Telehealth addiction treatment has come a long way in recent years. The term “telehealth” often brings to mind virtual therapy, but a telehealth addiction treatment program can be much more than that. It can include anything from text message reminders for appointments to virtual support group meetings to help maintain sobriety. The idea behind telehealth is to provide people with the care they need, regardless of where they live or how much money they have.
While telehealth has been helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic, it may not be as effective as in-person treatment for some individuals battling substance abuse or addiction. According to a new study, four of the eight studies that compared telehealth-delivered individual counseling to in-person sessions found no significant differences in treatment adherence or retention rates, excessive alcohol consumption, drug-positive tests, and therapeutic alliances. This is a disappointing finding because there are many people who need substance use disorder (SUD) treatment but cannot access it due to social distancing guidelines, stay-at-home orders, or transportation issues.
The telehealth addiction treatment study looked at a randomized cohort of insured adults with drug use disorders from a large, integrated health care system. The researchers found that utilization of treatment services, particularly telehealth, increased during the pandemic and that disparities in access by age, race/ethnicity, and insurance status were not worsened. This is an encouraging finding for the potential of telehealth in addiction treatment, but more research is needed to understand how best to utilize telehealth to treat diverse patient populations and improve outcomes.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has ended, some substance users have relapsed and some have returned to using drugs or alcohol because they have not had the support they need during this difficult time. Some of those who relapse have been struggling with mental health issues as well, and it is important for them to receive treatment for both issues in order to overcome their problems and move forward with their recovery. For these patients, telehealth addiction treatment can be an invaluable resource.
Addiction treatment through telehealth is similar to in-person treatment, as counselors will use the same therapeutic techniques in both settings. However, telehealth can be a more convenient option for many people because it allows them to meet with their therapists from the comfort of their own homes and avoid the stigma of going into a clinic or treatment center. In addition, telehealth sessions can be held over the phone or through a secure video conferencing platform that is accessible from anywhere with an internet connection.
At New Bridge Foundation, we offer a full day treatment program that includes weekly telehealth addiction treatment sessions in addition to our regular face-to-face group and individual counseling. The goal of our program is to give clients the tools they need to recover from SUD and then practice those skills in their daily lives at home, in their jobs, with friends, and with family members. We also encourage our clients to develop healthy interests and routines outside of their telehealth program so that they can build life skills to prevent them from relapse in the future. Contact us today to learn more about our addiction treatment program in the Bay Area.