Hundreds of thousands of Americans get alcohol treatment every day. For the most part, techniques have focused on clinical expertise with little validation of the effectiveness of any given technique. For the past two decades that thinking has changed. Modern evaluation methods are being applied to alcohol treatment. Control groups are used for comparison purposes with random assignment of participants. The evaluation methods include follow-up to the extent that it has been possible.
The focus of this methodology has been in the results. Studies have been done on the effectiveness of self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, psychosocial approaches and medications.
The most common help sought by alcoholics is 12-Step groups. Of these, the most common is Alcoholics Anonymous. The principles of these groups are based on 12 steps that alcoholics are to achieve as they recover from alcoholism.
These programs are free to inexpensive. Alcoholics can become involved with these groups before entering professional treatment. They can also use the group as an adjunct to therapy or even as aftercare following intense professional help.
The outcomes of such groups have rarely been evaluated for effectiveness. However, the groups do seem to produce success. Many alcoholics are able to resume alcohol-free lives after consistent participation in these groups.
The Department of Veterans Affairs compared 12 step programs with behavioral therapy. They also compared programs that combined the two approaches. One year after the alcohol treatment programs ended all three had produced similar improvement among participants. However, those in the 12 step groups reported more consistent abstinence and enjoyed higher rates of employment than did those in the other two programs.
The success of alcohol treatment through AA may be because of the participants social network. The group leans heavily upon friends who formerly used alcohol to mentor and provide support to newer members of the Alcoholics Anonymous group. This social networking acts both as support and as a surrogate family to the members. The group encourages members to stop drinking by facilitating an atmosphere of acceptance of the alcoholic as a person in recovery.
Combing cognitive therapy with the 12 step programs can have advantages besides social networking. The AA groups are free or nearly so. This makes it possible for an alcoholic to receive help without the worry of payment. Also, programs are often offered on a frequent basis. This helps ensure that help is available to the alcoholic when it is needed.
Twelve step programs don’t just offer support to those who are alcoholic. Alcoholism addiction affects the entire biological family of the alcoholic. There are groups that offer support and healing to the family members as well. This can lead the recovery of the family as a unit and to the individuals themselves.
Alcohol treatment is not a quick process. Many participants say that it can take years to fully recover. Those who make it and do recover are quick to tell you about the rewards of receiving alcohol treatment.