Fact Checked and Peer Reviewed
March 12, 2018
Harness the power of the web on your path towards addiction recovery.
There are a lot of addiction treatment programs out there. But wouldn’t it be great if you could access treatment (even partially) in the comfort of your home? Online treatment creates that possibility. But what does it look like in practice – and does it even work?
Online treatment for mental and behavioral health uses digital technology as a means of delivering and/or enhancing psychotherapy (and perhaps even pharmacotherapy). Technology can be incorporated into treatment programs in different ways:
Therapists and medical professionals can meet with patients over remote video or phone calls instead of seeing them in person. This approach is called telemedicine or tele-psychology.
Digital programs can provide all the steps of a therapy through guided, sometimes interactive curriculums, with little to no involvement from a human provider. This is called computerized therapy.
Treatment programs can combine a more traditional mode of therapy with smartphone apps, text messaging, or other types of digital technology. This is called computer-assisted or web-assisted treatment.
These approaches are not mutually exclusive, and often mixed and matched to suit the goals of the program.
Is online treatment useful for people struggling with substance use?
Yes – or rather, promising evidence is starting to accumulate for some types of online treatment. Online treatment has been implemented in countless different ways. This means that some models may be more or less effective than others, and more or less appropriate for your specific needs and preferences.
With that being said, some online approaches like computerized therapy and videoconferencing have strong evidence for their effectiveness as mental health treatments.  In the realm of substance use disorders, several studies of online treatments have found that they can effectively help reduce addictive behaviors. 
For example: One methadone treatment regimen that incorporated an online interactive tool was found to reduce opioid use more than standard treatment. 
Participants in a study who used a self-help computerized cognitive-behavioral therapy program significantly decreased their alcohol use compared to those who received an educational brochure. 
In comparison to the hefty price tag often associated with in-person psychotherapy, some forms of online therapy like smartphone apps or text-based counseling can provide more affordable options. Computerized therapy has been found to be a cost-effective addition to traditional treatment for substance use, for both the provider and the patient. 
There tends to be high demand for in-person treatment programs and not enough supply. It can thus be easier to get started with online treatments. Furthermore, many people find that online therapies more convenient in terms of scheduling and traveling.
What if you live in an area where there simply aren’t many providers, and you’ve tried them all? Online treatments can give you diverse options beyond those in your immediate vicinity.
Online treatments are relatively discreet, especially if the online portions mostly or completely replace in-person sessions.
Online treatment does not have to be an inferior substitute for in-person treatment – it can make creative usage of technology to engage patients in ways that simply would not be possible in traditional modalities (such as by utilizing fun apps, or providing 24/7 support).
Workit Health provides interactive, evidence-based online addiction treatment that is personalized to your specific goals. We have an online curriculum available 24/7, and licensed coaches and counselors who can support you via text, phone, or video chats. We also provide a Medication Assisted Treatment program for opioid use disorder that is mainly delivered online.
If you’re interested in online addiction treatment, why not check us out?
 Vallury, K. D., Jones, M., & Oosterbroek, C. (2015). Computerized cognitive behavior therapy for anxiety and depression in rural areas: a systematic review. Journal of medical Internet research, 17(6).
Backhaus, A., Agha, Z., Maglione, M. L., Repp, A., Ross, B., Zuest, D., … & Thorp, S. R. (2012). Videoconferencing psychotherapy: A systematic review. Psychological services, 9(2), 111.
 Gainsbury, S., & Blaszczynski, A. (2011). A systematic review of Internet-based therapy for the treatment of addictions. Clinical psychology review, 31(3), 490-498.
 Marsch, L. A., Guarino, H., Acosta, M., Aponte-Melendez, Y., Cleland, C., Grabinski, M., … Edwards, J. (2014). Web-based Behavioral Treatment for Substance Use Disorders as a Partial Replacement of Standard Methadone Maintenance Treatment. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 46(1).
 Olmstead, T. A., Ostrow, C. D., & Carroll, K. M. (2010). Cost-effectiveness of computer-assisted training in cognitive-behavioral therapy as an adjunct to standard care for addiction. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 110(3), 200-207.
Sakura Takahashi is a PhD student at the University of Michigan studying social work and psychology. She is passionate about making mental health services culturally accessible for people around the world.