Man listening intently to another person talking

Why Do Different People Need Different Options?

When it comes to alcohol treatment, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. What may work for one person with alcohol use disorder (AUD) may not be a good fit for someone else. A complete assessment of the person's condition will suggest what specific type of treatment would be best for that individual.

The importance of a complete assessment by a health professional

A person with a drinking problem should be evaluated by a health professional—a therapist or medical doctor who has formal training in addiction treatment. (The Navigator will show you how to find these professionals in How to Find Alcohol Treatment.)

When doing an assessment, a health professional will usually ask about the areas listed below. All are important when deciding which types of treatment will provide the best support.

Individual factors for health professionals to assess

Alcohol and other drug use and previous treatment

  • Drinking patterns or behaviors.
  • Other substance use issues.
  • Severity of alcohol or other drug problems.
  • Prior treatment (if any) and how it went.

Other health issues

  • Other medical or mental health conditions, such as diabetes or depression, that will need attention during treatment.

Living and social situation

  • Amount of support from family and social network.
  • Stability of living situation.
  • Access to transportation.

Legal system issues

  • Any drinking-related arrests, probation, or other legal issues that require coordination with the justice system or social services.

Other specialized needs

  • Common examples include pregnant women, people for whom English is not their primary language, and people in safety-sensitive occupations, such as airline pilots, physicians, or law enforcement.

From assessment to treatment plan

Here's how a comprehensive assessment can help set a course of action:

  • If the assessment finds that the person entering treatment has a less severe AUD, a stable living environment, supportive friends and family, access to transportation, and relatively good health, then outpatient treatment with one-on-one or group therapy may be a good option. Outpatient counseling allows a person to maintain much of his or her regular daily routine.
  • If the assessment finds that the person has a more severe AUD, or unstable housing, or limited transportation, or few nondrinking peers, or has other health issues in addition to AUD, then he or she may benefit from extended time in a residential treatment program. Residential programs are also good for anyone who needs a more structured living environment with a predictable daily schedule.

A person with significant health issues should consult his or her primary care doctor and might consider a hospital-based inpatient program where medical staff are available.


Individual routes to recovery

Depending on their situations, different people will have different routes to recovery. Finding an option that best fits your situation is what's important.

Infographic depicts the many paths of treatment for alcohol problems and an illustration of four different people and their paths.

There are Many Routes to Recovery

This infographic shows the routes that four different people might take on their way to recovery from AUD. Yours might be similar or different.