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Seeking help for an addiction is important for recovery, but this can be difficult to do for some individuals. Telehealth is a remote option that offers behavioral health services, such as drug and alcohol counseling, can make it easier for these individuals to get the help they need. Teletherapy or virtual therapy takes place online or over the phone, so people do not have to arrange transportation to and from appointments. If you are considering working as a mental health counselor, learning more about the advantages of teletherapy can help you understand its importance.

What Is Teletherapy?

Teletherapy refers to counseling that is done in a virtual or online environment rather than in person. This type of therapy can involve people meeting with online therapists individually or as part of a group. Teletherapy can be used to help treat a wide range of mental health disorders and conditions, including substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Teletherapy Statistics

How common is teletherapy overall? The American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that around 38 percent of Americans have used telehealth services, including online counseling. Roughly 6 in 10 Americans are open to using telehealth for mental healthcare. Of adults already using telehealth services, around 43 percent plan to keep doing so.

Teletherapy Counseling for Substance Use Disorders

Online drug and alcohol counseling provides a way for individuals to receive treatment for substance use disorders. These virtual counseling sessions help individuals learn more about why addiction occurs and how to recover from it. Teletherapy might be used as a sole form of treatment or as part of a treatment approach, depending on factors such as the severity of an individual’s addiction.

Is Online Addiction Counseling Effective?

The effectiveness of online counseling for substance use disorders has been studied, although additional research is needed. Studies have shown that this type of counseling can have a positive outcome for addiction treatment. The use of approaches such as cognitive-behavioral therapy during online counseling has helped individuals make changes to their behavior as part of recovery. In some cases, online counseling should be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment to help individuals fully recover.

Benefits of Teletherapy Counseling for Addiction

Online counseling offers some important benefits for those who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction. The following are some of the most notable advantages of choosing teletherapy counseling for substance use disorders.

1.        Improves Access for Many Patients

Some patients have difficulty going to appointments in person, making telehealth a convenient option for them. Sometimes, individuals do not have transportation to and from appointments, especially if they live far away. In other cases, individuals might struggle to find the time to set up in-person appointments. Some individuals prefer virtual services over in-person services due to health concerns. Telehealth provides all these individuals with a reliable and easy way to connect to a therapist. They can use free apps or other online tools to meet with an online therapist anywhere and anytime.

2.      Eliminates Time and Cost of Traveling to Appointments

For some individuals, paying for public transportation or gas money can make it hard to attend in-person appointments. Other expenses might involve childcare or taking time off from work. Telehealth can be done at a time that is more convenient for an individual’s schedule, eliminating the need to take time off or arrange childcare. Online addiction counseling also helps individuals save on the costs of gas or public transportation.

3.      Supports Patient Accountability and Reduces No-Shows

Part of recovering from addiction is having accountability for showing up to treatment sessions. This can be difficult to do when individuals use in-person counseling. Telehealth services help reduce no-shows and encourage patient accountability. Since they can attend online counseling from any location and at a time that is convenient for them, they are more likely to show up for their virtual appointment.

4.      Flexible Treatment from Anywhere

Individuals who need treatment for addiction do not need to make sure they can get to the nearest clinic or another facility for therapy. They can do online counseling from anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection. This means patients can do teletherapy sessions from the comfort of their homes or while traveling if needed.

5.      Avoid the Stigma and Waiting Rooms

Some patients are uncomfortable going to in-person appointments due to the stigma of having a drug or alcohol addiction. Spending time in waiting rooms might also be a drawback for those seeking treatment. Virtual therapy for addiction eliminates the need to spend any time in waiting rooms. Patients can easily avoid the stigma of having an addiction when they do teletherapy sessions.

6.      Avoid Triggers

Exposure to triggers can lead to setbacks or relapses for those who are in addiction recovery. This is more likely to happen when individuals need to drive or travel to and from in-person appointments. For example, they might pass a store that sells alcohol on their way to and from appointments. Teletherapy helps patients avoid exposure to triggers that can make recovery more difficult.

7.       Decrease Strain on Healthcare System

Clinics and other facilities that offer addiction treatment might struggle to find room to fit patients in for counseling, depending on how busy they are. Attending online counseling helps patients ease the strain on the healthcare system. They can get the help they need without having to delay treatment due to healthcare system problems, such as a shortage of available appointment times.

8.      Promotes Independence

Participating in telehealth counseling means that individuals must ensure they show up for their online appointments. Since they do not have to find transportation to and from these appointments, teletherapy can help them feel more independent. This is an important part of the recovery process for those who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction.

Are There Any Drawbacks to Using Online Drug and Alcohol Counseling?

While teletherapy for addiction offers some important advantages, there are a few disadvantages or potential drawbacks. Knowing more about these can help you better understand why teletherapy might not be suitable for everyone who needs help with an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Less Personal Connection Than In-Person Treatment

Meeting with a counselor online allows patients to talk about their struggles and learn more about recovery. However, talking to someone through a screen might seem more impersonal for some individuals. These patients might find it easier to develop a strong personal connection with a therapist in face-to-face counseling sessions. Whether or not this is a drawback can vary from person to person. Some feel more comfortable talking to a counselor in a virtual setting compared to an in-person setting.

Access Issues

For some patients, accessing virtual counseling sessions can be a problem. These patients might not have a device available to use for teletherapy, such as a smartphone or tablet. For others, the apps or software needed for online counseling might be difficult for them to figure out. Other individuals might have limited data on their devices or lack an internet connection. Those without internet at home will yet again have to overcome the obstacle of finding transportation, this time to somewhere like the local public library with free Wi-Fi. And even if they can manage that, they may then be uncomfortable being honest and speaking to their therapist with candor in public.

Distractions or Inflexible Home and Work Settings

Doing therapy from home might be a big advantage for some patients, but it can be a struggle for others. For example, they might have a home filled with too many distractions, such as other family members who are around making noise. They might not have a place in their home to talk privately to a therapist, and they may not feel safe discussing their issues in front of others in the house. These same problems can occur for those who try to arrange virtual counseling while they are at work. They might lack privacy or have distractions around that make online counseling impossible to do.

Who Can Offer Teletherapy for Substance Abuse Counseling?

Mental health professionals with the right training and credentials can offer teletherapy for substance abuse counseling. Although this type of therapy might seem more casual than in-person therapy, it should be held to the same standards. That includes having licensed therapists with training in treating substance use disorders conduct online therapy sessions. Keep in mind that the exact standards that these professionals need to meet vary from state to state. Insurance companies also play a role in this process.

If you are considering education for substance abuse counseling, please contact Post University. We offer a Graduate Certificate in Alcohol and Drug Counseling, which provides an in-depth education on addiction.

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