Telehealth allows a therapist or other medical professional to meet with clients using a live video connection. Using technologies such as videoconferencing, smartphone applications, and web-based tools, professionals can deliver health services remotely.
The therapist and client still see and talk to each other in real time but without the need for the client to travel to the therapist’s office. Also called telemedicine, online therapy, or video therapy, telehealth is especially beneficial during these uncertain times. COVID-19 has made face-to-face therapy challenging, making telehealth an excellent option for maintaining the therapeutic relationship so important to those in recovery.
Telehealth for Addiction and Eating Disorder Recovery
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing unique challenges for those in recovery. Many are facing isolation at home, a loss of their normal routine, unemployment, increased stress, and less access to their support systems. For those battling an eating disorder, the fear of food shortages has increased food insecurity for some. All of these challenges increase the risk of relapse.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released a statement in March strongly recommending the expanded use of telehealth services to evaluate and treat clients. SAMHSA supports the use of individual and group therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, for treatment of substance use disorders and eating disorders.
While some health providers are concerned that telehealth services leave them vulnerable to HIPAA violations, guidelines released by the Health and Human Services Department state:
“Covered health care providers will not be subject to penalties for violations of the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules that occur in the good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.”
Telehealth is not without its challenges, which include:
- The ability of the health care provider to take steps necessary to ensure the highest level of confidentiality and security.
- The ability of the client to have a safe, private space where they can speak freely.
Staying Connected & Avoiding Relapse
The key to avoiding relapse is staying connected to support systems. Telehealth effectively continues that support through virtual individual, group and family therapy sessions for those in recovery. Individuals managing an eating disorder can also continue to meet virtually with their dietician and therapist to plan and prepare meals.
Isolation is especially dangerous to those in recovery, as it greatly increases the risk of relapse. Because of this, it’s vitally important for individuals recovering from a substance use disorder or eating disorder to stay connected to their support system. Telehealth makes this possible.
You can find more online recovery resources here:
- SAMHSA Virtual Recovery Resources for substance use and mental disorders
- The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) provides online resources, including virtual support groups, free and low cost support, a community online forum and a helpline.
Turning Point of Tampa has been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Addiction, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987.