Can Counseling Help With Unhealthy Alcohol Use?

Medically reviewed by Lauren Fawley , LPC
Updated March 2, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Excessive alcohol consumption is a major issue that can be addressed through alcohol online therapy. Unfortunately, this unhealthy habit also affects the underage. Teenage drinking in the US is now becoming a cause of concern. There are many different reasons a person might seek counseling related to alcohol use. Contrary to popular belief, doing so does not mean someone necessarily has a substance use disorder, although those who do can benefit from counseling as well. There are many different ways people can relate to alcohol, and a trained therapist can help you examine yours if you have concerns about it. Read on to learn more about alcohol counseling and how it can be helpful for people in a variety of different situations. There are several approaches to reduce adult and teen drinking risks.

Are You Struggling With Alcohol Use?

What Is Alcohol Counseling?

The most effective kind of mental health treatment is the kind that’s catered to the individual and their current needs and situation. That means alcohol counseling may look different for different people. In general, however, it involves meeting with a therapist or other professional to discuss and typically work toward improving your relationship to alcohol. 

Alcohol use exists on a wide spectrum, from not drinking at all to clinical substance use disorder. If you feel concerned that your relationship with alcohol may be unhealthy, you can seek alcohol counseling no matter where you fall on this spectrum. Some signs that you may want to consider this type of support include:

  • You frequently end up drinking more than you planned to
  • You find yourself craving alcohol
  • You regularly give up other activities in order to drink
  • You’ve developed a high tolerance
  • You engage in risky behaviors when intoxicated
  • You’re facing problems in work, relationships, or other parts of life because of drinking
  • You want to or have tried to drink less without success

About Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

While not everyone who seeks alcohol counseling has substance use disorder, some do—and a trained mental health professional can help. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is defined as “a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences”. Risk factors include drinking from a young age, genetic factors, and a history of trauma, but anyone can develop AUD. The symptoms listed above may indicate that a person has AUD, but a trained mental health professional can do an evaluation and provide a clinical diagnosis. 

Unhealthy alcohol use can have serious consequences for the individual as well as those around them, which is why getting treatment is so important. Effects of heavy alcohol use or AUD may include:

  • Brain damage
  • Increased risk of depression
  • Various cancers
  • Increased risk of accidents and injuries (falls, car collisions, burns, drowning)
  • Liver problems
  • Fetal alcohol symptom if exposed before birth
  • Violence
  • Trouble with work, money, relationships, or daily functioning

Potential Benefits Of Quitting Alcohol

Cultivating a healthier relationship with alcohol or quitting it altogether has the potential to improve your life and health—both mental and physical—in a variety of ways. First, alcohol is a depressant or “downer,” meaning that it can make you feel more depressed—particularly if consumed regularly. Eliminating it can improve your mood as a result of a better chemical balance in the brain. 

Another benefit of cutting back or quitting is that you may reduce your risk of mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, as well as your risk of a number of health problems such as heart disease, cancer, cirrhosis, gastritis, dementia, and others. The sooner you seek treatment, the better your chances are of mitigating the risk of these health concerns. Finally, those who cut back on or quit drinking may also notice an increase in self-confidence, healthier relationships, healthier skin, improved memory, increased productivity, and better financial health.

Getting Treatment For Unhealthy Alcohol Use

Statistics show that almost 15 million people in the United States aged 12 and older have AUD, but that less than 10% received treatment in the past year. This low treatment rate is likely due to many factors, but treatment can be very effective. According to the CDC, alcohol screening and counseling can reduce the amount that someone who drinks too much on occasion by 25%. If you’re concerned about your alcohol use, you deserve to seek the treatment or other support you may need.

Common Formats For Alcohol Counseling

There are two common formats for alcohol counseling. Some may have a preference for one or the other, and some might benefit from doing both. First, there’s individual counseling. These sessions take place one on one with a therapist, social worker, or other mental health professional. They’ll work with you to examine the impact alcohol is having on your life and come up with a plan for reducing or eliminating it from your life if needed. 

Group therapy is another common format for this type of counseling. Alcoholics is one example, but there are a variety of programs out there to choose from. This method of therapy revolves around the idea that being with other people who are experiencing the same or similar challenges as you may help you overcome your own. 

Are You Struggling With Alcohol Use?

What Treatment May Include

Some form of therapy is typically the cornerstone of the treatment process for those who have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. It’s usually centered around the goal of behavior modification, or helping you learn new skills and coping mechanisms for certain triggers or thought patterns. Consuming alcohol tends to start as a social activity or a mechanism for dealing with problems, but therapy might help you learn new ways of doing each of these things without it. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in particular is a common approach for providers who treat people in this situation, which research suggests is an effective treatment for substance use disorders.

Detoxification may also be necessary in some cases, for which the guidance of a medical professional is generally recommended since it can be difficult and even dangerous to do alone. A detox may require medication or inpatient treatment in more serious cases, as side effects can include shaking, insomnia, confusion, and even hallucinations and convulsions in the most severe situations. Withdrawal symptoms can last for about a week and can be treated with medication, which is another reason it can be helpful to have the support and guidance of a medical doctor during this process. 

How To Find A Treatment Provider

"How and where can I find alcohol counseling near me?" For an individual who is beginning the process of evaluating and potentially adjusting their relationship with alcohol, connecting with the right trained professional can be a major help. They can assist you in taking an honest look at how alcohol may be affecting your life and then come up with an action plan. 

You can find treatment providers in your local area—whether it’s a therapist, psychiatrist, or other type of mental health professional—usually with a quick internet search.

If there are limited options in your area or you prefer to seek treatment from the comfort of your own home, online therapy is another option. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, for example, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone call, video call, and/or chat. A growing body of research supports the efficacy of online therapy in general, and one study found that online therapy was just as effective as in-person therapy for alcohol use disorder specifically. The rate of attrition was also similar to that of in-person therapy, and 82% of participants said they would recommend online therapy to friends and family.

Counselor Reviews

Below, you’ll find reviews of BetterHelp counselors from individuals who have sought their help in improving how they relate to alcohol.

“Rebecca is a phenomenal counselor, her background and experience in a few areas like the judicial system and drug and alcohol treatment offers great insight for those who may have loved ones working through those issues. They are highly available, always willing to open up additional appointments if you can’t find a time that works for you, respond quickly through chat. I would highly recommend anyone who is interested in working with cognitive behavioral therapy to reach out and see if they are available for a chat.”

“Samantha Toney has been a very positive influence in my life since I began counseling with BetterHelp. She helped me navigate my way through the end of my relationship and coping with my partner’s addiction as well as becoming a single mother. I highly recommend her to anyone going through struggles in life no matter what they may be.”

“She checks in with me if I have not gotten back to her. Which is wonderful. I do not feel judged and feel better and see there are healthy solutions to my stress anxiety and substance abuse.”


If you’ve started to notice that alcohol is having a negative impact on your life, you may benefit from some form of alcohol counseling. A trained professional who has experience helping people explore their drinking habits can provide support as you navigate this situation.

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