Editorial Team

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4 Alcohol Addiction: Evidence-Based Treatments

1. Evidence-Based Alcohol Addiction Treatments

Successful alcohol addiction programs use evidence-based treatments to enable individuals to reach sobriety and maintain it through continued abstinence. These treatments are featured in  the “Principles of Effective Treatment” in the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) publication, “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (3rd Edition)1:

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies (including individual, family, or group counseling) are the most commonly used forms of drug abuse treatment. Participation in group therapy and other peer support programs during and following treatment can help maintain abstinence.”

Additionally, these are detailed in the publication’s “Evidence-Based Approaches to Drug Addiction Treatment”; here are some of the listed behavioral therapies shown to be effective for alcohol addiction treatment:

  • Counseling
    • Individual counseling
    • Family counseling
    • Group counseling
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Initially used to treat alcoholic relapse, CBT strategies understand that in the development of behavioral patterns like substance abuse, learning processes play a critical role. Individuals undergoing CBT learn to identify and correct problematic behaviors by using a range of different techniques to stop abuse and to address other co-occurring problems. Please note, CBT has evolved to include new similar therapies, such as:
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): A type of CBT, DBT teaches individuals to live in the moment, cope with stress, control their emotions, and improve their relationships
  • Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR): During EMDR therapy sessions, patients relive traumatic or triggering experiences while the therapist directs their eye movements. EMDR is effective because recalling distressing events is often less emotionally upsetting when attention is diverted.
  • Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART): ART is a relatively new therapy which focuses on finding clear, existing connections in the brain, and using those connections to resolve patient trauma.
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET): MET is a counseling technique that helps individuals engage in their treatment and stop their use of alcohol. It aims to evoke internally motivated change in patients.
  • 12-Step Facilitation Therapy (TSF): 12-Step Facilitation Therapy encourages patients to actively engage and become involved in the 12-Step program.
  • Family Behavior Therapy (FBT): FBT aims to address not only alcohol and drug use problems, but also other problems, such as conduct issues, child maltreatment, depression, family conflict, and unemployment.
  • Behavioral Therapies Primarily for Adolescents: Specific behavioral therapies that include family involvement (shown to produce better outcomes with adolescents), including Multisystemic Therapy (MST), an intense, family-orientated therapy that takes place in home, school, and neighborhood settings.


In addition to these behavioral therapies, evidence-based treatments included in the NIDA publication also includes the use of pharmacotherapy, otherwise known as medically-assisted treatment (MAT), which is the medication of patients to assist in maintaining abstinence from alcohol. The medications used for MAT include naltrexone, acamprosate (brand name: Campral), and disulfiram.

2. Additional Alcohol Addiction Therapies

Many inpatient and intensive outpatient programs complement their evidence-based treatments with additional therapies and education classes proven to assist individuals adapt to a new sober life. These include:

  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Yoga, Meditation & Mindfulness
  • Equine Therapy / Animal-Assisted Therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Art Therapy
  • Music Therapy
  • Horticulture (or Gardening) Therapy


  • 1 National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (3rd Edition). January, 2018. Available at DrugAbuse.gov

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