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​Online Addiction Treatment

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

March 15, 2024

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With our world becoming increasingly virtual, it’s no surprise that online addiction treatment is gaining more traction.

The internet is instrumental for most of us. From paying bills and banking online to communicating with friends, family, and colleagues using the internet, addiction treatment is another service that can be effectively delivered online.

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Telehealth refers to both clinical and non-clinical uses of technology, while telemedicine specifically refers to clinical uses of technology. Online addiction treatment, then, is categorized as telemedicine.

While telemedicine has previously been applied in a military setting, it was not until the pandemic at the end of 2019 that its use became more widespread. With lockdowns and social distancing measures preventing many people grappling with alcoholism and drug addiction from getting the treatment they needed, more and more virtual alternatives were created.

Engaging with face-to-face drug and alcohol detox still plays a vital role in recovery, but virtual IOP addiction treatment can be a useful complementary service to sober living and aftercare, and it can also be beneficial for anyone unable or unwilling to attend a treatment center.

What can you expect from addiction therapy online, then?

Addiction Therapy Online

Virtual addiction treatment utilizes online communication technology to deliver counseling and psychotherapy. The type and scope of care delivered – video, audio, text, or a combination of methods – depends on the treatment provider and the severity of your addiction, as well as any co-occurring mental health disorders.

Some research indicates that people engaging with online therapy for the duration of treatment for substance use disorder show more improvement than those who receive no treatment at all. With most estimates suggesting that only 10% of those needing addiction treatment obtain any type of treatment, this is one way of closing that treatment gap.

There are several options for the delivery of online therapies for addiction treatment, including:

  • Online therapy led by a therapist: Therapists meet with clients virtually using phone calls, email, chat, or online video. Zoom is HIPAA-compliant, while FaceTime and Skype are not. These therapy sessions unfold similarly to face-to-face sessions, with the only difference being the method of delivery.
  • Technology-assisted therapy: This process often combined traditional therapy at a treatment center with technologies like phone calls, text messaging, video chats, and mobile apps supplementing face-to-face therapy.
  • Computer-assisted therapy: Some online addiction treatment programs offer online curricula and minimal interaction with therapists. From watching instructional content about addiction to following tutorials and completing assignments, you’ll work your way through a predefined course of lessons at your own pace. The more you learn about addiction, the better placed you will be to fight back.
  • Web-assisted therapy: This form of virtual addiction treatment utilizes websites and mobile apps to guide you through activities and therapy sessions.

The most effective approach to online therapy depends on several factors, including how easy it is for you to access and use the required technologies, as well as the comfort level of your treatment provider with this tech.

If you need medical detox, hospitalization, or long-term residential treatment, online therapy is unlikely to be suitable.

What can you expect from virtual substance use disorder treatment? 

Drug Addiction

Research suggests that most substance use disorders respond as favorably to outpatient treatment as to residential rehab. Many people with milder drug addictions find virtual counseling and therapy sessions to be just as rewarding as face-to-face therapy, as well as much more convenient.

Some evidence-based therapies adapt easily to an online format, and with the most recent data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health showing 40 million people in the US have substance use disorder, it’s clear to see that the war on drugs is far from over.

Drug addiction treatment online usually provides both of the following therapies:

  • CBT: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you to identify what triggers you to use drugs. Your therapist will help you formulate healthy coping strategies, minimizing your chance of relapse as you pursue your recovery. Online CBT sessions offer you almost all the same benefits as face-to-face CBT sessions.
  • Motivational interviewing: A therapist will lead structured conversations to help you start recognizing how your life would change and improve if you stop using substances.

You can find online counseling and drug addiction treatment in various forms and at differing levels of intensity. Examples include:

  • Online IOP: Online intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are often beneficial for those who have already detoxed from drugs and completed an inpatient treatment program. Stepping down the continuum of care to a less intensive form of treatment like a virtual IOP can help smooth the transition back into everyday life.
  • Self-directed virtual substance abuse treatment: For those looking to quit using drugs and requiring less structure and support in their treatment program, this form of online addiction treatment offers downloadable videos and workbooks.
  • Online support groups: While online support groups fall outside the boundaries of formal addiction treatment, peer support groups are a valuable supplement for many people struggling with drug addiction. Most of the major support groups now offer online therapy – we’ll touch on the role of one of these 12-step groups below. 


Alcohol use disorder, informally known as alcoholism, affects 28.5 million adults in the United States, according to NSDUH 2020.

Not only is alcoholism a growing problem – rates of alcohol use disorder have practically doubled since 2019 – but traditional addiction treatment is underutilized. Among those who engage with traditional rehab, many drop out due to problems with transportation or mobility.

Online alcohol addiction treatment can help to plug the treatment gap for those unable or unwilling to stick with a traditional treatment program. This review of studies shows that online therapy can help you to achieve sobriety, both immediately after treatment and over the long-term.

Other research shows that online therapy could outperform traditional therapy in several ways. The findings of this research show that participants in virtual addiction treatment had lower dropout rates and higher success rates than those treated through face-to-face counseling.

Engaging with a virtual outpatient program for alcohol use disorder can help you to stay sober and continue with your life, whether you are based at home or in a sober living home.

Assuming you do not require medical detox for alcohol withdrawal or residential treatment, an online alcohol treatment program offers the following benefits:

  • Convenience
  • Flexibility
  • Insurance-eligible treatment
  • Highly personalized
  • Evidence-based treatments

A virtual addiction treatment program for alcoholism can mean the difference between sobriety and relapse for those prevented from accessing traditional treatment.

AA Online

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a peer support group allowing those recovering from alcoholism to pursue recovery using 12 action-based steps. AA membership is free, with the only entry requirement being a desire to stop drinking alcohol.

Through AA’s online portal, you can engage with virtual meetings following a simple online protocol in text-only format. This ensures anonymity, a cornerstone of this program, so there are no Zoom meetings to contend with.

Although AA can be a great supplementary service for those in recovery, our team at Renaissance has the expertise to help you combat addiction. Here’s how we can help you to engage with addiction treatment online, removing any potential barrier to your recovery.

Finding Addiction Treatment Online

Here at Renaissance Recovery Center, our virtual IOP is designed to help you create a firm foundation for lasting sobriety without needing to pack your bags and head to rehab.

On weekdays, you will attend online meetings, benefiting from counseling and psychotherapy sessions. If you require medication-assisted treatment, you will need to attend a clinic or treatment center to coordinate this. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is most effective when used in combination with counseling and psychotherapy, as in all our outpatient addiction treatment programs.

Reach out to the friendly team right now to discuss streamlining your recovery with online addiction treatment by calling 866.330.9449.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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