Benefits of Inpatient Rehab for Alcoholism: Why You Should Consider It

All alcohol addiction treatment begins with a clinical assessment to gather the information used to determine a diagnosis and create a treatment plan. The severity of your withdrawal symptoms and other criteria will help place you in the right level of care, each with specific benefits. Inpatient rehab provides patients with intensive, 24/7 hour care while outpatient offers more flexibility.1 Before deciding to enter inpatient alcoholism treatment, you’ll want to consider the benefits of inpatient rehab, as well as how it works and what the success rate is.

What is Inpatient Treatment?

Inpatient treatment, which is the most intensive treatment option, offers 24-hour care in a hospital setting. Most inpatient alcohol rehabs are between 30 and 90 days long, although they can be longer if needed. Generally, longer treatment stays are associated with better treatment outcomes.2

These alcoholism programs are highly structured and include a rigid routine that includes various treatment modalities and services, such as:

  • Group therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Family counseling
  • Peer support groups
  • Drug education classes
  • Relapse prevention
  • Medication management
  • Holistic interventions, such as yoga, meditation, or creative arts therapy
  • Medical care

Many people benefit from the structure of an inpatient alcoholism rehab as well as the separation from their everyday environment. They find that they can focus solely on their recovery from alcohol addiction without distractions, stressors, and triggers.

Unlike inpatient rehab, outpatient treatment, such as partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, involves attending therapy and counseling during the day and returning home during non-treatment hours.1 Outpatient alcohol rehabs are best for people with a strong support system of family and friends outside of the treatment environment.

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What are the Benefits of Inpatient Rehab for Alcohol Addiction?

The benefits of inpatient rehab for alcohol addiction occur in stages. Short-term benefits happen during inpatient detoxification and rehab and long-term benefits follow discharge from treatment.

Short-Term Benefits of Inpatient Rehab

Entering inpatient treatment means 24-hour medical and therapeutic care is available and medication assistance to ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms so that the entire focus can be on learning skills for recovery. Other short-term benefits of inpatient rehab include the availability of treatment for co-occurring disorders, more cost-effective medication assistance, and integrative care services that improve outcomes.3

In a study using acamprosate to treat alcohol use disorder in over 6,800 participants, the medicine reduced the risk of returning to drinking by 86% and prolonged abstinence by 11%.12 Inpatient treatment improves outcomes with the use of incentives, increasing positive support networks, healing the executive functioning in the brain, and teaching how to replace negative emotions with positive ones.4

Long-Term Benefits of Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient alcohol treatment prepares you to maintain recovery well after discharge. Preparation begins before you leave and provides long-term benefits of inpatient rehab once you return home. Treatment builds the foundation for long-term recovery by equipping you with the tools you need to stay sober in the long run, such as:

  • Sober social skills
  • Coping strategies
  • Impulse control skills
  • Emotional regulation skills
  • Stress management strategies

Additionally, access to community resources and continuing care opportunities can help prevent relapse. Continuing care and aftercare planning include self-help groups, 12-step facilitation groups, A.A. sponsorship, individual therapy, and recovery activities. It also includes meeting vocational and educational needs, housing, family services, and connecting you with any other service that will help you in recovery. Research shows that continuing care effectively reduces relapse, increases employment, improves relationships, and decreases co-occurring symptoms.5

What to Expect Day-to-Day in Inpatient Treatment

All inpatient treatment programs for alcoholism are structured and implement a daily routine. Schedules are individualized and include therapeutic activities that increase knowledge, improve skills, and foster healing. You can expect your schedule to include the following:6

  • Medication management and medical care, if needed
  • Group counseling led by a licensed treatment professional where you discuss recovery issues, as well as give and receive support to peers
  • Individual counseling between you and a licensed therapist to discuss your progress in treatment and anything else you need to support your recovery
  • Individual assignments to help you implement the knowledge you gained in therapy
  • Psychoeducation in both group and family therapy to teach you the science behind alcohol use disorder so you can understand why you need help to stop misusing alcohol, recovery, and relapse prevention
  • Skills training to improve life skills, early recovery skills, and relapse prevention skills
  • Introduction to self-help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Co-occurring disorder treatment for mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression
  • Family education and therapy
  • Alternative and holistic therapies that involve creative expressions, such as music and art therapy, equine therapy, meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and nutrition

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Therapies Used in Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment consists of integrated therapies to address all a person’s needs, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and more. One of the benefits of inpatient rehab for alcoholism is that you can receive a myriad of several treatment modalities for a comprehensive treatment experience.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

One of the most extensive studies shows cognitive-behavioral therapy increases success in alcohol recovery in over 58% of participants. CBT is a form of talk therapy that teaches someone how to recognize negative thought patterns and replace them with positive thoughts that will lead to positive behaviors. Therapists utilize CBT in individual, group, and family sessions during inpatient treatment.7

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

The goals of dialectical behavior therapy include decreasing suicidal thinking, reducing behaviors that interfere with therapy, and increasing behavioral skills. Studies show DBT is beneficial for attrition or compliance in a program and significantly reduces suicide.8

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, which is effective for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), consists of eight phases, including:9

  • Gathering information on personal history
  • Preparing for sessions
  • Evaluating for the level of PTSD
  • Desensitizing to the trauma
  • Scanning with guided imagery
  • Achieving closure
  • Reevaluating for the level of PTSD

EMDR mimics REM sleep, the stage of sleep where healing and restoration occur. In many studies, people show improvements in just a few sessions and find that EMDR is more effective than trauma medicine.9

Group Counseling

Group counseling is used in inpatient treatment because it is a great way to teach recovery principles and offer peer support that is beneficial to long-term recovery. Group counseling utilizes techniques such as:10

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • 12-step facilitation
  • Community reinforcement
  • Relapse prevention skills

Numerous studies show clinicians and participants prefer open groups that utilize multiple evidence-based treatments. Providing education on the disease model of addiction and therapeutic activities that are non-confrontational is more successful.10

Interpersonal Psychotherapy

Interpersonal psychotherapy effectively treats people with more than one disorder or co-occurring conditions that require integrated care to succeed in recovery. For example, someone with alcohol use disorder and depression needs to receive comprehensive care for both conditions, otherwise they have an increased risk of relapse. With this therapy, you address one treatment target at a time. Targets include learning to live in sobriety, recognizing triggers and potential conflicts that may cause a relapse, grief, and loss, boosting your self-esteem, and learning self-compassion.11

Family Therapy

Family therapy is crucial to recovery. One person’s alcohol use disorder can impact all family members. Also, family members aren’t always aware of how they can enable alcohol misuse or enable recovery. Family therapy teaches them to support recovery, set healthy boundaries, and heal themselves emotionally.12

Who is Inpatient Treatment Best For?

Treatment needs vary from person to person, and there is no one-size-fits-all program. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, examples of people who benefit from inpatient rehab include those with:13

  • A severe alcohol addiction
  • Co-occurring conditions
  • A polysubstance addiction
  • Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms and can benefit from pharmacotherapies during detox
  • Medication management needs
  • Skill improvement needs, including relapse prevention and communication

If someone needs specialized programs, for example, age, gender identity, ethnicity, legal issues, hearing impaired, military, or trauma, inpatient treatment provides those as well.13

What is the Success Rate of Inpatient Treatment?

Length of stay in alcohol use disorder treatment is a predictor of recovery success. The more time you spend on the continuum of care, the more likely you are to avoid relapse. The continuum of care starts with inpatient treatment and steps down to outpatient services. Studies show that those with at least three months of treatment have better outcomes regarding abstinence and behavior, such as gaining employment and avoiding criminal behaviors.14

Other studies show those attending inpatient programs for more than three months attend continuing care and support groups more frequently after discharge. They also have greater reductions in the use of alcohol or other substances. These outcomes were the same at the one and two-year follow-up marks. Following treatment with a support group like Alcoholics Anonymous is a significant factor in remaining abstinent for many in recovery.14

There are criteria for completing inpatient treatment that shows you are ready to transition to a lower level of care. Your treatment team will evaluate your level of participation in group counseling, the number of completed treatment goals, and access to a drug-free living environment upon your discharge. Other criteria focus on your ability to maintain a support system, solve social, physical, or psychological issues that could trigger a relapse, and that you have a solid plan to maintain sobriety once you leave. Your plan should include continuing care services, case management, and connections with community recovery programs.6

Preferably, you will transition to sober living housing or into a partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient program so you can continue receiving support. The longer you stay in treatment, the higher the chances of long-term recovery. For this reason, it is recommended you start with an inpatient detox program and step down through the levels of care, including inpatient and outpatient programs.6

Get Help for Alcohol Use Disorder Today

If you have been struggling with alcohol misuse, it’s essential to get an alcohol assessment to see which level of care is the best fit for you. You can also call our confidential helpline at 800-839-1686Who Answers? to find an appropriate treatment program for you.

Resources

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2016). Chapter 4: Early Intervention, Treatment, and Management of Substance Use Disorders. Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Washington (D.C.). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (U.S.).
  2. Proctor, S. L., & Herschman, P. L. (2014). The Continuing Care Model of Substance Use Treatment: What Works, and When is “Enough,” “Enough?”. Psychiatry Journal, 692423.
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2016). Chapter 6, Health Care Systems and Substance Use Disorders. Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health (D.C.). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (U.S.).
  4. Witkiewitz, K., Saville, K., & Hamreus, K. (2012). Acamprosate for Treatment of Alcohol Dependence: Mechanisms, Efficacy, and Clinical Utility. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, 8, 45-53.
  5. McKay, J. R., & Hiller-Sturmhofel, S. (2011). Treating Alcoholism As a Chronic Disease: Approaches to Long-Term Continuing Care. Alcohol Research & Health: The Journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 33(4), 356-370.
  6. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2014). What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4126. Rockville (M.D.). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (U.S.).
  7. Carroll, K. M., & Kiluk, B. D. (2017). Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions for Alcohol and Drug Use Disorders: Through the Stage Model and Back Again. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors: Journal of the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors, 31(8), 847-861.
  8. Panos, P. T., Jackson, J. W., Hasan, O., & Panos, A. (2014). Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review Assessing the Efficacy of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Research on social work practice, 24(2), 213-223.
  9. Hassett, G. (2018). The Effectiveness of EMDR.
  10. Wendt, D. C., & Gone, J. P. (2017). Group Therapy for Substance Use Disorders: A Survey of Clinician Practices. Journal of Groups in Addiction & Recovery, 12(4), 243-259.
  11. Gamble, S. A., Talbot, N. L., Cashman-Brown, S. M., He, H., Poleshuck, E. L., Connors, G. J., & Conner, K. R. (2013). A Pilot Study of Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Alcohol-Dependent Women With Co-Occurring Major Depression. Substance Abuse, 34(3), 233 – 241.
  12. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2021). Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.
  13. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, (2018). National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS): 2017. Data on Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities. BHSIS Series S-73, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4890.
  14. Proctor, S. L., & Herschman, P. L. (2014). The Continuing Care Model of Substance Use Treatment: What Works, and When Is “Enough,” “Enough?”. Psychiatry Journal, 692423.

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