Many people with mental health or substance use disorders struggle to find help. Those with addiction recovery issues can now get access to the services they need through telehealth – virtual and telephonic counseling sessions that allow people to continue treatment while staying home or traveling to work or other obligations, especially during this isolating time.
One study published in Psychiatric Services found that those receiving telehealth addiction treatment reported increased levels of connection with their counselors and therapists. It is easy to understand why this would be true, as telehealth eliminates physical barriers of distance and gives patients the opportunity to connect with their counselor in a setting that feels familiar to them: their own homes.
During the coronavirus pandemic, telehealth addiction treatment became an essential part of the response to the outbreak. For example, Kaiser Permanente Northern California adopted a video-based model for group therapy and individual counseling sessions during the pandemic, and telehealth was also used extensively for outpatient buprenorphine (SUD) prescriptions for those who were unable to travel due to work or family obligations.
In addition to eliminating accessibility and geographic barriers, telehealth is convenient for both physicians and patients. Physicians benefit from shorter wait times, and patients can communicate with their doctors and therapists via email or phone instead of having to visit in person, although in-person care is still available in some areas.
However, it is important to note that telehealth is not for everyone. Some people with social anxiety may not feel comfortable attending a group therapy session via video, and the technology can be unreliable, particularly if there is an internet outage.