23 MAR 2021

Alcoholic support groups vs. addiction treatment programs

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, going for 28 years now since the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence established it in 1987. In honor of this commemoration, let’s discuss the treatment options available to addicts and their loved ones, and the value of the different options. Many people that suffer with alcoholism turn to support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, but the truth is that although participating in support groups has a lot of merit, it cannot beat getting professional help from an alcohol treatment program.

Support groups can operate programs like AA’s 12-step program, which is still a support group program and not one for treatment. Although the distinction can be confusing, it is an important one to understand. Programs like the 12-step program via Alcoholics Anonymous provides instructions to reach and maintain sobriety that are usually provided by others that have been through the same thing. These are peer groups that do not offer a lot of individualized attention.

On the other hand, treatment facilities are staffed by professionals that are experts in the field. This means they are capable of offering educated insight and guidance that works for each specific resident. These individuals stay informed on new treatments and suitable therapies. Unlike a support group, an alcohol treatment program can provide dialectical behavior therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, medication-assisted treatment, psychotherapy, art therapy, and other mind and body treatments. This is important, as depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders usually go hand-in-hand with alcoholism.

This is not to say that support groups are not useful - they are actually very helpful! Even those who are a part of a certified treatment program are still encouraged to participate in support group meetings and those programs, like the famous 12-step program. These meetings are especially important once you graduate from the treatment facility and have to work to maintain sobriety as you go through life on the outside. After all, why not try both?