Virtual Addiction Treatment: Does it Work?

In 1784 physician Benjamin Rush put forth the novel idea that alcoholism is a disease and should be treated as such. It wasn’t until 1948, however, with the creation of the Minnesota Model, that we would start to see residential addiction treatment as we know it today. With advancements in telecommunication technology, there is a new horizon of treatment models - virtual intensive outpatient programs. Although relatively new, VIOP’s are enjoying success. What are they? Do they work? We’ll dive into all that and more. 


The Rise of Virtual Addiction Treatment


During the COVID pandemic many residential treatment facilities closed down or were drastically limited in their ability to accept patients. To address the growing number of people struggling with substance abuse who had nowhere to go, the federal government changed their rules around telemedicine. This opened up a new avenue of addiction treatment for those that otherwise wouldn’t have access. Since then, virtual intensive outpatient programs have grown in number and success. Offering residential services via the internet, individuals were now able to get the treatment and resources from the comfort of their own home.


The Effectiveness of Virtual Intensive Outpatient Programs


Despite being a new form of treatment, evidence has shown VIOP’s are just as effective as in-person treatment options. In fact, they offer several advantages to traditional treatment methods. 


1. Convenience & Accessibility: A big driving factor in the quick adoption of virtual intensive outpatient programs was the removing of geographical barriers to treatment. No longer were people in rural communities restricted from receiving the same quality of treatment as those in metro areas. Another advantage is the accessibility for those with transportation issues or physical disabilities that would prevent them getting into a residential program. VIOP’s also offer a flexible schedule for treatment so those with families and jobs don’t have to sacrifice their wellbeing for treatment. 


2. Cost-Efficiency: Inpatient treatment can cost upwards of $1,000 a day without insurance. That’s just not possible for most people. Virtual addiction treatment is much more affordable and coverage by insurance is provided at a higher rate than for residential treatment. Without the need for transportation expenses or a reduction in income from taking time off work, VIOP’s are a much better financial option for treatment and takes away the financial stress of how to pay for therapy. 


3. Privacy & Anonymity: The ability to get treatment from the privacy of your own home is appealing to those who fear the stigma and judgment of traditional treatment approaches. This sense of privacy is encouraging to those who otherwise may not seek help. Being able to discuss vulnerable situations from the comfort of your own space helps people open up and engage in honest and meaningful conversations with their therapist. It also eliminates the need to explain a month-long absence to friends and family. 


4. Personalization: Despite being online, virtual intensive outpatient programs are highly personalized for each individual. Tailored resources, therapeutic sessions, and aftercare options enhance the effectiveness of virtual treatment. 


5. Continuous Support: One of the big difference makers in those who find continuous sobriety and those who relapse is participation in aftercare. This is not sacrificed in virtual addiction treatment. VIOP’s cultivate online communities and employ mobile apps to keep people connected and supported. Help with finding local 12-step programs, sober living houses, and continued therapy is provided. Even after completing the virtual intensive outpatient program, each person is still connected as an alumni and will continue to receive assistance and accountability. 


Virtual addiction treatment in the form of virtual intensive outpatient programs have been a game changer for those who otherwise would be unable to get help. While still emerging as a prominent route for addiction treatment, VIOP’s are proving to be effective for those in need. 

Are you considering treatment but facing certain obstacles which are preventing you from committing to change? Call Sunflower Recovery to ask about our virtual addiction treatment options. Flexible treatment from the comfort of your own home. Choose yourself. Choose recovery. 

Virtual Intensive Outpatient Programs 101