Addiction counselling: using talk therapy to treat alcoholism

Written by: Dr Oscar D’Agnone
Published: | Updated: 04/03/2020
Edited by: Cameron Gibson-Watt

The recovery process for alcoholism is a journey, and for many a lifetime commitment. There isn’t a quick fix or a magic bullet to treat it.


Alcohol addiction counselling is one of the major tools in any rehabilitation programme that mainly focuses on the here-and-now of the patient's daily life. Whereas psychotherapeutic interventions tend to focus on the underlying causes that led the patient to their current situation. Additionally, it helps them to come to terms with their addictions ensuring they can continue enjoying their lives by leaving the ghosts of their past behind them.


We sat down with London psychiatrist, Dr Oscar D'Agnone, who explained exactly what addiction counselling consists of and describes what you can expect when you attend a typical counselling session in a rehab or walk-in centre.



What is addiction counselling?

Counselling can come in a wide variety of different forms: it can be part of residential alcoholic rehabilitation or regular sessions at private alcohol rehab clinics. These types of counselling sessions can reveal a lot of different things about each person.


Addiction counselling is a major part of alcohol rehab where one-on-one sessions can be acquired. Sufferers can speak to a qualified professional about their private issues which can reveal any difficult or traumatic events that led them to drink, but always focusing on the here and now.


Counselling helps patients to become aware and understand their problems and the many factors involved in their drinking behaviour. Being aware of this ultimately leads them to gain control of their drinking behaviour which is why it’s so important.


Through counselling, alcohol addicts can tackle their problems and take the first steps on the road to recovery.


What role does family therapy play in the recovery process?

Counselling and family therapy are key elements in any alcohol rehab programme. Family therapy is a type of psychotherapy that can help family members improve their communication and resolve any conflicts. Counsellors and family therapists, therefore, look for underlying personal, family and/or social factors and dynamics that might have influenced the patient's alcohol addiction and also coach patients and their family members on how to work through these matters.


What happens during the counselling sessions?

Addiction counselling takes place in a safe environment so the patient can feel comfortable and secure. None of their issues are ever released into the open and the only people who know about the conversations are the patient and the counsellor. All alcohol counsellors are bound by a strict code of secrecy and will keep all confidential information to themselves. Information is only shared if the patient needs to be referred to another specialist more qualified to deal with the problem.


Both residential alcohol rehabilitation and outpatient clinics run counselling sessions in the same manner, so there’s no major difference between them. The only slight difference is that those who attend a residential alcohol rehab centre will have more sessions more regularly, which ultimately leads to a closer relationship with the professional in question. This close bond is often what encourages people to seek help, allowing them to feel safe, gain trust and build their self-confidence.


Dr Oscar D'Agnone is a highly respected psychiatrist in Central London who specialises in treating people with alcohol and other addictions. If you would like to talk to him, visit his Top Doctors profile and check his availability.

By Dr Oscar D’Agnone

Dr Oscar D'Agnone MD MRCPsych is one of the most senior and respected psychiatrists and medical addiction specialists in the UK specialising in anxiety disorders, addictions, alcohol-related problems, trauma (PTSD), depression and ADHD. He is currently CEO and Medical Director of  Seagrave Healthcare/The OAD Clinic, a leading private institution providing mental health and addiction treatment in central London for over 15 years.

Until November 2018 Dr D'Agnone has been Honorary Professor of the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences at the University of Manchester, member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the International Society of Addiction Medicine.

With over 35 years of experience as a consultant psychiatrist treating patients with mental health and addiction problems, Dr D'Agnone provides complex psycho-neuropharmacological interventions to manage or resolve challenging situations for his patients and their families suffering the consequences of mental health problems. Throughout his career he has held many managerial positions, leading large teams of doctors, nurses and psychologists through various treatment settings across Europe and America. As a result, he has obtained a rich clinical experience that has allowed him to develop and offer a problem-focused pragmatic approach to the variety of pharmacological and psychosocial interventions for his patients.

Dr D'Agnone has taught in many European and American universities and institutions and published numerous medical papers and books on addictions and has published widely in the professional medical press. In addition, he often presents at noteable national and international scientific conferences and is the senior adviser for various governments and pharmaceuticals on policy strategy and the research and development of new drugs.

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