a “risk management plan” that makes plans for high risk situations that lead to alcohol use. These plans involve  changing thought processes and behaviours that lead to excessive drinking, and avoiding risky situations until such time that you have your drinking in control. Your psychologist will support you with your new skill development and achieve your goals.

A modified form of CBT is Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT). DBT has strong evidence showing it’s effective with helping reduce substance abuse. Psychologists trained in DBT can work with a person around their alcohol abuse and enable them to grow and reach their goals.

If you are concerned about your drinking and would like the help of a psychologist to change your drinking behaviour, the first step is to speak to your doctor for a referral. If you would like to consult a CBT Professionals psychologist, you can download our referral form here and take it with you to your doctor.

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