Online Therapy Support For Reductions In Alcohol Use

Updated July 3, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Many people live with alcohol use disorders, which can involve symptoms such as an inability to limit alcohol intake and using alcohol in unsafe situations. 

Online therapy can help those living with alcohol use disorder decrease their drinking. Other ways to cut back can include setting goals for drinking in moderation, limiting alcohol exposure, scheduling a break from alcohol, tracking alcohol consumption to discover patterns, and embracing persistence if relapses occur. 

If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, choosing online therapy can be a convenient and effective option. Begin therapy by scheduling online sessions with a certified addiction professional who can guide you through the treatment process. Online therapy websites offer online counseling, phone calls, and family therapy sessions to address substance abuse and mental health disorders. Don't let in-person therapy availability hinder you from getting the help you need.

Alcohol Dependence: An Overview

While 85.6% of adults in the U.S. are likely to drink alcohol at some point in their lives, approximately a quarter of adults reported binge drinking within the past month in the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). This survey also revealed that 5.3% of Americans 12 and older had alcohol use disorder (AUD). This can account for almost 15 million people in the United States alone. Worldwide, alcohol misuse may account for three million deaths every year, and within the United States, it may account for 95,000 deaths each year.

Do You Worry About Your Alcohol Use?

Signs of alcohol use issues can include:

  • An inability to limit your alcohol intake
  • Using alcohol in unsafe situations
  • Building a tolerance for alcohol that requires you to drink more for the same effects
  • Negative impacts on school, work, and social obligations due to alcohol use
  • Unsuccessful attempts at limiting your drinking even though you want to do so

Alcohol dependence and misuse can be very challenging to live with. However, some resources can offer support and practical help, one of which may be online therapy. Promoted online therapy websites can offer a convenient and available option for individuals seeking support for alcohol abuse. They provide an easy way to reach out to licensed therapists and various online resources to aid recovery.

In addition, several studies have shown that online therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy and can sometimes act as the catalyst for a person to seek out in-person alcohol counseling services. The following study evaluated the impact of internet-based therapy on alcohol use disorders and found significant results.

Online Therapy For Problematic Alcohol Use

Alcohol treatment can be effective for most people; a review of seven studies found that two-thirds of people who received treatment saw a large and significant decrease in their alcohol use and related problems. However, researchers in the Netherlands noticed a “treatment gap” and designed a trial to examine internet-based therapy's efficacy via two different treatment forms.


Individuals were generally recruited through the website of a substance use disorder treatment center. Those interested in limiting or stopping their alcohol use completed a screening survey through the trial. Inclusion criteria included:

  • Currently residing in the Netherlands
  • 18 or older
  • Scoring above the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) for risky drinking
  • Drank over 140 grams of alcohol during an average week
  • No previous treatment for substance use disorder
  • No significant use of illegal drugs
  • No current or past serious illness of specific kinds

Almost 2,000 people completed the initial survey, 832 met inclusion criteria, and ultimately, 205 chose to participate. The participants were, as evenly as possible, split into three groups for the trial: two intervention groups and a waitlist control group.

The average age of participants was 42, with an even mixture of men and women, most of whom worked full-time. Most drank almost every day, and the average AUDIT score was 20, which indicates the “likelihood of alcohol dependence.” Researchers categorized the overall group as a sample of risky drinkers who could be teetering on the edge of alcohol use disorder but were not necessarily there yet.


This trial examined two different interventions.

  1. An automated self-help program was offered to one-third of the study participants. In this intervention, they had content that taught them how to cope with cravings, relapses, and peer pressure. In addition, the program helped monitor alcohol use, set drinking goals, and increase recognition of alcohol-related thoughts and scenarios that might encourage a relapse. Participants in the self-help program were also encouraged to use an online forum for social support from one another.
  2. A therapist-led program offered similar content in a more structured, guided format to another one-third of the participants. This group was offered chat therapy sessions with psychologists from a substance use disorder center. Seven 40-minute sessions covered the pros and cons of drinking, setting goals, self-control, cravings, relapse, and an initial and final session, all via online messaging.

After a three-month waiting period, the control group was placed on a waitlist and offered a chance to join the therapist-led program.


A baseline assessment was performed before the study began, with two more assessments at the three-month and six-month marks. The study measured four outcomes: weekly drinking amount, AUDIT score, and two quality of life measures. Both interventions produced clinically significant improvements in all four outcomes.

The three-month assessment revealed that weekly drinking amounts decreased in all three groups. However, the drop was most significant for those in the therapist-led intervention.

  • Participants in the therapist-led intervention generally decreased weekly amounts from 466 grams to 244 grams, a 51% decrease.
  • Participants in the self-help intervention typically decreased weekly amounts from 436 grams to 270 grams, a 38% decrease.
  • Participants on the waiting list usually decreased weekly from 472 grams to 355 grams, a 25% decrease.

While both interventions produced more significant changes than were seen on the waitlist, the therapist-led intervention generally produced stronger, longer-lasting results. At the six-month assessment, many of those who completed the therapist-led intervention had decreased their weekly amounts to an average of 180 grams a week, a 61% decrease from their original drinking habits. Individuals from the self-help intervention usually didn’t see much more of a decrease past the three-month assessment.

Future Research

Considering that 12% of the people who were initially interested in the study chose to participate, it can be important to understand why individuals are interested—or uninterested—in completing treatment for problematic alcohol use. Understanding the reasons why some individuals prefer in-person treatment over online services, or vice versa, can help researchers design interventions that cater to both preferences and reach a wider population. By addressing the barriers preventing individuals from receiving the type of treatment they prefer, more people can receive the support they need to improve their relationship with alcohol.

Future research can examine the effectiveness of a stepped-care approach that utilizes self-help programs in conjunction with professional therapy. By providing a range of treatment options, individuals can choose the level of support that best meets their needs and preferences. Such an approach can improve the availability and efficacy of therapeutic interventions.

Decreasing Alcohol Use

Alcohol misuse can have physical, emotional, mental, and social consequences. If you are concerned about your drinking habits, it can be important to seek help, so you might reach out to your personal care provider. A mental health professional may also provide the support you need, whether in person or online. Online therapy can be affordable and convenient, and you may get the opportunity to connect with your therapist in various ways, including in-app messaging, video chat, and more.

Lifestyle changes are often a necessary part of decreasing your alcohol use. While these adjustments will likely feel challenging, they can ultimately lead to improved quality of life and better relationships with others. We’ve detailed some changes recommended by Harvard Health Publishing below.

Set A Drinking Goal

According to the CDC, drinking in moderation can mean one drink or less a day for women, two drinks or less a day for men, or no alcohol at all. You might set a goal of following these moderation guidelines.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend no alcohol at all for people who are pregnant, under the legal drinking age, taking medication that interacts with alcohol, or who are unable to control how much they drink.

Limit Exposure To Alcohol

Removing temptation is often the easiest way to avoid it. You might choose not to keep alcohol in your home and avoid spending time with people and at places that typically encourage or enable alcohol consumption. If you’re attending events where alcohol will likely be present, such as holiday parties or weddings, an option could be to create a plan to limit your drinking. It may be helpful to be willing to ask for accountability and support from your close friends and family in those situations.

Do You Worry About Your Alcohol Use?

Take A Break

Most people who drink don’t do so every day. You might consider how often you drink and attempt to schedule alcohol-free days, weeks, or months, depending on the frequency of your drinking. This short-term break can bridge the gap to longer breaks and even help you eliminate drinking if that’s your goal.

During your scheduled breaks—and in general—it can help to stay busy, so you don’t potentially feel like the only way to fill your time is by drinking. You might try new hobbies, make plans with friends, and spend time doing activities that bring you joy.

Track Your Consumption

It can be eye-opening to take notes about every alcoholic drink you have, including what you drank, how much you had, and where you were. These notes can help you discern patterns that contribute to excessive drinking to create a plan for moving forward.

Be Persistent

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shared that 90% of individuals living with alcohol use disorder may be likely to relapse. A commitment to reducing your alcohol intake can be a lifelong goal, so there will likely be setbacks. Whether you want to decrease your drinking or stop completely, it is often helpful to recognize that you may experience challenges. This can limit feelings of disappointment and frustration when they occur.

If you are a heavy drinker, you may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms during this process. Anticipating withdrawal's physical, mental, and emotional toll can better prepare you for this process. You may need medical treatment to successfully make it through the withdrawal period.

Recovery from addiction can be challenging, but with the help of a mental health counselor and addiction treatment, such as in-person therapy or alcohol online therapy, it is possible. Family therapy sessions can also provide support for both drug abuse and mental illness. Individuals struggling with alcohol abuse who lack financial resources can benefit from government-sponsored health insurance, which can provide coverage for addiction treatment services such as therapy and medication-assisted treatment.

Remember to be kind to yourself and persistent in your efforts to achieve lasting success.


Those who have alcohol use disorders may experience difficulty limiting their alcohol intake, and this may sometimes have negative impacts on various aspects of their lives. 

If you are considering seeking help for an alcohol use disorder, online therapy services can offer a convenient and effective option for treatment. With the ability to schedule online therapy or phone calls, individuals can get traditional therapy methods in a more flexible manner. However, in-person therapy or treatment may still be necessary for certain individuals depending on their individual needs. 

Meanwhile, there may be other methods to employ to successfully reduce alcohol consumption, such as tracking drinking patterns, scheduling breaks from alcohol, setting goals for drinking in moderation, limiting alcohol exposure, and embracing persistence throughout the process. Please be sure to reach out for support if you feel it would help you to work with a mental health professional.

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