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Virtual Therapy for Addiction: What You Need to Know

Virtual Therapy for Addiction: What You Need to Know

Maybe you’ve completed a residential treatment program and are looking for virtual treatment programs for addiction as a next step. Or maybe you’ve recently realized that your use of alcohol, drugs, or other substances has gone beyond recreational use and edged toward addiction. Perhaps you’re starting to notice that certain behaviors, like the ways you eat, shop, or approach sexual relationships, have become harmful to yourself or those around you.

Whether you’re suffering from substance misuse or addictive behaviors, a good treatment program can help you step out of addiction and into recovery. Depending on your circumstances, full-time immersive programs at a residential treatment facility aren’t the only options.

This is where online addiction therapy can offer an ideal solution, providing an alternative to intensive, in-person treatment. While some battling with addiction require the level of full-time care and monitoring that are available through a residential treatment program, others can start or continue their recovery journey on an outpatient basis.

What is virtual therapy for addiction? What benefits can you gain through this therapy approach? Is virtual addiction treatment for you? Here’s what you need to know if you’re interested in virtual outpatient addiction treatment or you’re researching options for a loved one in need of recovery support.

Telehealth for Addiction by the Numbers

Telehealth, or telemedicine, is defined by Medicaid.gov1 as a service that “seeks to improve a patient’s health by permitting two-way, real-time interactive communication between the patient and the physician or practitioner at a distant site.” Telehealth appointments are typically conducted through electronic tools, including phone calls and video chats.

According to the American Hospital Association2, the use of telehealth has grown significantly over the last several years. In 2010, only about 10% of U.S. hospitals reported that they offered telehealth services, a number that steadily rose to 76% by 2017. Now, telehealth services are offered in nearly every state, and many private insurance carriers are starting to see the benefits of telehealth, although insurance coverage for telemedicine still varies.

Of course, this remote treatment option has become more necessary and prevalent in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC3 reported that in the last week of March 2020, soon after pandemic restrictions began to be implemented across the country, telehealth visits across all health disciplines increased by 154%. Because of the convenience, cost savings, and other benefits offered by telehealth services, this option will likely experience even greater growth in the coming years.

What is Virtual Therapy for Addiction?

Virtual therapy for addiction is a branch of telehealth specifically devoted to assisting and supporting individuals in addiction recovery and their families and their loved ones. It allows those struggling with addiction to find intensive or weekly therapy options from the comfort of home. An intensive outpatient program4 (IOP) can include biological, psychological, social, and spiritual assessments, in addition to regular virtual group and individual therapy sessions, ongoing care planning and coordination, and service referrals, among other things.

Clients and participants can expect to receive the same treatment level as they would with part-time in-person care; however, clients can remain at home during their sessions and continue living their lives and working their jobs instead of leaving home to attend residential treatment.

What to Expect from Online Addiction Therapy

When you choose telehealth services for addiction recovery, you can expect access to various helpful support services4 designed to guide you through the recovery process. Typically, clients will participate in a range of intensive outpatient therapy sessions weekly. These may include one or more individual sessions and group sessions, totaling up to ten hours each week.

Many virtual therapy programs have a set timeframe for services, sometimes several weeks or a few months. Still, clients that require additional support can always extend their addiction treatment program length or take advantage of other available services.

In addition to virtual addiction treatment individual and group sessions, patients may participate in family support groups or family group therapy or sessions designed for couples. Addiction does not exist in a vacuum. Often, family members either play some sort of role in the addiction process or have been affected by the patient’s addiction, if not both. Virtual therapy sessions for couples and families can help to heal personal relationships. The support and understanding of loved ones can make a huge difference in a patient’s ongoing recovery process.

You may also have access to services like dietitian support, integrative diagnostics, and more when you join a virtual intensive outpatient program. With counseling sessions and other services provided via video chat, patients still benefit from the immersive experience of intensive outpatient programming without having to leave home, family, and work. The virtual support services provided can help to pave the way to addiction recovery.

Benefits of Virtual Therapy for Addiction

It’s natural to wonder if online addiction therapy can offer the same treatment levels as in-person care would. While a residential recovery program provides round-the-clock care and some activities that won’t be available to clients receiving remote addiction therapy services, you’ll still enjoy the same support and treatment as you would when conducting in-person therapy.

You’ll gain several additional benefits, as well. For many people who are seeking help for addiction, the thought of putting their life on hold and potentially losing a job and/or relationships while they’re in residential care can be daunting. While residential addiction treatment typically offers an opportunity to stay connected with your loved ones and even job, virtual addiction therapy can allow you to stay at home while working on recovery. Virtual therapy for addiction offers the convenience of treatment from the comfort of your own home so that you can pursue recovery without interrupting your life.

You can keep your job, remain with your family, and honor other commitments, even as you work to overcome addictive behaviors and the negative impacts that they may have on your life. Virtual IOP programs for addiction can allow you to work through all of the stressors that arise in your daily encounters and relationships with a therapist in real time. After completing residential treatment, virtual addiction therapy can offer extremely relevant support as you work to put all the coping mechanisms and life skills you learned into action. Additionally, telehealth outpatient and intensive outpatient services may be more likely to be covered by insurance during COVID, ensuring access to all clients seeking addiction recovery services.

Who is a Good Candidate for an Intensive Outpatient Program?

Some patients really need the immersive support services provided by a residential program. However, this type of treatment isn’t right for everyone. An IOP is ideal for patients who want to enter or continue treatment without taking a hiatus from their lives.

Often, patients enter an IOP because they understand that they need support to recover from substance abuse or addictive behaviors. Regular therapy (i.e., a single weekly session with a therapist) isn’t enough. However, they may not need the intensive, immersive care offered by residential treatment programs. An IOP offers a happy medium that allows patients to live their lives, even as they participate in intensive care for addiction recovery.

Virtual therapy for addiction is also a great option for patients that have completed a residential program but still need intensive remote support to continue on their path to recovery. With additional support for family and friends impacted by a loved one’s addiction, an IOP may be the best solution for many patients.

Is Telehealth for Addiction as Good as In-Person Care?

The answer to this question depends on the level of treatment you are seeking. If your circumstances require detox or residential care, in-person treatment cannot be replaced. If you have completed residential treatment and are looking for intensive therapy groups or even just weekly sessions for support, virtual addiction treatment can offer the exact same benefit as doing that face-to-face. Whether you speak with therapists and meet with therapy groups face-to-face or via video chat technology, you enjoy the same opportunities to learn about your addiction, develop the knowledge and skills to be able to make healthier choices, and experience the support and connection to a community that is essential to the recovery process.

Is a Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program Right for Me?

Addiction recovery is a personal process, so it can be hard to know where to begin. Our admissions team will work with you to determine your needs and the best place to start. Choosing the right treatment plan can feel intimidating, but you don’t have to do it alone. To learn more about the options available to you, contact the qualified and caring team at All Points North Lodge at (866)525-9107 or online via live chat or email.


*We cannot understate the importance of working with a doctor and therapist as you recover. None of this content is intended as medical advice.

Speak with your providers to find a plan and strategies that work for you. If you don’t have a therapist or provider, give us a call.

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