Key questions to ask on alcohol treatment

There are lots of different types of alcohol treatment. I’ve covered rehab and choosing a counsellor previously so this post  covers key questions to ask  when speaking to a counsellor. When you contact a counsellor don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions. A good counsellor will welcome questions as they will want to make sure their alcohol treatment approach can help you.


 Ask about qualifications

In Ireland, there is no law to stop someone calling themselves a counsellor or therapist when they have no training or qualifications. This warning also applies to other treatments such as hypnosis. So do check the websites of the professional counselling associations to make sure your counsellor is qualified to practise. You should also know that some one can be a member of a professional counselling association but may not be accredited to practise as a counsellor. For example, a student member is not fully qualified to practise.  A listing of the main  Irish associations is shown at the end of this post.



A counsellor can also be called a psychologist, which is a term about to be protected by law.  You can check psychologist  registration on this website. There are many different types of psychologists. For example, an educational psychologist will probably not be trained in providing alcohol treatment. They focus on how people to learn.

If you decide you need a psychologist,  ideally a counselling psychologist with alcohol abuse training is best.  If you think you have an underlying mental health issue such as ADHD you may find a  clinical psychologist with alcohol abuse training helpful.


Different approaches in different countries

In England there are  voluntary registers for counsellors which can be found here.  The American situation is different again. A useful guide for finding alcohol treatment can be found in this book “inside rehab” by Anne M. Fletcher which can be found here.



Find out cost from the very start. Cost can vary considerably, from free services to up to €150 per hour. Psychologists tend to be at the higher end of the range. The fee is usually per session and some counsellors offer a sliding scale according to your ability to pay.

To help you work out the cost, ask the counsellor if they can give you an estimate of how many sessions might be involved. Counselling is provided free within some public health services and most third level institutions offer student counselling services free of charge. A number of voluntary agencies also provide free counselling.

Some health insurance packages cover the cost of a limited number of counselling sessions. Ask your insurer to clarify the terms and conditions of cover.

If cost is a problem, this should be mentioned when making enquiries as some organisations may have sliding scales, low cost options or payment on the basis of a donation.


You might find these questions about approach useful:

  1. Have you worked with people who misuse alcohol before?
  2. What is your approach? e.g 12 step, harm reduction, person centered etc. (We’ll  have  another post on this)
  3. What do you think is the goal of the therapy?
  4. What methods do you employ?
  5. What’s the number of sessions you think we’ll need?
  6. Is the timing of these sessions flexible or do they have to happen at a regular scheduled time ?
  7. What’s expected from me? (For instance, are there homework assignments ?)


You might find the questions below useful after the first session;

  1. Did you feel the counsellor listened and understood your concerns?
  2. Did you feel like the counsellor respected you?
  3. Did you feel the counsellor saw you as an equal and did not patronise you?
  4. Did the Counsellor seem like a real person or were they playing a role?
  5. Was the counsellor passive (simply listening) or active (asking questions) in the session? What do you like better?
  6. Does it seem like the counsellor will be open to hearing about all your feelings, including being frustrated or angry with the counsellor?
  7. Do you feel the counsellor will not judge you if you have a relapse or continue to drink?
  8. Did the counsellor have a positive outlook on life?
  9. Did you feel safe expressing your thoughts, concerns and feelings?


If you are not answering yes to most of these questions, then this counsellor may not be right for you and you should consider trying another counsellor.

All the research shows the relationship between the client and counsellor is the key to success. Do make sure you feel comfortable with your counsellor. If you do not feel comfortable with your counsellor it might be time to try another counsellor.


Alcohol treatment

As you can see there are a wide range of issues to consider when deciding on alcohol treatments. Sometimes it can take a few attempts to find  an approach  that suits you.  So don’t give up if you don’t succeed the first time. It could be this was not the right treatment for you.

Finally we have a number of online courses both free and paid you might find useful that you can find here.


If you found this post helpful, you might find these posts useful

Can an alcohol counsellor help you?

Rehab when is it needed?


Irish Associations for Counselling and Psychotherapy

Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

Irish Association of Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy

The Psychological Society of Ireland

Irish Council for Addiction Counsellors




This post was written by Carol

As some who gets hangovers lasting a week, Carol never drank too much - Once she got to a sensible age! However as a patient with an auto immune illness, since she was a teenager she has to drink very little. So she really understands how Irish society makes this very difficult. Carol is responsible for all aspects of Lifewise operations that Valerie and Angela do not cover.

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