Mental health is becoming more and more of a growing concern in Canada with one in five Canadians affected by mental illness or addiction issues every year.
While we often think of these issues like anxiety and depression as the predominant conditions people are challenged by at this time, we are also facing a public health crisis with increasing opioid, alcohol and stimulant addictions. More than ever, people need varied and accessible treatment options to recover from addictions.
One form of service filling this essential need is virtual or online treatment. Online programs make recovery more affordable and accessible – but does virtual rehab work? And is online rehab effective in treating addiction?
How does rehab work?
Within the different types of mental health services and treatment options that exist, there are several common factors that make a rehab program effective. One that focuses not only on the individual’s substance use, but also on coping strategies, interpersonal relationships, and other important areas of functioning.1 While the definition of success may vary from one program to another, effective treatment should always include a few common results.
A person receiving effective addiction treatment should demonstrate some of the following:
- Reduced amount and frequency of substance use, including sobriety or longer gaps between relapses
- Improved employment or education status and attendance
- Improved physical health, indicated by fewer medical visits
- Improved mental health, indicated by improved mood, personality traits and behaviors
- Improved relationships with friends, family, and others2
A good program should ultimately help you reach and maintain sobriety, using the coping skills you develop while in treatment. As a result, other areas of your life should also improve.
Virtual rehab vs. in-person rehab
While virtual and in-person rehab programs share common elements, there are also some notable differences between approaches. Understanding what those are can bring a helpful perspective when weighing the benefits of online addiction treatment as well as those of in-person treatment, and the considerations associated with each.
One of the main differences between the two approaches is accessibility. With an online program, you can seek help no matter where you, or the program, is based. With convenience and location removed from the equation, you can focus on the specialties best suited to your individual needs. You also don’t have to worry about factors like weather or access to transportation.
Travel and Time Commitment
Because online addiction treatment has no travel time, you no longer need to factor in the time it takes to commute to and from your program. It is also worth noting that online programs may be very structured, but they also give you the freedom to recover from home while you continue to work or tend to family commitments.
As with any recovery program, there is always a perceived vulnerability involved in trying something new and for some, anonymity can be an important aspect of a program. Participating virtually minimizes the chance of participating in the program with someone you know, which can provide a heightened send of freedom to be more vulnerable. You also won’t risk seeing someone you know in a parking lot or near the location of your program, which can alleviate a lot of the anxiety associated with seeking and receiving help.
In addition, you can experience the benefits of online disinhibition. This effect encourages people who may be hesitant about sharing personal experiences or opinions in person to open up. Having the perceived safety of distance between yourself and your peers can encourage you to share more in group sessions and therefore benefit further from the program.
Another big factor is the difference in cost. Because you are not living in a facility, online programs are not as costly as in-person rehab. In addition, you don’t have to worry about expenses like childcare or gas, as you would be recovering from home.
Like in-person rehab, virtual programs allow you to make personal connections with those in your program. Not only can you connect with the professional leading the program, but there is also the opportunity to connect with peers the same way you would in person. Group sessions and shared experiences, whether online or in person, have therapeutic benefits and encourage meaningful emotional connections with others.
Both types of programs also offer interventions in case of an emergency. Those trained to run in-person and online sessions know how to spot someone in crisis by reading their facial expressions and physical cues. Many programs also offer apps, where a person can self-report if they need immediate assistance.
For people experiencing mild-to-moderate addiction symptoms, online treatment can be equally, if not more, effective than in-person rehab. With the right program, you can meet all the “efficacy qualifications” listed above, with the added benefit of being able to practice and encourage the skills and coping mechanisms you are learning in real-time. One area of your life where you can practice this is in your relationships. When you are doing the work from home, you have the opportunity to discuss and repair connections with your family and friends.
Proven benefits of online rehab
Online rehab offers many benefits, especially for someone with mild to moderate addiction issues. As mentioned above, virtual programs are often more accessible, especially for those who live in remote areas and would otherwise not have help close by.
While it would be great if everyone could occasionally take a break from their everyday lives to work on their wellness, for many, that is simply not possible. Online programs allow you to continue to live at home and go to work if you need to.
When your life has not been uprooted, you can recover without worrying about how much time you are away from home, what it is you might be missing out on, or how soon you have to re-enter your day-to-day routine. It also helps you to recover without removing some of the stressors in your everyday life, which gives you the opportunity to apply new coping skills in real time, something you might not necessarily get to practice in a inpatient treatment program.
There is evidence that shows that those with social anxiety often do better in online settings as they are less concerned about encountering others face-to-face.3 This can make it easier to open up and express the challenges you are facing.
It is worth pointing out that even though they are online, these programs are structured. They have set times and specific activities or exercises that are designed to keep you on track and give you better support overall.
How EHN Online’s program sets you up for sobriety
EHN Online’s addiction recovery program has several benefits to help set participants up for success. The Substance Use Disorder Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is structured to provide an eight-week intensive rehabilitation course providing a wide variety of education and skills to help participants regain control over their cravings, habits, and lives. Each week will include nine hours of treatment time composed of individual and group therapy, as well as psychoeducation about substance addiction and skill building.
Following the eight weeks of intensive care, participants have access to 10 months of Aftercare, including progress tracking on the Wagon app, as well as meeting with a group once per week. Individuals are empowered to nurture positive habits and invaluable skills while creating connections with like-minded people who share similar experiences and challenges.
If your loved ones are looking for better ways to support you, EHN’s IOP also offers Family information sessions as part of the package, so that loved ones can receive advice and access better tools to aid in long-term recovery as well.
EHN Online’s substance use disorder program provides all the benefits of virtual rehab, such as accessibility and structure, while also making treatment affordable and providing the chance to work on challenges, skills and relationships in real time.
Most importantly, EHN Online’s virtual program is one that actually works. While there is no one “right” way to receive treatment, as the effectiveness of each treatment approach and setting is dependent on you and your unique situation, online rehab can be a sustainable and helpful option to consider.
How to access an online rehab program
If you are experiencing symptoms of addiction and believe that an Intensive Outpatient Program for addiction is right for you, then don’t hesitate to get started! You can call us at 1-888-767-3711 for a free and confidential consultation, or take a quick quiz to sign up virtually.
EHN Online also offers online intensive outpatient programming for those struggling with depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder without addiction. Learn more about this program here.
- Colizzi, M., Lasalvia, A. & Ruggeri, M. Prevention and early intervention in youth mental health: is it time for a multidisciplinary and trans-diagnostic model for care?. Int J Ment Health Syst 14, 23 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13033-020-00356-9
- May 28, E. S. L. U. & 2021. (n.d.). How to Find Effective Drug Rehab Programs? How to Evaluate American Addiction Centers. Retrieved September 6, 2021, from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/effective
- Bortolan, A. Healing online? Social anxiety and emotion regulation in pandemic experience. Phenom Cogn Sci (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11097-023-09886-2