Dealing with Addiction through Online Therapy

Psychology and psychotherapy

The traditional therapy in dealing with addiction is through face-to-face methods. Now, a new one is being used to help people battling addiction. This new method is online addiction counseling which has also been proven to be an effective treatment. Two approaches can also be used online.

The first one is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It focuses on helping people realize their situation. The person battling addiction is taught to avoid negative thoughts, emotions, and actions. The CBT approach helps the patient recognize better what triggers them to do drugs. 

The second approach is via motivational interviewing, which also works online. This type of therapy helps the person learn more about himself. In the process, it helps him realize that his life can still be better without using substances.

How can Online Therapy Help?

About 10% to 12% of those dealing with substance abuse do not seek help.  Hence, online therapy can be a new useful method to get more people to seek treatment.

Researches point out that online treatment helps people stick to continuous treatment. In other cases, it has even shown to be more effective.

The use of online tools can help the person cut back with substance or alcohol. There is evidence in studies that those who have undergone CBT therapy were able to significantly reduce the intake of alcohol.

Another benefit of online therapy is easier access to mental health services.  Online methods make it more likely for people to get treatment. It can also be more comfortable for some individuals who fear face-to-face interaction.

Online method is also very convenient as it can be done anytime and anywhere. If the individual feels he has the sudden urge to go back using substance, he/she can simply reach out to the therapist. He/she can also use self-help modules or read educational materials provided. Connecting with trustworthy friends online can also supplement the treatment.

Other people do not have the means to physically go to a therapist. Commuting costs can be a factor. They may also live far away.  Longer hours of travel time to go to therapy is not very enticing. Another reason not to go to therapy as shown in studies is the feeling of shame. All these concerns and issues are now addressed.   With online, the person no longer has to travel far away. Transportation costs and travel time are eliminated. The feeling of guilt or shame facing a therapist for the first time is also lessened.

Also, there are instances that online therapy has become the entry point.  It becomes the first step to seek therapy. When the person feels improvements via online, they then feel more comfortable to try further treatments. This can include seeking face-to-face methods.

Often, a combination of online and traditional face-to-face are utilized by the therapist. The online approach used as a supplement to face-to-face has also shown good effects on the person. 

Lastly, given the COVID-19 pandemic situation, safety and social distancing have become important. Hence, the rise in demand for telehealth consultations and online therapy.  

What can be the Potential Drawbacks and Limitations?

While online therapy seems to be very promising, it may not be useful for all types of addiction. Some research shows that there is not much significant improvement in dealing with gambling addiction.

Online method is indeed more convenient and less expensive. But, not everyone is fully adapted to digital means. It also feels impersonal for some people. They may also not feel comfortable opening up face-to-face rather than through a screen.

Also, online tends to lose the physical social support found in a traditional setting.  Thus, many therapists opt to combine face-to-face with online to get the best of both approaches.

There are also other limitations to online means. Therapists may find it harder to decipher the body language. Note that this is important in understanding what a person goes through. With video conferencing, the therapist is unable to see the full body movements.

Technical glitches also happen a lot online. Connections and other disruptions can happen. Such situations can adversely affect conversations, especially for sensitive subject matters.

Last but not the least is online therapy may not be the best solution for all types of people. It is not ideal for those who are already on the verge of doing suicide or self-harm. People who are experiencing psychosis are also better off with traditional face-to-face methods.

How Can Online Therapy be Maximized?

Despite the limitations of online therapy, it is still useful in many occasions. Maximizing the experience is crucial to obtain its full benefits.

One way to get the most out of online therapy is building rapport between the person and the therapist. Therapists should be able to show they are genuine and empathetic even behind the screen. With limited body movements seen, it may be difficult. Hence, all the more important to have the right facial expressions and words to use for the therapist.

Respect and the feeling of security should be felt by the person seeking therapy. The person has to feel that there is nobody around to hear the conversation from the other end. It is important to make the patient feel safe.

For therapists who are new in using online means, he/she should also do a lot of research. The therapist should learn more about the right techniques to maximize the experience.

Article edited and fact checked by our editorial team


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