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Telehealth and Online Addiction Treatment

Drug and alcohol addiction affects millions of families nationwide every day. In 2022, 20.4 million people in the U.S. were diagnosed with substance use disorder, yet only about 10% received treatment.1 Getting help for addiction can be overwhelming at first. But seeking treatment can open the door to a happier, healthier life.

Whether you’re interested in inpatient rehab or online addiction treatment, different services are available to help you find the best care. The accessibility of online addiction treatment has rapidly expanded since the onset of COVID-19.2 Today, there are numerous options for virtual care, including online therapy, case management, and medication management.3

Everyone is different, and no one treatment will work for all.4 Depending on factors like the severity of your addiction and where you are in your recovery journey, you could greatly benefit from online addiction care.

What Is Online Addiction Treatment?

Telehealth includes different forms of virtual healthcare, often through video, phone, or online chat.5 Between 2016 and 2019, telehealth use among healthcare and mental health providers had already doubled from 14% to 28%.3

The pandemic led to a drastic rise in the popularity of telehealth, with a sudden increase in the need for virtual treatment services.6 As inpatient and outpatient providers limited access to in-person care, many medical facilities transitioned to virtual care to safely accommodate patients.6

Types of Virtual Care Programs for Addiction

Addiction treatment is often individualized, and what works for one person may not work for another.4 That’s why a wide array of telehealth and online treatment options are available to fit everyone’s unique needs. You’ll be able to select different options for treatment based on the program you choose. Many factors can contribute to finding what works best for you, such as the severity of your addiction and your specific needs.

Telehealth services are typically categorized into 4 general methods: synchronous, asynchronous, remote monitoring, and mobile health apps.5 All care involving real-time interactions and live discussions between a patient and provider is synchronous.5

Asynchronous services don’t involve live patient-provider interactions. Diagnoses are based on stored information like medical history or images.5 With remote monitoring, remote video footage of a patient is examined to review images and tests.5 Mobile health apps offer non-traditional telehealth services through texting and continuous access to therapists.5

Many types of telehealth programs are available, including:5

  • Web-based assessments. Assessments like alcohol use disorder identification tests, motivational therapy sessions, psychoeducation, and computerized interventions help your provider understand the severity of your addiction and recommend the best methods for efficient treatment.
  • Voice calls. You can receive behavioral therapy and recovery support by speaking with your healthcare provider on the phone.
  • Video chats. Video meetings provide a similar experience to face-to-face individual therapy and are popular telehealth options.
  • You can communicate with your healthcare provider and share test results using secure messaging and online portals.
  • Mobile health apps and text therapy. These tools offer a new way to support people in recovery with daily text messages and the convenience of communicating with a licensed mental health professional at any time.

What to Expect with Online Addiction Counseling

Online counseling delivers addiction care at your convenience. Depending on the type of services you need, your experiences with online addiction therapy can vary. Many options for telehealth addiction counseling are available, including intensive outpatient treatment, intake assessments, individual counseling, group counseling, and medication management.3 These therapeutic interventions may look a little different through telehealth, but they still provide similar results to in-person counseling, from the comfort of your home.

Several behavioral therapies are available virtually, from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to prolonged exposure (PE) therapy. Therapies like these are pillars in many substance misuse treatment plans and are particularly beneficial to help patients recognize and change their behaviors.3

Let’s take CBT, for example. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a goal-centered therapy used to help people alter their thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors with a variety of behavioral and cognitive techniques.3 Sessions are generally conducted by a therapist over the phone or via an online program.3 Research has found that clients are more likely to complete CBT through telehealth and have higher satisfaction levels.3

The intensity, frequency, and duration of your treatment will vary depending on the services you require. Most interventions require multiple weekly sessions, often ranging in length from 45 to 90 minutes.3 Individual telehealth appointments can easily be made to accommodate your schedule, but group therapies may have set times.

Does Telehealth Addiction Treatment Work?

You might be curious about how well telehealth addiction treatment actually works. Research continues to reveal the efficacy of telehealth treatment. Just between March and April 2020, the pandemic influenced a dramatic 556% increase in telehealth visits for mental health.3 Telehealth was greatly adopted, specifically in rural communities and those offering multiple pharmacotherapy treatment settings for adults and pediatric populations.3

Research has found online drug and alcohol addiction therapy to be just as effective as in-person therapy.7 In 2021, a study examining 7 published analyses compared in-person treatment to telehealth. No difference in levels of substance use, retention rates, therapeutic alliance, or satisfaction with treatment was found.7 Higher retention rates for telehealth medication-assisted treatment (MAT) were also revealed.7

Just like any addiction treatment, there are pros and cons when comparing online care to in-person inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment services. Telehealth treatment programs widen the availability and accessibility to high-quality substance use treatment. The pandemic has skyrocketed the level of telehealth services offered, increasing access to experienced providers across traditional barriers.

Telehealth for addiction also provides a convenient option for individuals who might find it difficult to attend treatment in person, like those with family responsibilities or no transportation. Research has also discovered the ability of telehealth to improve the population’s health and quality of life while decreasing the costs of healthcare.3

Although studies have found similar levels of effectiveness between telehealth and in-person programs, online addiction treatment may not be the best choice for someone with a severe addiction. For example, someone struggling with severe opioid addiction may require or benefit more from an inpatient or hybrid program where they can receive 24/7 supervision and support while withdrawing from opioids and in recovery.3 Also, less tech-savvy people may struggle with using telehealth services. Many may desire the face-to-face aspect of in-person treatment, especially in group therapy settings where you can connect with others on similar journeys.

Finding Online Addiction Treatment

Finding the best online addiction treatment program for you may take a bit of research. Always consider aspects of the program that fit your lifestyle, like formats that accommodate your personal and technical preferences. So, if you dislike talking on the phone, a mobile app program where you can communicate with your therapist through text could be a great option. Be sure to also research the program you have in mind for positive online reviews.

Effective addiction treatment puts you at the forefront and addresses your specific needs.4 Addiction treatment can often be a difficult process, but recovery is possible. Countless options for resources and support are available, including inpatient programs, outpatient services, medical detox, therapy, and aftercare.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, you don’t have to fight it alone. Seeking treatment can help you beat your addiction and build the foundation for a happier life. Embarking on the journey to recovery can be overwhelming at first, but American Addiction Centers is here to help you along the way. Instantly verify your insurance coverage and find the best rehab centers to start your journey to recovery today. Or call us now at .

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