Online therapy via telehealth platforms is a valuable resource that has altered the landscape of addiction treatment services in recent years. From the comfort of your own home, you can have access to licensed therapists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals right at your fingertips. For people struggling with addiction, virtual outpatient online therapy (also known as telehealth) offers many benefits and greater flexibility to get the individualized care they need.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth is a technology-driven healthcare model that connects clients with therapists, doctors, and other healthcare providers through phone calls, video chat, and text messaging. This treatment option can increase clients’ access to support services at the times they need it the most, without the barriers of travel, scheduling conflicts, or potential exposure to illnesses.
Remote access to therapy is helpful for clients both as they begin their addiction treatment and as they continue their recovery journey. With regular communication in between appointments, clinicians can monitor a client’s progress, keep them on track in their recovery, and identify potential signs of relapse. Telehealth has been found to be associated with fewer missed appointments than in-person and increased medication adherence.
One study showed that 46 percent of medical providers believed telehealth treatment was overall equally or more effective than in-person treatment. Telehealth care can also reach a wider group of people as many living in remote areas of the US face particularly challenging treatment barriers such as lack of available resources, transportation issues, cost, and more.
Here are some of the most common benefits of telehealth addiction treatment:
Common barriers to addiction treatment may include transportation issues, potential exposure to disease, geographic location, and stigma. Going into an office or a clinic for addiction treatment can be an unnerving experience for many because of the stigma associated with substance use. And getting to treatment may be an issue as some clients do not own cars or cannot afford public transportation. Telehealth therapy can remove all these obstacles and provide a safe environment for clients to be more fully engaged in their recovery.
Some individuals, especially those in underserved communities, also might not have access to in-person, specialized care such as gender-specific programs or facilities that treat co-occurring disorders. With telehealth treatment options, people don’t have to be limited to facilities only within their surrounding cities and states. Additionally, telemedicine is proving to be a prominent strategy for ramping up the availability of MAT medications to support recovery and prevent relapse.
Oftentimes, we hear people make the excuse that they don’t have time for therapy, particularly those who have families, demanding professional careers, and other responsibilities. With a computer or electronic device, a reliable internet connection, and a quiet room, people can attend telehealth therapy sessions from their homes or anywhere they choose. They can schedule appointments more easily and stick to them. And if someone has hesitations about leaving their professional career or personal life to go to rehab, then telehealth can be a more convenient alternative to get them the help they need to start their recovery.
3. Less costly
Another benefit of telehealth treatment is that it’s typically more cost-effective than an average inpatient rehab stay. With telehealth therapy, clients can cut back on transportation costs such as gas, buses, trains, or parking. They also don’t need to worry about paying for childcare or taking time off work. Since COVID-19, most insurance companies have broadened their plans to cover at least some form of telehealth care. Check with your provider or treatment facility to get an accurate answer.
4. Close to home
Having a reliable support network is important in recovery. While sometimes it’s necessary for people to leave their families behind and go to an inpatient drug rehabilitation center to focus on recovery, it’s not always possible. Some clients may be the main provider in their household and have young children or sick relatives who need care, which may deter them from seeking treatment. Telehealth allows people to stay close to home and receive quality addiction treatment with the support of their family members nearby.
5. Families can be involved
Although telehealth is an option for clients struggling with addiction, it can also be a useful tool for families who want to be involved in their loved one’s recovery. For example, if a parent’s child is staying in a rehab located in another state, it might be difficult to visit in person. Telehealth can eliminate that hurdle by having parents or loved ones attend virtual family therapy sessions so both sides can focus on healing together.
6. Expanded treatment options
Outpatient rehab programs normally offer virtual options for group and individual therapy sessions. But telehealth is expanding into other areas of addiction treatment as well. For some, recovery coaching is a highly demanded service where clients can develop a close, peer-to-peer relationship with a coach. If you can’t meet a recovery coach in person, some coaches can meet you via telehealth. And free virtual support groups are more common than ever before where people can connect with others having similar experiences.
Keep in mind that telehealth treatment may not be the best fit for everyone as some individuals require face-to-face interaction, and more intensive, around-the-clock care. For example, those looking to detox would do best in a detox facility or hospital with trained staff to keep them safe and comfortable during the withdrawal process. In other cases, some clients might struggle with sensory or psychological factors that hinder their ability to participate in virtual treatment. If you want to quit using substances or need additional support in your recovery, speak with an expert to see if telehealth is right for you.