Have you wondered how rehab works for alcoholism? Maybe you or a close friend or family member has struggled with alcoholism and is now considering treatment. What kinds of things do you do in an alcohol rehab and how does treatment in a rehab work for alcoholism?


Although many want to stop drinking, the ease of having alcohol available makes it hard for some to create a pattern of sobriety, especially during the first few weeks. The most obvious benefit of an inpatient rehab program is the lack of availability of the addictive substance. Instead of being able to pick up alcohol at the grocery store, there are many more barriers in place to support sobriety as patients enter withdrawal. Nurses on staff can also help with managing withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Removal from Environmental Triggers

Another reason rehab works for alcoholism is a separation between the patient and environmental factors that might be influencing their addiction, such as their housing situation, employment, events, friends, and family who also drink.

By removing these stressors from the environment the patient can focus on their own healing and not have to worry about other responsibilities or the pressures from their peers. Additionally, without the time restrictions of work, cooking food, caring for others, and other daily tasks, the individual has the time and mental space to focus on healing.

Trauma Therapy

Sometimes stress comes more from internal than from external factors. Substance abuse can prevent individuals from healing from traumatic events in their lives, as it can make trauma symptoms worse, camouflage feelings that need to be addressed, isolate the individual, increase self neglect, foster feelings of self-hate, and burn bridges with crucial social support.

Part of how rehab works for alcoholism is healing the patient’s self-image through trauma therapy. In both group and individual therapy, specialized addiction treatments can be used to help the patient identify patterns of thought that are contributing to their addiction.


Understanding the disease itself is a major benefit of any alcohol rehab program. Learning about addiction, the effects on the brain, emotions, chemicals, and how our bodies function can help an individual heal from their addiction and reduce their risk of relapse.

When individuals understand the complexity of the brain and how alcohol impacts them, they can start to learn patterns to outsmart the signals their brain is sending.


How rehab works for alcoholism is by reprogramming negative thoughts, emotions, and beliefs that the individual has, thereby changing their actions to support a sober lifestyle. Addiction isolates individuals, and addicts build up walls around their vulnerabilities and traumas by numbing the pain with alcohol.

Those who suffer from addiction usually also deal with significant shame, guilt, and self-loathing. Part of treatment is reducing those feelings through education, self-discovery exercises, therapy, coping skills practice, and in some cases, medication.

Group and Individual Therapy

Individual and group therapy has been proven very effective in the treatment of alcoholism. Individual therapy helps the patient see their situation from a different point of view. Addiction therapists have been trained to help the patient discover the root cause behind their substance abuse, and can provide insight to help the patient become more connected with the emotions and thoughts they are experiencing. Processing through trauma and grief is a big part of individual therapy.

Group therapy helps the patient feel less alone. Gathering with a group of people in recovery is essential as the person may gain insight from others’ experiences. Maybe the other person shares a story that resonates with the patient, or shares feelings that the patient may also be experiencing. Validation from a group is important for recovery.

Treatment Example:

Amy has been drinking too much recently. She lost both her parents last year and feels lonely. Each night she drinks a large bottle of wine. Her job is a major source of stress and she constantly feels pressure from management to perform better. She feels tired all the time. The wine calms her down and helps her sleep. However, each morning she wakes up with extremely low energy and feels physically ill from the hangover she experiences. She feels so guilty that she is relying on her teen children to take care of her, but she can’t get past this point. She feels guilty for missing important events like her kids’ recitals and sports games, but she just can’t find the energy or emotional reserve to get there.

Amy decides to admit herself to an inpatient rehab program for alcoholism. She was able to detox from alcohol, and the first week she focuses on attending all her groups and doing therapeutic assignments. In one of these groups, another patient shares that he feels he has nothing left to live for, and that he has had thoughts of ending his own life. Amy realizes she feels the same way. She meets with her therapist to address these feelings. Amy and her therapist discuss her feelings around being needed, and Amy realizes that caring for her elderly parents gave her a sense of purpose, and not only is she grieving them, she’s having a hard time letting go of that role and the fulfillment it gave her.

Amy continues to make discoveries around the root cause of her drinking, and the shame she feels around not doing enough for her kids. She learns more about addiction, and sets up a safety plan with supportive friends to help her when she is at risk of relapsing. Amy continues to improve and discharges from the program.

Still curious about how rehab works for alcoholism? Give our Addiction Medicine Unit Care Coordinator a call at 801-455-3431.

If you or someone you know suffers from alcoholism, there is help.