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Alcohol Treatment Success

Aug 18, 2007
If you are thinking about seeking treatment for alcohol problems, either for yourself or someone else, probably no question matters quite as much as the odds of any treatment being successful. The process is expensive - in time, money, and emotion - and as with any life-changing undertaking, it would be nice to know that success was likely.

Unhappily, despite wild claims to the contrary, "success" is hardly guaranteed.

Scan through treatment program web sites and literature and you would think that positive results were the rule. They aren't. Most clients will relapse within months, if not days, of ending treatment.

Problems with the advertising are nearly universal and the most common is the definition of "success." Press very hard and most programs will eventually admit that their numbers are based on things like: "client was not noticeably intoxicated while in residence," or "client completed thirty day stay," or "self-reports indicated" and so on. Additionally, most programs don't factor in clients who drop out or never report. Obviously, the numbers are skewed in every way possible to create the appearance of predictable and successful results.

Frankly, if all the research you do is to follow the revolving door relapses of celebrities through the most expensive programs, you will get a more reliable estimate of program effectiveness than you'll get from the hype.

When it's your problem - and time, money, and emotion - you might want to take a hard look and develop some realistic expectations. Leaving alcohol problems behind isn't a lot different than other major behavioral change and success involves similar processes.

You'll need good, comprehensive assessments of many aspects of your life so that contributing factors can be taken into account. You'll want attention paid to your strengths and interests because these are the things that will make change worthwhile. Focusing on a "disease" and a single fix is a recipe for relapse. So is quick. Firmly establishing real change takes a year or so - but that's far less than the often-prescribed "lifelong recovery."

Good counselors will also work with you to reach your goals, whether abstinence, moderation, or exploring what options are possible for you. Your goals. Not theirs. Again, whether you are modifying your alcohol use, losing weight, stopping smoking, or managing Type II Diabetes, the results will depend on your motivation and your investment, and, yes, in you developing and feeling that an altered life is more rewarding than the current one.

So, ask questions and dont be sucked in by hype and glib assurances. Don't fall for fancy addresses, gourmet cuisine, and astronomical bills. Look for settings and staff who reflect what you hope to attain. Are they listening? Do they hear, and care, about what you want? Is their assessment of your situation realistic?

There are no magic cures or easy fixes, but there are positive changes that lead to far better lives. Pick carefully when selecting guides to get you there.
About the Author
Dr. Edward Wilson has been developing and providing alternative alcohol counseling, including moderation, sincve 1990. He is the co-founder and Clinical Director of Your Empowering Solutions, Inc, located in S. California. http://www.non12step.com
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