Telehealth and Online Options for Alcohol Treatment

How can I help my patients access quality alcohol treatment through telehealth services or online programs?

In addition to in-person options, your patients or clients who need help with an alcohol problem can access specialty telehealth care by phone or video chat, take self-guided online programs, and attend online mutual-support groups. You can help them put together a care plan that combines some or all of these choices.

Telehealth treatment by specialty healthcare professionals

Telehealth alcohol treatment has been offered for years by many healthcare professionals and programs specializing in addiction. Since the pandemic, more addiction treatment providers are offering telehealth services. Medicare and other insurers are expanding coverage of telehealth services as well. Your patients or clients will need to check with their insurance company about coverage.

The Navigator can help you and your patients or clients to find quality telehealth alcohol treatment by healthcare professionals.

If they are able to search for care on their own, share the link to the Navigator Patient FAQ on finding telehealth and online options.

If you or your staff are looking for referrals, here’s how to search:

  • Find treatment programs here. Many programs are adding telehealth services. Instead of using the “telemedicine/telehealth” filter, contact any programs of interest and ask about telehealth.
  • Find therapists with addiction specialties here. Most therapists listed are shifting to telehealth. Instead of using the “online/phone counseling” filter, contact any therapists of interest and ask about telehealth.
  • Find board-certified addiction physicians here. These physicians can evaluate patients and prescribe medications for alcohol use disorder (AUD). Contact physicians you find to ask about telehealth services. 

It’s possible to create a “telehealth care team” by combining a therapist with a board certified physician for medication support.

Online self-guided programs

Below are samples of e-Health tools developed with NIAAA funding. Each has research base that demonstrates its potential to help people cut down or quit drinking.

  • CBT4CBTis an effective, interactive cognitive-behavioral therapy program that uses videos and exercises to teach seven skills to help people cut down or quit drinking. If you are a physician or licensed therapist, you can prescribe it for your patient or client and monitor progress. This robust program allows clinicians who prescribe AUD medications to offer patients a behavioral health option. It can also allow behavioral health option. It can also allow health care providers to manage larger caseloads.
  • CheckUp & Choices is a digital self-help program that can help people to build the motivation and skills to change their drinking. It includes an alcohol screener, feedback, options for making a change, and skills training for moderating drinking or abstaining.

Self-guided programs such as these can be added to an overall treatment plan led by a health professional.

Online mutual support groups and other resources

Mutual support groups can be particularly helpful during this challenging time. A growing number of recovery groups have online communities. These groups can vary widely, so it's important for people to try different ones to find a good fit.

The Navigator can help your patients or clients find some mutual support groups to consider. See also the tips and tools on NIAAA’s Rethinking Drinking website.

Although online groups and apps can provide much-needed support, some issues require the help of a healthcare professional. In these cases, see above to find telehealth options for professional care. And encourage your patients or clients to use the Navigator to choose quality care that’s backed by science.