Online addiction therapy (2023)

Substance and behavioral addictions can have a physical, emotional, social and financial impact on a person's life. Fortunately, effective treatments are available, including online options. Online therapy can be a viable option for people struggling with addiction.

Studies have shown that people who have online therapy for treatmentsubstance use disordersshow improvement compared to those who do not receive treatment.

What is teletherapy?


Some evidence-based therapeutic approaches are easier to adapt to an online format than others, for example:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is the most commonly used and focuses on helping people recognize and avoid negative thoughts and actions. This method can help people learn to recognize the triggers that lead to cravings and then learn how to avoid them.
  • Motivational interviews: Motivational interviewing is another approach that can work online. In this therapeutic technique, therapists conduct structured conversations that help people learn to recognize how their lives could be different and better if they stopped using drugs.

Possible profits

Here are some advantages of online addiction therapy over traditional face-to-face therapy.

Increased privacy

Unfortunately, there are still social stigmas associated with addiction treatment. Because of this, you may worry about being recognized when you enter or leave an addiction clinic. As a result, you may not feel comfortable asking for help.

By having access to your treatment from anywhere, including the comfort of your own home, you can more effectively control who knows about your treatment. This may reduce treatment anxiety.

More affordable

It is estimated that between 10% and 12% of substance abusers remain untreated.One of the reasons why people do not seek help is because they cannot physically access treatment. The availability of online therapy can improve access to mental health services and increase the likelihood that people will receive treatment.

Online therapy can help people who are unable to physically attend individual treatments or group sessions to get the help they need.

Online options are also always available. When you feel like orlust, you can connect with your therapist, work on the self-help module, find educational materials or connect with a friend who offers support.

More possibilities

Online therapy can sometimes be an important first step towards more intensive interventions. In some cases, people who try online therapy first are more likely to seek out traditional face-to-face treatment services in the future.

Research has shown that people are more likely to stick with face-to-face therapy if it is supplemented with online treatment.


Traditional addiction treatment methods are often underutilized and have a high failure rate. This suggests that these traditional options may not fully meet people's needs. Online therapy can help fill this gap for people who do not seek or adhere to traditional treatments.

According to a review of studies, online therapy can help reduce substance use immediately after treatment and with long-term follow-up.However, the authors of the review suggest that more research is needed, especially to investigate and compare the effectiveness of different online options.

Some studies have shown that online therapy can outperform traditional therapy in several ways. Results reported inAmerican Journal of Psychiatryfound that internet therapy participants had a higher success rate and were less likely to drop out of treatment than those treated with individual or group counselling.

Potential defects

Online therapy may be affordable and convenient, but that doesn't mean it's right for everyone and every situation. Possible disadvantages may include:

  • Body language is harder to read. Therapists can have a hard time reading body language when working with people online, especially if they don't use video conferencing.
  • Meetings may seem less intimate. Because you interact with your therapist through a screen, sessions may feel less personal, which can make it difficult to open up and be vulnerable.
  • You may encounter technical difficulties. Internet connection may not be sufficient depending on your location. Occasional breaks due to bad weather are also possible. These technological glitches and their associated obstacles can sometimes complicate the process.

If you have or are experiencing suicidal thoughts or self-harmpsychosis, online therapy may not be suitable. However, online hotlines, chat lines, and text resources can put you in touch with experts who are trained and ready to help.

If you have suicidal thoughts, please contact usNational Suicide Prevention Hotlineknee988for the support and assistance of a trained advisor. If you or a loved one is in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, check out oursNational hotline database.

Tips and strategies

There are several ways to help you get the most out of online therapy:

  • Build onerelationwith your therapist. It's important to feel that your therapist is sincere and empathetic so that you feel comfortable, safe, and respected. Talk to your therapist about what you can do to build that relationship online.
  • If you are transitioning from face-to-face therapy to online treatment, talk to your therapist about how the process will work and how you will handle any issues.
  • If you're transitioning from a traditional support group to an online group, take the time to research what's available to determine what's right for you and your needs. How will the group meet? How many people are in the group? What level of participation is required? All of these factors can play a role in determining what you get from a group, so focus on finding something you know you'll be comfortable with.

What to expect

Online addiction treatment relies on technology to provide or enhance psychotherapy. There are many different online addiction treatment options. This includes:

  • Online therapy led by a therapist: Therapists can use online video, phone calls, email, and chat to meet clients virtually. Therapy sessions can be held in the same way as in a regular office, but with the help of online tools. FaceTime and Skype are not HIPAA compliant, and once COVID costs are lifted, the therapist or physician will need to have a HIPAA compliant platform such as VSee, or Zoom.
  • computer-assisted therapy: People can also participate in interactive online programs that guide them through the healing process with little or no interaction with the therapist. You can browse instructional content, take computer assessments, follow tutorials, and complete homework while working through a predefined set of lessons.
  • Special internet therapy: This approach can use mobile apps or online therapy websites to guide people through sessions or classes.
  • Technology-assisted therapy: This process can combine traditional face-to-face therapy with technology such as text messaging, phone calls, video chats, or mobile apps.

Which approach is best for you depends on many factors. The severity of symptoms may determine the intensity of treatment needed. For example, if you need hospitalization, long-term inpatient treatment, or guided detoxification, Internet therapy is not the right choice.

Your approach and comfort with technology can also play a role in choosing which one is best for you. Your therapist's comfort with technology can also determine how you are treated.

The important thing to remember is that you don't necessarily have to choose just one type of shipping. In many cases, you may end up with a combination of therapist-led, computer-assisted, and internet-based therapy.

8 Online Text Therapy Companies We Tested & Recommended in 2023

How to start

For anyone seeking addiction treatment, seeing a qualified professional is usually the first step. You can search the online directory for individual therapists, ask your GP for a referral or do some researchonline therapy providers.

As with face-to-face therapy, it's important to find a qualified therapist you feel comfortable with. While the process of finding someone you feel a connection with may seem a bit daunting, it is worth it.

How to find a therapist

A word from Verywell

Internet addiction therapy is not like traditional treatments, but that doesn't mean it's any worse. It can be an essential and effective tool in your therapeutic arsenal. Talk to your doctor or therapist about whether this treatment method is right for your needs.

What does an addiction therapist do?

7 sources

Verywell Mind only uses high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed research, to back up the facts in our articles. Read oureditorial processfor more information on how we fact-check and ensure our content is accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

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  3. Hammarlund R, Crapanzano KA, Luce L, Mulligan L, Ward KM.A review of the impact of self-stigma and perceived social stigma on treatment-seeking decisions for people with drug and alcohol dependency disorders.Rehabilitation. 2018;9:115-136. doi:10.2147/SAR.S183256

  4. Substance abuse and mental health administration.Key indicators of drug use and mental health in the United States: results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health..

  5. Campbell AN, Nunes EV, Matthews AG i in.Internet-based treatment of substance abuse: a multicenter, randomized, controlled trial.Psychiatry of Ben J. 2014;171(6):683-90. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.13081055

  6. Gainsbury S, Blaszczynski A.A systematic review of Internet addiction treatment.Clin Psychol ds. 2011;31(3):490-498. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2010.11.007

  7. Kiluk BD, Nich C, Buck MB i in.Randomized clinical trial of computerized and clinician-led CBT versus standard outpatient treatment for substance use disorder: main outcomes during treatment and follow-up.Psychiatry of Ben J. 2018;175(9):853-863. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.17090978

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Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology teacher, and author of Everything Psychology Book.

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