Types of Alcohol Treatment Centers: Detox vs Counseling

Is a detox clinic or a counseling center right for you?

Alcohol detox centers and alcohol counseling both treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

They each have their own distinct features and uses since they’re completely different treatments.

So, which one do you choose? What do you look for when seeking addiction treatment?

Do you look for alcohol and drug detox centers? Or, do you look for health professionals that specialize in counseling?

This article will further explore what they both are, so you have a better idea of what to expect from an addiction treatment program and what you need.


A Brief Look at the Alcohol Detox Process

The alcohol detox process involves the use of medications to ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol detox centers prescribe a variety of medications as addiction treatment.

These medications will help normalize the neurochemical levels in the brain.

This eases withdrawal symptoms and keeps dangerous ones, like delirium tremens away. Delirium tremens has a mortality rate between 5% to 15% even for those who neglect to seek treatment.

Alcohol abuse leads to abnormal gabapentin and GABA levels. Those who quit drinking will find that their senses will go into overdrive.

These medications help calm the nerves to reduce the intensity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Detoxing from alcohol can take anywhere from several days to over a week. The medications prescribed for this type of treatment for alcohol will vary from patient to patient.

Some medications are used for long-term abstinence of alcohol. It’s a substance abuse treatment meant to help recovering alcoholics stay away from drinking.

Since the detox process requires quite a bit of supervision from medical professionals, detox is usually a part of inpatient treatment.


The Different Types of Medications Used at Detox Centers

Before getting admitted into any detox programs, the drug or alcohol detox centers will assess the patients.

Most treatment facilities will use the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol (CIWA-Ar). The assessment will only take several minutes.

Medications used to start the detoxing process will only be prescribed if patients get a score of under 8.

Some of the most common medications used for alcohol detox include:


  • Acamprosate, which calms the receptors affected by alcohol addiction and abuse
  • Benzodiazepines, which prevent life-threatening symptoms like delirium tremens and seizures
  • Disulfiram, which is used in aversion therapy
  • Naltrexone, which helps ease cravings


Addiction specialists may prescribe more than one medication at a time.

Patients can be switched from one medication to another if the medications are not working effectively. The dose of each medication will also vary from patient to patient.

Be aware that some of these medications may come with unwanted side effects.

Patients that are detoxing from alcohol will receive constant medical supervision. This ensures that they are properly healing from alcohol abuse.


A Deeper Understanding of Alcohol Counseling

Alcohol counseling is another crucial part of a treatment program.

Counseling centers offer counseling sessions to patients.

They get to talk about their problems and work through psychological withdrawal symptoms.

Patients will generally meet with their alcohol counselor frequently within the first several months. The alcohol counseling sessions will then start to taper down as patients become less alcohol dependent.

An alcohol counselor can help patients:


  • Learn more about alcoholism, like alcohol poisoning and alcohol misuse, and how the recovery process works
  • Determine the type of treatment options that best suit each patient’s needs
  • Determine whether an inpatient rehab or an outpatient program will be best
  • Put together a realistic recovery plan that will curb problem drinking and binge drinking
  • Uncover underlying issues and triggers that lead to an urge to drink
  • Conduct alcohol screening and give regular assessments to determine the extent of the problem and one’s recovery progress
  • Feel motivated when they are alcohol dependent
  • Learn tips and techniques for a successful recovery
  • Provide information on polydrug abuse


Alcohol counselors can treat co-occurring disorders, like depression or anxiety. This is known as dual diagnosis treatment.

They can also offer treatment referrals for various other types of treatment.

An alcohol counselor can also refer patients to various types of behavioral therapies. These therapies can can help manage alcohol consumption.

They can also help patients find the right support groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Family and friends can also approach an alcohol counselor to learn more about alcohol intervention programs. They can learn how to identify alcohol use disorders among their loved ones.


The Different Types of Behavioral Therapy and Counseling Treatment Options

An alcohol counselor may use various types of behavioral therapies to help patients stop or reduce drinking habits and tendencies.

Different types of behavioral therapies work in different ways.

Some teach patients different skills and are based on a more cognitive approach. Others are known as ‘talk therapy’ and are simply an outlet for recovering alcoholics to vent their frustrations with alcohol and drug addiction.

Some of the most popular and common types of behavioral therapies used in alcohol treatment include:


  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Arts therapy
  • One-on-one counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy


Alcohol counseling can benefit not only the recovering alcoholics, but also their loved ones as well.

These counseling sessions can help patients not only learn how to manage their drinking, but also repair relationships with family and friends. Family therapy or group therapy is particularly beneficial for the latter.

Alcohol counseling can address health issues and mental illness.

It’s an ongoing process in most treatment plans.

Patients may receive therapy for years to come. Alcohol affects one’s mental health in significant ways.

Some patients will continue to receive therapy for the rest of their lives. Their struggles with alcoholism may continue for quite some time.

They may not necessarily go to a counselor forever. Instead, they may rely on a support program, like Alcoholics Anonymous, as time goes on.


Recommendations from Treatment Specialists

So, should you choose a detox center or counseling for treatment of alcoholism?

The truth is that you need both for a successful recovery.

In most cases, recovering alcoholics will need alcohol detox when they first get admitted to an alcohol addiction treatment center. The detox process will help ease withdrawal symptoms, and prepare patients for the rest of the treatment.

Once patients are free of alcohol, they can start working on the psychological symptoms of alcohol abuse. This is where behavioral therapy and counseling comes in handy.

Long-term behavioral therapy and counseling will keep recovering alcoholics away from alcohol.

They’ll learn how to identify triggers and how to develop better habits.

They’ll also learn how to control their own behaviors and take steps to become a healthier and more responsible person.

However, none of this can happen while the physical symptoms are still present.

This is especially true for chronic alcoholics. Physical withdrawal symptoms can lead to coma or death.

Alcohol detox is needed for the first week of treatment.

It helps cleanse the body, normalize brain chemistry levels and prepare patients for the rest of the treatment.

Once patients successfully complete detox, they’ll be in a better state physically. This allows them to start working on their mental health.

It’s also prime time to deal with any mental illnesses.

Get the Best of Both Worlds

Choosing the right rehab will make a world of a difference on your addiction recovery.

Look for a treatment facility that offers both alcohol detox and alcohol counseling.

The two treatment options should be used in conjunction to treat alcohol abuse and addiction.

Look for a rehab center that can help you figure out your health insurance information as well. A good alcohol rehab center will help you find the types of treatments that are covered under your insurance plan.

You’ll receive the best of both worlds at an affordable price. You’ll also learn how substance abuse and mental health treatment works.