Types of addiction treatment

When asked how alcohol problems are treated, people commonly think of 12-step programs or 28-day inpatient rehab, but may have dificulty naming other options. In fact, there are a variety of treatment methods currently available, thanks to signiicant advances in the ield over the past 60 years.


Ultimately, there is no one-size-its-all solution, and what may work for one person may not be a good it for someone else. Simply understanding the different options can be an important irst step.


Types of Treatment


Behavioral Treatments

Behavioral treatments are aimed at changing drinking behavior through counseling. They are led by health professionals and supported by studies showing they can be beneicial.


Three medications are currently approved in the United States to help people stop or reduce their drinking and prevent relapse. They are prescribed by a primary care physician or other health professional and may be used alone or in combination with counseling.


Mutual-Support Groups

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step programs provide peer support for people quitting or cutting back on their drinking. Combined with treatment led by health professionals, mutual-support groups can offer a valuable added layer of support.

Due to the anonymous nature of mutual-support groups, it is dificult for researchers to determine their success rates compared with those led by health professionals.


Starting With a Primary Care Doctor

For anyone thinking about treatment, talking to a primary care physician is an important irst step — he or she can be a good source for treatment referrals and medications. A primary care physician can also:


  • Evaluate whether a patient’s drinking pattern is risky
  • Help craft a treatment plan
  • Evaluate overall health
  • Assess if medications for alcohol may be appropriate


Types of Professionals Involved in Care

Many health professionals can play a role in treatment. Below is a list of providers and the type of care they may offer.


Provider Degrees Treatment
Type & Credentials Type
Primary Care M.D., D.O. (Doctor of Medications, Brief
Provider Osteopathic Medicine), Behavioral Treatment,
additionally you may see Referral to Specialist
a Nurse Practitioner or
Physician’s Assistant
Psychiatrist M.D., D.O. Medications,
Behavioral Treatment
Psychologist Ph.D., Psy.D., M.A. Behavioral Treatment
Social Worker M.S.W. (Master of Social Behavioral Treatment
Work), L.C.S.W. (Licensed
Clinical Social Worker)
Alcohol Varies—most States require Behavioral Treatment
Counselor some form of certiication


Individuals are advised to talk to their doctors about the best form of primary treatment.