The Difference Between Alcoholism Treatment Centers and Recovery Programs

Yes there is a difference between alcoholism treatment centers and a recovery program. Personally, I have been through inpatient treatment on three different occasions so these experiences are from my own point of few. Different treatment centers utilize different techniques and approaches so what I share is from my own experience. It’s also important to mention that each time was somewhat of a different experience for me, but that will be more for a later article. For now, I’m going to stick with the differences, as I see them between treatment centers and recovery programs.


Treatment centers

Treatment centers are facilities which provide inpatient rehab programs and/or Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP). The purpose of these facilities is to help the alcoholic deal with the immediate emotional and physical issues which arise when stopping the consumption of alcohol. The most immediate benefit of alcoholism treatment centers is the enormous support the patients receive when being admitted. If the patient has been consuming large amounts of alcohol for an extended period of time, a detoxification process is usually necessary. Many times this is done at a separate facility, such as a detox center, better equipped and staffed to handle the serious physical and/or medical side-effects of detoxification. Although, many treatment centers have the staff and are qualified to detox the patient at the same facilities.


Treatment centers are where the alcoholic is introduced and educated on the aspects of the disease of alcoholism. Generally the patients attend lectures and classes throughout the day which inform them not only about the physical and medical aspect of the disease, but the great emotional aspects as well. In addition to classes and lectures, small group sessions are usually held which give the individual patients a chance to get used to the group therapy process. One-on-one counseling (between certified counselor and patient) is most commonly done either on a day-to-day basis as well or as many time as the counselors schedule allows. When researching a treatment center, it may be a good idea to inquire about the patient to counselor ration. In my experience, I was able to meet with a personal counselor at least three times a week and more if needed.


The length of stayed required at in-patient treatment centers varies, many times depending on insurance coverages. The most common is 28 days and can range from a few days to several years. There are also programs referred to as an IOP, or Intensive Out Patient program. These due not require in-patient accommodations and generally consists of lectures and group therapy three to four times per week.


There are those in recovery who have achieved long-term sobriety without entering a treatment center. A common saying heard around recovery is “treatment is a great place for discovery, Alcoholics Anonymous(AA) is a the place for recovery.” Moreover, there are those who feel treatments centers are just out to make money off information and techniques sufferers can get for free from AA. With that said, I personally am grateful for treatment centers. In my experience, they are helpful in getting a start on learning about the disease of alcoholism and the tools needed to build a long-term recovery program. However, to achieve long-term sobriety and a happy and joyful life, an alcoholic must work some type of ongoing recovery program which is what we’ll look at next.


Recovery Program

A strong recovery program consists of an on-going process, if maintained, will lead the alcoholic to a productive, joyful, and happy life. And most important of all, sober! In my experience, AA has been the only recovery program that has worked, for me. Abstinence is not recovery. Not in my opinion. Just because I stop drinking, all my problems do not go away. Many times they get worse. After all, they say you’ll feel better if you stop drinking. Yes, you’ll feel everything better including fear, anger, resentment, sadness, etc.. A saying often heard around recovery is “sober up a horse thief, and you’ve still got a horse thief.” It is necessary to deal with the underlying factors that contributed to ones drinking. That is where a 12 step program comes into play.


Most people are familiar with The Twelve Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous. The program is designed to help the alcoholic develop a spiritual life, ego deflation, deal with their past, move on into their future, and is considered a design for living based on a set of spiritual principles. From the book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, “A.A.’s Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.” For me, this has been true.


Before any alcoholic can recover, they first must admit they need help and start moving out of denial. One of the things that kept me in denial for so long, was I refused to believe I had any emotional issues. I drank simply because I liked it, I had nothing better to do, or it was fun. But at some point it stopped becoming fun, even though I continued to convince myself otherwise. It wasn’t until I actually worked a recovery program did I realize there were things, emotional things, I needed to work on. I accepted the fact I needed help and from that point on I was in recovery. Today I insist on being in the solution and not in the problem.


Intensive Outpatient Program | Partial Hospitalization Program


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