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How To Attend Online Therapy and Support Groups During COVID-19

Being forced to self-isolate can impact the routine of attending support groups or meeting with a therapist. Understanding how to find online resources is critical to prevent relapse. Here’s what you need to know.

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Finding Online Therapy 

Therapy is an important part of a mental health plan and disruptions to therapy can cause great distress to people who rely upon these meetings with therapists to keep their mental health in check. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hold cities and countries globally in its grip, it may be challenging for people to find therapy resources as they are confined to their homes. 

Online therapy is one solution. Without therapy, working hard to maintain sobriety from home can be difficult. Online therapy is available through telehealth services, which allows people struggling with alcohol dependence to check in with a therapist from the comfort of their own homes. In addition to being a convenient method for receiving therapy, it also poses several other benefits

  • It enables those who don’t have means of transportation to receive therapy
  • It enables those with children to more easily receive therapy without the need for childcare
  • It eliminates additional opportunities for exposure to COVID-19

Some recovery and treatment centers have also turned to telehealth options to provide online versions of their services. Patients of these telehealth services  gain access to online inpatient and outpatient therapy groups, psychiatric services, and individual counseling sessions. Through telehealth, those dealing with alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence can still attend group therapy sessions, support groups, and psychoeducational group sessions that discuss how to prevent relapse. 

Due to HIPAA regulations surrounding treatment services, these types of services  are conducted through a HIPAA-compliant video conferencing service to which patients must grant permission.  

Finding Support Groups

Support groups are another helpful tool for those struggling with substance use disorders. Several studies point to support groups as a key predictor for recovery and sustaining recovery from addiction. These groups are also facing disruption as many states have imposed restrictions upon gatherings of people and are enforcing social distancing measures. 

In addition to the virtual meetings offered by various treatment centers, many groups within Alcoholics Anonymous have taken their in-person meetings to an online format, utilizing Zoom to facilitate virtual meetings for those in recovery.

Since a connection is at the heart of many of these support groups, finding a way to continue that interchange is critical. Many addiction groups and mental health counselors agree that those who struggle with substance abuse and alcohol dependence rely upon support groups to stay sober and connect with others in recovery. 

It’s not uncommon for a spike in substance abuse following traumatic events. A 2001 study pointed out that almost a quarter of New York residents reported consuming more alcohol in the days right after the attack. 

Telehealth Aids Conventional Mental Health Services

Substance use treatment is not something that can be put on hold, even during a pandemic. According to classifications by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), roughly 1.3 million adolescents, 5.4 million young adults, and 15 million adults aged 26 or older needed substance use treatment in 2015. Their research also showed that many people in need of substance use treatment did not receive any or adequate substance use treatment. This problem will certainly be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as people are turning to substances to cope with the stress, anxiety, and social isolation. 

Telehealth presents a viable alternative to in-person services. It is not a perfect solution, but it does enable those who are struggling with alcoholism or alcohol dependence to take steps to prevent relapse and receive mental health care. 

Telehealth also enables people in need of psychiatry services to receive care that they may not easily be able to receive during the COVID-19. It provides various benefits for patients, including: 

  • Access to mental health and psychiatric services that may otherwise be difficult to obtain
  • Integration of behavioral and primary care to lead to better outcomes
  • Reduced delays in care
  • Better continuity of care
  • Less stigma

A recent study highlighted findings that confirmed that telepsychiatry  is supportive of conventional mental health services. In other words, the capabilities and technologies of telemental health care provide effective interventions to patients dealing with various mental illnesses.

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