Alcohol Treatment: Finding a Program That Works?

A road sign says, "No alcoholic beverages."People frequently call us and wondering if our alcohol treatment program will work; some have been through other programs and not found success.

In our experience, people often fall into a few categories of attitudes regarding their approach to treatment:

1) “I only sort of want help, and I want you to do all of the work. So I’ll say I want help, but don’t expect me to do much of anything.”

2) “I really don’t want help—I just want you to get someone (spouse, kids, parents, judge, employer, etc.) off my case. So I am going to sabotage whatever you try to do while I continue to insist that I really do want help. Good luck.”

3) “I really do want help, so what is it you need from me so I can work with you to get me moving forward and leaving alcohol abuse behind?”

We don’t think there is any mystery as to who is most apt to make progress, regardless which program they try. One obvious clue is in the question itself: “Will your program work?” We’re sorry, but we don’t have a magic wand, silver bullet, or miracle cure, nor does anyone else.

Mostly it will come down to you and how much you are willing to invest in yourself, how motivated you are, and how well the type of treatment you select matches your needs and preferences.

“Why go to treatment at all?” you ask. If you are in either of the first two categories, changing your attitude will greatly improve your chances of success. You will get your money’s worth if you can get yourself into a place of truly wanting to change, for your own sake, and of your own volition.

If you do want to improve your life, the right treatment program will save you a lot of wasted time and effort while introducing you to options you probably didn’t realize you had. Good treatment is also about giving you permission to live your life, not someone else’s.

If you want to leave alcohol behind, as a life focus, or moderate your drinking, or prefer to be in charge of your own life, then you’ll want to select one of the few possibilities that that will work with you as a person, not as an “alcoholic.” These programs will help you refocus your life, expand your interests, coping skills, and perspectives. The best ones will be individually tailored to you.

“Will this program work?” It will if you want it to. If you select one that matches your needs and perspective, and if you are willing to participate in your own recovery, it can work. If you aren’t will to participate in y our recovery, no program, no matter how much you pay, or how much they pamper you, will change anything for more than the duration of your stay. No one can root alcohol abuse out of your life for you any more than the best personal trainer can lose weight for you.

If you are serious about overcoming your alcohol problems, hire the best help you can get, just like you do with your physician, trainer, or coach. Listen, learn, question, and take charge of the changes you are making. Your life really can become your own personal renovation project, and the end product can be even more rewarding than any television “reality” transformation.

© Copyright 2010 by Edward Wilson, Ph.D., MAC. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Russell H.

    April 21st, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    Even a physical health problem does not cure without the willingness of the patient,then how can these people expect a problem as complex as an addiction one to disappear just by enrolling for a de-addiction program?!

    It needs a lot of effort from the part of the person seeking help himself.Its not like you click a mouse and its done!

  • Shannon

    April 22nd, 2010 at 4:38 AM

    So in the end there really is only one type of person who wants help for sure and that is the one who not only seeks it for himself but also is willing to do all of the work to heal and recover. The other two cases I have seen as well, those who are only going through the motions to get someone off their back or think that is what everyone else wants them to say. These are the people of course who are going to have the least amount of success with any addiction program because they are not willing and ready to do the work that it is going to take for them to break the cycle of addiction in their lives.

  • Carl

    April 22nd, 2010 at 6:01 AM

    Its no doubt that a person enrolling for a de-addiction program has to show resistance and will power required to make a program a success.

    We know that of all people who enroll for a de-addiction program not all actually get rid of the addiction.Why is this?It is because although the procedure and method followed is the same for all the people who have enrolled,it also depends on the person himself and nothing will work unless the person actaully puts in effort and has the will power to kick the addiciton.

  • A.Jonson

    April 22nd, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    a counselor only guides and helps you through your treatment or deaddiction…the onus is on you to resist the addiction and follow the prescibed procedures/suggestions and also to maintain the resistance even after the program has ended!

  • JBh

    April 22nd, 2010 at 7:00 PM

    a de-addiction program is not a magic pill that you swallow and all your addiction and related problems will be gone…it is like a course…just like you cannot enroll in college and sit back and expect to complete the course,you cannot just sign up for a program and expect the results to come by without putting in effort yourself.


    April 23rd, 2010 at 3:02 AM

    I am all for addiction treatment, please don’t get me wrong. What annoys me is all of this money which is spent by families and organizations to try to elp those who really don’t want the help at all. Let’s save our money and put that toward the people who truly do want to change their lives, and when others get to that point they can share in some of that as well. But spending money on someone who has not even resolved for himself that he wants the help is a serious waste of money and time.

  • Assasin

    April 23rd, 2010 at 10:38 AM

    A person who is asking such a question is,first of all,not confident that he can himself gather the will power to get rid of an addiction and that he has no idea about deaddiction whatsoever!

  • Ed & Mary Ellen

    April 24th, 2010 at 10:47 PM

    It’s important to remember that most programs don’t expect clients to succeed, that “failure” rates exceed 95% in almost all traditionsl AA/12 Step based programs (as they do in AA itself), and that even the best clients are anxious and ambivalent.

    Even more important to remember that you can’t force someone else to change.

    And that it takes real skill to actually help – and that anyone who labels themselves as still being “in recovery” hasn’t reached the point where they can be much help you or anyone you care about. Indeed, they usually engender failure.

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