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Can Online Therapy Really Help with Addiction?

May 19 2022 - Almost every industry inevitably becomes digitized, be it education or customer service. Therapy, despite being a very human and communication-driven service, is no different. Online therapy is essentially the same as normal therapy, but it’s conducted over the phone or laptop, be it via text messaging, voice notes, phone, or video.

All the credible online therapy sites use licensed and professional therapists, meaning the therapist doesn’t change, the nature of the sessions hardly change, meaning it’s only the vehicle of communication that is different. And, as shown in various studies, changing the vehicle doesn’t decrease the effectiveness of the therapy.

The methodology behind a lot of online therapy sites is rooted in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Most platforms will announce this as their core model in which the therapy is delivered. When it comes to what mental health conditions are treated with online therapy, there’s no stone left unturned, besides the conditions that are more suited to a psychiatrist who manages medication.

Online therapy has grown in demand for various reasons, but one major driver is that many platforms specialize in treating addiction and negative behavioral patterns. The interesting thing with CBT is that it can be used on a wide range of conditions, so someone being treated for addiction may have sessions that heavily overlap with someone struggling with self-esteem and anxiety issues.

Is CBT effective in treating addiction?

CBT is commonly used to help treat addiction, but it’s not the be-all and end-all, unfortunately. On the face of it, addiction appears to be an issue around thought patterns, feedback loops, and negative habits. All of these things are precisely what CBT targets, as CBT sessions focus on certain triggers that cause these spirals in our thought process, thus nipping it in the bud as early as possible. Learning to identify these patterns early on can be effective damage limitation.

Research shows that CBT can help with addiction, because it targets self-control and helps recognize the situations in which they abuse their addiction, be it drinking or gambling. In a sense, CBT is a holistic approach, meaning that all addictions get treated similarly. This line of thinking believes that it’s not the alcohol itself that is addictive or that roulette tables are an issue, but our response, meaning, and relationship to them.

However, where CBT runs into some limitations is that addiction often stems from somewhere more serious, such as a symptom of Bipolar or or PTSD. Now, CBT can certainly help with these too, particularly PTSD, but it’s not the overarching way to treat all mental health disorders. Bipolar, for example, is often treated with a mood stabilizing drug or atypical antipsychotic. This is often the basis of the treatment, in which psychotherapy is used on top.

So in short, CBT can be very helpful in treating addiction, but if the addiction stems from other disorders, then it’s likely that CBT should be used in conjunction with other treatments. Given that there is very little risk in receiving CBT, beyond potentially feeling emotionally uncomfortable at times, it’s not something you should be wary of trying.

Furthermore, if we are talking about CBT conducted via online methods to treat addiction, then there’s another limitation: a lack of potential for group meetings. AA is one of the most acclaimed organizations that follows a 12 step program, and whilst group meetings can be done online, the connection built with other people suffering the same issue in the room with you is lost a little when conducted online. This is rarely talked about when it comes to limitations of online therapy, because most of therapy is conducted 1-on-1, but it just so happens that addiction is the most popular driver of group meetings.

Who can benefit from online rehab therapy?

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that anybody and everybody could benefit from online rehab therapy. However, teenagers and young adults are arguably the demographic that can benefit most from online therapy. The best online therapy sites for teens can be found here.

The reason for this is that almost every single advantage of online therapy over traditional therapy is the most relevant towards young people. Firstly, online addiction therapy for teens/students is affordable compared to traditional therapy. Not only do 5.8% of American adults feel they have unmet needs for mental health services, but this number rises to 12.7% of 18-25 year olds. The biggest factor in this is cost, with 39% of adults saying this is the reason for why they’re not receiving mental health services. Online treatment can be well under half the price in many instances.

Furthermore, it’s tech driven, which appeals to younger adults who are more adept at using technology, which also lends itself to convenience and speed. With the pressures of studying or struggling to manage their time in their new adult life, the speed of the online therapy is deeply appealing. It can be a matter of minutes in downloading and signing up to the app. Not to mention that it can be done from home, in one’s own bedroom, and any time.

Of course, another stand out reason for its particular relevance among young adults is that it simply takes time to understand yourself and learn better coping mechanisms. Early on into pornography addiction, drug use, or drinking can be a time where young adults understand their own triggers and causes behind their actions the least. Of course, it could be argued that mental health issues compound in their complexity over the years, but this is even more reason to understand CBT techniques from early on, as the positive effects will also compound and reinforce over time.


In our ever globalized-yet-remote lives, online rehab programs are booming in popularity. Whilst CBT cannot be a cure-all for complex mental health disorders, it can help treat addiction either in isolation, or with the help of other treatments. For this reason, online addiction counseling will continue to improve the lives of those struggling with addiction for an affordable price, thus helping decrease the unmet needs statistics regarding treatment.

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