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Telehealth Services for Alcohol and Drug Addiction

Female doctor providing telehealth therapy service through a video call with a laptop

Published: October 2, 2023

Drug and alcohol addiction treatment is a highly sought-after service, and addiction rehab programs come in all shapes and sizes that vary in the type of care they provide.

This is immensely beneficial, as people can often choose the kind of substance abuse treatment that will work best for their needs.

One kind of addiction treatment that is growing in use is telehealth services. This kind of addiction rehab is a fantastic option for people who may not be able to participate in a traditional inpatient or outpatient program.

Scroll on to learn about the use of telehealth in addiction treatment.

About Telehealth Services for Addiction Recovery

Telehealth addiction recovery services are addiction treatment services provided via technology like a phone, laptop, or computer.

In other words, telehealth addiction treatment allows individuals to receive rehab services from the comfort of their home.

Eligibility for Telehealth Addiction Treatment

As a disclaimer, telehealth addiction treatment is not the right form of care for everyone. This is because telehealth addiction treatment can be much less intensive than other forms of treatment.

Telehealth programs will be best for people who have already completed an intensive program such as inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment. It may also work for people who are unable to access treatment any other way due to their job, home responsibilities, finances, or location.

Most kinds of substance addictions can be treated via telehealth as long as they are mild to moderate in nature. Severe addictions will likely require more intensive treatment, but this is something you can discuss with your healthcare provider.

Addictions that may be treated via telehealth include:

Types of Telehealth Services in Addiction Treatment Programs

The type of telehealth services you may need will depend on individual factors, such as any treatment you have already completed, the severity of your addiction, your health insurance, and more.

Here are some of the most common kinds of telehealth services for substance use disorder.

Outpatient Telehealth Addiction Treatment

One option for telehealth addiction rehab is outpatient treatment. This service is similar to a standard outpatient program, but it is conducted via telehealth.

Outpatient programs are more comprehensive than singular services in that they use several different treatment approaches simultaneously.

You may encounter services such as counseling, behavioral therapy, and relapse prevention education and coaching.

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy is a mental health treatment used in addiction recovery. It is one-on-one therapy with a licensed professional and may be part of a comprehensive program or a stand-alone service.

Individual therapy can include a wide range of psychiatry options such as talk therapy, behavioral therapies, or alternative therapies.

Behavioral therapies are those that address behavior patterns and thought processes. Some common types are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).

Alternative therapies can include options like yoga therapy, meditation, or holistic therapy.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is another kind of therapy often offered via telehealth. This kind of therapy is similar to individual talk therapy, but is done among a group of people with addictions. Support groups can also be offered via telehealth.

This telehealth service is a great opportunity to connect with peers as you’ll have the opportunity not only to share your experiences but also to listen to the experiences of others. You may find useful strategies and coping skills from listening to your peers as well.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction Counseling

Addiction counseling may also be an option you come across when seeking telehealth treatment. Counseling is similar to therapy in that you’ll meet and talk with a professional.

Counseling is typically offered on a short-term basis, whereas therapy is typically long-term and on an ongoing basis. Additionally, counseling tends to focus on one issue (in this case addiction) rather than using a broad approach like therapy.


Telemedicine, also referred to as medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a telehealth service that involves prescribing medications as part of an individual’s addiction treatment plan.

Usually, telemedicine services are offered to people who are already on medication as part of a larger treatment program.

Some medications that may be prescribed via telehealth include:

  • Buprenorphine
  • Methadone
  • Naltrexone

How Telehealth Services Work in Drug and Alcohol Treatment

Telehealth services in addiction treatment can be conducted in several ways. Learn more about several common methods of telehealth treatment below.

Phone Call Visits

Phone call visits are a kind of telehealth treatment that are conducted over the phone. Whether you have a smartphone, flip phone, or landline, you’ll be able to complete your treatment service over the phone with your provider. Some providers may even offer text messaging as part of the treatment service.

Not all kinds of telehealth services can be provided over the phone, however. Phone call visits are best for individual therapy sessions or counseling, as these are one-on-one services.

Video Call Visits

Video call visits are another kind of telehealth treatment that are completed via video call platforms such as Zoom, Skype, or internal video chat platforms including mobile apps.

This kind of visit is beneficial, as you’ll be able to talk to others face-to-face. Additionally, multiple people can join video calls. This is why video call visits are great not only for individual therapy and counseling but also for group therapy.

Online Drug, Alcohol, and Mental Health Assessments

Addiction and mental health assessments are also offered via telehealth. These assessments can be completed on a web browser on your phone, laptop, or computer.

Such assessments are designed to evaluate your relationship with these issues as well as identify addiction and any disorders.

You may be asked to complete these assessments as part of a comprehensive treatment program, or some people complete them independently before reaching out to a professional.

What Addiction Recovery Services Are Not Offered Via Telehealth?

While telehealth can be a fantastic treatment option for many people, it’s important to note that not all addiction recovery services are offered in this method of treatment.

Some treatment options require that you stay somewhere during treatment, work with a medical professional in person, or require hospitalization.

Recovery services not offered via telehealth include:

  • Inpatient treatment: Inpatient treatment is not offered via telehealth, because it is typically very intensive and involves 24-hour clinician supervision. Participants are also required to live in the treatment facility for the length of their treatment.
  • Intensive care: Intensive care programs such as intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are not offered via telehealth, as they require individuals to travel to a treatment center several times a week.
  • Detox services: Detoxification services cannot be offered via telehealth because they involve monitoring vitals and other health information, managing cravings, administering medications, and ridding the body of addictive substances in a safe setting.
  • Certain MAT programs: Some medications used in MAT cannot be offered via telehealth. Additionally, some states may require that you are already on the medication prior to receiving it through telehealth.
  • Certain therapies: More interactive therapies such as animal therapy, adventure therapy, and acupuncture cannot be offered via telehealth. Other therapies like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy can sometimes be offered online but are typically done in person.

What to Expect at a Telehealth Recovery Visit

Your experience during a telehealth recovery visit will depend on the type of treatment service you receive and your individual needs. However, there are some general expectations you can have for your telehealth addiction treatment visits.

Here is what you may expect during a telehealth recovery visit:

  • To speak with your provider about your goals in your recovery
  • To speak with peers about your experience with addiction
  • To speak with your provider about your behaviors and thought processes surrounding addiction
  • To speak with your provider about any mental health issues you have that may exacerbate your addiction
  • To speak with your provider about continuing or beginning MAT to aid you in your recovery

Benefits of Telehealth Addiction Treatment Visits

There are countless benefits of telehealth addiction recovery visits. While your only goal may be to live a life after addiction, you may find your treatment benefits many areas of your life.

Some treatment benefits can include:

  • Improved mental and physical health
  • Improved relationships
  • Improved academic and professional life
  • Reduced risk of relapse
  • Reduced risk of overdose
  • New relationships with peers

Cost of Telehealth Recovery Services

The cost of telehealth recovery services will vary based on several factors. The service you are receiving, your insurance plan, and your location will all play a role in the cost of your treatment.

It is essential to discuss costs with your provider and insurance company in order to get an accurate estimate of the treatment cost. For some people, telehealth treatment may be a more affordable option.

Does Health Insurance Cover Telehealth Services for Addiction?

Sometimes, health insurance will cover telehealth services for addiction. This is entirely dependent on your insurance provider and insurance plan.

For example, your insurance company may only cover your telehealth treatment if you have completed an in-person program first, receive care from a specific provider, or receive a specific service. Be sure to talk with a representative from your insurance company to get the most accurate information regarding your coverage.

How to Decide if Telehealth Addiction Treatment Is Right for You

To decide if telehealth addiction treatment is right for you, it is vital that you consider your issues, goals for treatment, and eligibility.

Some questions to consider include:

  • Am I truly unable to attend an in-person treatment program?
  • Do I feel as though I need more intensive care and consistent supervision?
  • Can I receive the services I need via telehealth treatment?
  • Is my addiction too severe to be treated via telehealth?
  • Have I already completed a more intensive program?
  • Will telehealth treatment be the most beneficial step for me to take in my recovery journey at this moment?
  • Do I have a recovery support system that can help me through tough times when I am not receiving telehealth care?
  • Will my insurance cover telehealth?
  • Do I want to utilize telehealth services alongside in-person services?

Find Telehealth Recovery Programs Near You

Telehealth addiction recovery programs can be a wonderful way for people to access addiction treatment if they are unable to attend in-person programs or are ready to take a step down. However, telehealth is not right for everyone.

If you or your loved one is a good fit for telehealth addiction treatment, give a call today for more information and guidance.

Addiction Telehealth Services FAQs

Is telehealth effective in treating addictions?

Telehealth can be very effective in treating addictions as it involves the use of evidence-based treatment services.

It may be most effective in people who have already completed an in-person addiction treatment program.

What is telehealth for substance use?

Telehealth for substance abuse is addiction treatment that is offered via technological devices. Treatment services are offered over the phone, video conferencing, or an online assessment.

It is a way for people to receive addiction treatment care from their home, especially if they are unable to attend in-person treatment.

What are the benefits of telehealth for substance abuse?

The benefits of telehealth for substance abuse are improved physical and mental health, improved social/academic/professional life, decreased risk of relapse, decreased risk of overdose, and more. Results will vary by individual.

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