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Online Therapy for Addiction

Online therapy is evidence of a variety of innovations in technology and communication, giving individuals the opportunity to get the treatment they need without having to physically sit with a counselor or therapist.

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What Is Online Treatment for Addiction?

Any form of online therapy allows individuals seeking treatment to get the support and guidance they need from anywhere. They just need an internet connection to support the arrangement as well as either a computer or smartphone.

Online treatment comes in the form of websites or applications for smartphones and smart devices. 

Online treatment sites, apps, and services feature board-certified professionals who are trained to handle addiction issues and to provide effective treatment virtually in lieu of in person.

Remote work and remote services saw a huge increase during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this certainly also extended to the treatment of drug addiction.

Is Online Addiction Treatment Effective?

Some mental health professionals question the efficacy of online treatment when compared to in-person treatment. While it can be argued that there are benefits to meeting in person, the most important ingredient of therapy (clear and honest communication) is still provided with online treatment.

Of course, if the option is available, in-person treatment will hold an individual more accountable to a routine. This can provide them with the benefits that come along with physically meeting with a therapist on a regular basis.

Online Treatment Benefits

Online treatment can be effective and provide certain benefits, including convenience, accessibility, and affordability.


Online therapy provides convenience for those who do not wish to meet their therapist or counselor in person. This can be beneficial to those who do not have access to reliable transportation. 

Getting to and from physical appointments can often present challenges. As long as you have the proper equipment and internet connection, you can still get the treatment you need wherever you are.


Online therapy is tremendously accessible. At this point, there are several organizations that provide drug and alcohol addiction therapy online or via mobile app. All an individual has to do is search online for the type of therapy that best suits them.


Online therapy is often more affordable than in-person counseling. In the past, people may have avoided in-person therapy due to the high cost of treatment. However, in this day and age, more and more individuals are getting the addiction treatment and mental health services they need via online treatment at a more affordable rate.

In-Person Treatment vs. Online Therapy for Addiction

Virtual therapy and in-person therapy essentially provide the same level and quality of treatment, but each version of therapy has its own advantages and drawbacks.

Advantages of in-person therapy for addiction include the following:

  • Physical interaction
  • Nonverbal communication
  • Neutral meeting grounds
  • Professional setting and ambiance
  • Intensive treatment

Physical Interaction

Your counselor or therapist may be able to help more when meeting physically, as they will be able to pick up on certain nonverbal cues and read body language accordingly. It is also easier for a therapist to gauge how the individual is doing and looking in a physical sense. 

Often, it’s harder to pick up the details of a person’s condition and countenance when meeting virtually.

Neutral Meeting Place 

Meeting at a therapist’s office will provide the added benefit of meeting somewhere other than home, which can often have a way of influencing the individual’s state of mind. Requiring the individual to come to a physical location where they receive addiction treatment will often cause the individual to be more engaged than if they are meeting with their therapist in their living room.

Ultimately, it is up to the individual unless they are court-ordered to follow a specific treatment protocol. Making the best decision should always be based on the quality of treatment, the connection with the therapist as well as the location.

Downsides of Online Therapy

One of the primary selling points of many online therapy organizations is that they essentially provide therapy on the individual’s terms.

However, people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol may not know what is best for them. Often, adhering to a fairly rigid treatment protocol that holds the individual accountable on a daily or weekly basis is more effective than a looser protocol.

It could be argued that online therapy is perhaps too flexible and too convenient to incite the real change necessary to manage an alcohol or drug addiction.

Another downside of online therapy is that not every location has reliable internet access. Some individuals seeking treatment might not have readily-available internet access. Some individuals might not have a computer or access to a smartphone in order to receive the treatment they need. Even if they do, internet connectivity issues can disrupt the treatment process.

Alternative Options

Being that online therapy is an alternative to in-person therapy, in-person therapy is pretty much the only direct alternative to online therapy.

Meeting either virtually or in person is generally at the discretion of the individual unless there is some sort of court order with specific guidelines to follow.

Support Groups

Alternatives to online therapy often include support group participation. Many 12-step groups have virtual meetings for individuals who do not wish to meet in person. Rehabilitation facilities may require joining a 12-step group as part of their treatment protocol.

Lifestyle Adjustments

Making certain lifestyle changes can also serve as alternative options to online therapy. Positive lifestyle changes may include practicing yoga or meditation, joining a church or community group, journaling, and living a more active and healthier lifestyle. 

If there are underlying mental health problems that have led to and reinforced addiction, in-person therapy or online therapy are needed to address the addiction and any underlying issues that contributed to it.

How to Find Online & In-Person Treatment Options

Finding drug addiction treatment as well as alcohol addiction treatment will most likely be easier and more immediate when it comes to online options. You can take a look at available options and research consumer reviews to find the best site, service, or addiction treatment app that suits your needs.

If you’re more interested in in-person treatment, you can research local options and schedule an initial consultation. It’s best to consult with more than one potential addiction treatment specialist before deciding the best option for you.

If you have insurance, addiction therapy might be covered, depending on the extent of your coverage. In such cases, you will want to select a therapist within your insurance provider network.

Addiction Therapy Cost: In-Person vs. Online

Online therapy provides rates that can fit a wide variety of budgets. Many apps and sites that offer addiction therapy cost around $60 per week, and some can cost even less. Many online therapy providers offer introductory rates for the first month of service.

For individuals exploring 12-step groups as part of their addiction treatment protocol, meetings are generally based on donation. Individuals attending 12-step meetings are free to donate a dollar or more to the meeting they attend, but there are no financial obligations.

In-person addiction therapy costs can range from $100 to $250 or more per session in many cases. These sessions can be anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes long. 

Researching local therapists that operate private practices might be an opportunity to get in-person drug addiction therapy at a lower rate. Some therapists operate on a sliding scale, so people who are unable to avoid their standard rates can still get care at a discounted price.

Though in-person sessions are more costly than online therapy sessions, many professionals believe in-person services improve an individual’s chances of recovery and lessen their chances of relapse.

If you enroll in a comprehensive addiction treatment program, it’s likely you will participate in in-person therapy on a regular basis. Once you exit the program, outpatient services and aftercare generally include in-person therapy sessions as well.

After you’ve established a strong footing in recovery, you may transition to online therapy if you prefer its convenience and flexibility. Some people enjoy a hybrid approach of alternating between in-person and online sessions.

Profile image for Dr. Alison Tarlow
Medically Reviewed By Dr. Alison Tarlow

Dr. Alison Tarlow is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the States of Florida and Pennsylvania, and a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She has been a practicing psychologist for over 15 years. Sh... Read More

Updated June 26, 2023
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