Alternative Therapies for Alcohol Abuse

Article Provided By Lauren N. Hardy, MA of Mount Regis Center

Program info: At Mount Regis our alcohol addiction program is based around the 12-step model of recovery, using a combination of medication management and therapeutic techniques. Additionally, we provide those who have become physically dependent on alcohol with a medically monitored humane detoxification process. The friendly staff at Mount Regis focuses on each client’s individual strengths, specific difficulties, and personal needs when making a treatment plan. Through individual counseling, group sessions, and family therapy you will gain the tools needed to get back on your feet and live a successful life free from the grasp of alcohol.

In addition to traditional intervention programs for alcohol abuse, there are numerous alternative therapeutic options available. While there is currently not much empirical support as to their efficacy, alternative approaches may be helpful for a number of individuals struggling with alcohol problems. Below are four of the most commonly used non-traditional treatment methods:

Acupuncture: Acupuncture is among the oldest alternative medicine methods and has been used for thousands of years. It is based upon the principle that there are two opposing forces, yin and yang, that operate within our bodies and must be kept in balance. Qi is believed to be a vital life force that circulates between our organs, maintaining health. According to this belief system, blockages in Qi lead to imbalances in yin and yang, leading to a variety of health problems and emotional downturns. Treatment consists of inserting needles beneath the skin, sometimes with the addition of heat or electrical stimulation, at a variety of key locations along the pathway of the Qi to clear blockages and restore balance and health. Current research suggests that acupuncture can, in some ways, control or influence the communication pathways of the brain, correcting reversible effects of alcohol on the central nervous system.

Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy is another alternative method that has been used to treat alcohol abuse as well as many other addictions for years. Essentially, it is a deep state of relaxation that leaves the individual alert and aware of what is happening.  Hypnosis is believed to remove roadblocks to the unconscious mind allowing an experienced hypnotherapist to help the person identify the true course their addiction has taken. The person remains in control at all times and cannot be made to do something they are opposed to doing. Hypnosis can help determine how alcohol became a problem and help develop more effective coping strategies. These  strategies  will assist the individual to better deal with stress and triggers for drinking related behaviors. It is a great therapy for those who are prepared and ready to begin or continue the process of alcohol abuse treatment. It

Biofeedback: Biofeedback is used to monitor various physiological indicators of stress and relaxation such as blood pressure, heart rate, skin temperature, muscle tension, and perspiration. Biofeedback therapy trains people to recognize and control physiological responses, which usually reflect spontaneous reactions of the brain. Normally, our brains control physical reactivity adaptively but once the influences of toxins are introduced, our brain starts to lose that function. The key to biofeedback training is to help individuals learn to self-regulate their emotions through decreasing physical symptoms of stress.

Guided imagery and creative visualization: This type of therapy is used to teach individuals how to relax, ease tension, or improve self-esteem and confidence without the use of alcohol. For example, during a guided imagery session a patient may be asked to picture the positive results of an alcohol-free life as well as the negative aspects an alcohol abuse or addiction creates. Breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques may be used as a way to clear the mind to help maximize the imagery exercises. Before a guided imagery session begins, progressive muscle relaxation is often performed as a way to let go of any tension a person may be holding, this is done until full relaxation is achieved. The goal of this guided imagery and creative visualization is to reinforce the will to remain sober.

Psychodrama: Psychodrama is used to explore problems, issues, concerns, dreams, and aspirations that individuals may have through dramatic action. The main function of this type of therapy is to create spontaneity as in a group session that allows everyone to address his or her addiction. Psychodrama facilitates insights, personal growth and the integration of the cognitive and effective parts of the brain that have often become disconnected as a result of the alcohol abuse. When this spontaneous experience is created in a therapeutic setting, participants are able to see new and creative ways to re-create patterned responses.

While complementary methods generally do not have the same level of empirical support that mainstream treatments do, there is evidence that demonstrates positive results for certain types of complementary methods. When considering using alternative medicine to treat your alcohol problems, it is best to first consult with your primary care physician to obtain their recommendations regarding these options.


Bio: Lauren N. Hardy, MA, clinical team member of Mount Regis Center has several years of experience in the treatment field, two years as a research analyst at Vanderbilt University and a master’s degree in counseling psychology. Due to her background as a counselor and experience in the field, Lauren is able to provide some clarity on a few alternative therapies for alcohol addiction treatment.


Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 3, 2014
Published on, Help, Treatment & Information for Alcohol and Substance Abuse