Moderation In Alcohol Treatment

Since the late 1970's so-called 12 Step, or Minnesota Model, based treatment has been nearly the only approach available to people seeking help with alcohol and drug abuse problems. This is startling given their long term success rates of less then ten percent. Only recently have alternatives begun to receive some of the attention they deserve.

What are the alternatives? There are variations ranging from those which are very similar to the 12 Step model but which avoid what many consider to be AA's religious cult features. Some reject the long promoted but unsupported "disease" concept of addiction, and others offer help, and hope, for those seeking to moderate their usage. Some advocate medical support in the form of anti-craving medications and still other incorporate cognitive behavior therapy.

This array of approaches is good news for potential clients for some very good reasons - no single approach is effective for everyone, nor is abstinence the only desirable outcome. Reality is that both methods and ends that are tailored to individuals produce the best outcomes. While this makes obvious sense, it isn't apt to be embraced by an industry that has grown up around a one size fits all approach, and which acknowledges only one solution - life long abstinence and forever recovery.

This reluctance to change isn't hard to understand. Alternatives require assessment and therapeutic skills, all part of a client centered focus that doesn't fit with "following the program" - a program which denies differences, strengths, circumstances or degree of impairment among a vast array of contributory factors. No one would expect hospitals to pursue the exact same treatment for fifteen different types and stages of cancer, but treatment programs routinely do exactly that. Negative outcomes can hardly come as a surprise.

What's a person seeking help to do?

Don't assume that you're helpless. You aren't. Ad copy to the contrary, you aren't powerless. Nor do you need to sign up for a lifetime of meetings, groups, and labels. You may not even need to stop drinking entirely. You will have to change your life, but that can be enhancing, not demeaning. You may need to develop some assertiveness in place of false courage but that's not a loss either. You will have to assume responsibility for your past, present, and future rather than blaming your problems on alcoholism, but would you rather be a fully capable functional adult or a victim?

Look for help from those who respect you and your abilities, not those who focus on weaknesses and impairment. See if they'll discuss your desired outcomes, not their single end focus, and see if they'll work with you to devise a strategy tailored to you, not a program they intend to mold you to. The help you deserve is that which helps you improve your life and the lives of those around you, not one that isolates you within a latter-day cult.

Good help is available. Don't settle for treatment that is ineffective, out-dated, and focused on your weaknesses. Embrace your strengths, abilities, and power; and look for truly professional counselors and programs who do the same.