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Online Therapy for Substance Abuse

Phi Atratus
  • Mar 28, 2022
  • 5 min read
drug addict using lighter and spoon in preparation of intravenous cocaine dose

What comes to your mind whenever you hear about substance abuse? Probably a picture of someone who uses illegal drugs and has destructive behavior, you might say. You can either be scared or sympathetic with their condition. Addiction is more than just mere craving – it’s like your body needs the substance to function. People take drugs and alcohol by thinking it will solve their problems, but they eventually cause more. 

While addiction seems to have noticeable adverse effects on our physical and mental health, data regarding substance abuse is pretty alarming. Over 700,000 drug overdose deaths have been reported in the U.S. since 2000. It includes legal and illegal substances such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, cannabis, sedatives, tobacco, etc.

Substance abuse problems can affect one’s thoughts, behavior, and emotional regulation. One can lose their job and even people close to them, especially their friends and family. Aside from serious health problems, substance abuse can also co-exist with other mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, if left untreated. Fortunately, many seek professional help, such as substance abuse treatment and online counseling to recover.

Lack of understanding about substance abuse often leads to misconceptions and discrimination. Therefore, we must aim to understand this mental health condition better. In that way, we can prevent the stigma that people suffering from substance abuse are dangerous and cannot recover. A better life is possible when you choose to take care of your mental health. But first, how do you know if you or someone you know has a substance abuse disorder?

Do I Have a Substance Abuse Problem?

A cluster of cognitive, behavioral, and physiological symptoms are essential features in diagnosing substance abuse disorder. To know if you have a substance abuse problem, check whether you have the following symptoms and behaviors:

  • Intense craving of the substance and urge to continue using it despite knowing its harmful effects
  • Taking the drug in larger amounts or over a longer period than what was initially needed to achieve the desired effect
  • Getting preoccupied with the need of using the substance regularly
  • Failure to fulfill primary responsibilities at home, work, or school
  • Finding ways to maintain a supply of the substance
  • Spending money to buy the substance and making sure to find ways to get it when the money runs out
  • Withdrawal from family gatherings and recreational activities in order to use the substance
  • Being unable to stop using the drug despite wanting to do so
  • Engaging in risky activities when under the influence of the substance, such as reckless driving or unprotected sex
  • Having little to no energy and motivation to do daily activities
  • Significant weight loss or gain due to substance abuse
  • Significant behavior changes that cause interpersonal problems, such as with family and friends

Do I Need Substance Abuse Therapy?

If you see yourself in the above descriptions, yes, you do. Addiction is life-threatening as it gets worse over time and can ruin your life if left untreated. According to studies, individuals suffering from substance abuse are more likely to have other mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety. As your substance abuse continues, other people around you are also affected, especially if the changes in your behavior are getting out of hand. Therefore, if you choose to help yourself now through substance abuse therapy, you care for yourself and the important people in your life.

Substance abuse requires help from mental health professionals since it involves intoxication and withdrawal symptoms – things that are difficult to address if you’re battling it all alone. Licensed therapists are available to help you with your recovery. Successful treatment involves essential steps such as detoxification, psychotherapy, medication, evaluation of treatment, and follow-ups until you are fully recovered from your addiction.

Which Therapy Is Best for Substance Abuse?

Just as no single theory can explain all human behavior, no specific therapeutic approach is used for all mental disorders. Online therapy is not just giving quick advice to change clients. Instead, mental health professionals facilitate recovery through a process of genuine dialogue with them. Psychotherapy is a process of collaborative engagement between a therapist and a client.

Several techniques help people with addiction, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for substance abuse. This technique is focused on present problems regardless of the client’s diagnosis. CBT is based on a structured psychoeducational model, which places responsibility on the client to have an active role both during and outside the counseling sessions. To better understand how CBT for substance abuse is being applied, let’s look at a couple of techniques used in this approach.

ABCDEF framework

This technique provides a valuable tool for understanding the client’s feelings, thoughts, events, and behavior. It is an acronym, standing for:

  • is the activating event
  • is the person’s belief about the activating event 
  • is the individual’s emotional reaction, which can be healthy or unhealthy 
  • is the process of disputing such beliefs
  • is the effective philosophy that will replace unhealthy thoughts. 
  • is a new set of feelings created after successfully doing the A to E process.

For example, a person who is always stressed and scolded at work may think they’re failures and not competent enough to do the job. Therefore, they may resort to something that makes them feel good, such as using drugs or alcohol to forget work-related stressors. The stressful situation at work is the activating event (A), and thinking that they are a failure is the belief about the stressful event (B). As a result, resorting to substance abuse to feel better is an unhealthy emotional reaction (C).

The therapist will then help the client develop practical coping skills to understand that they have the total capacity to change their cognition, emotions, and behaviors. Finally, realizing that making mistakes is normal and we can’t please everyone (D), the client will conclude that substance abuse is not the right coping mechanism in response to stressful situations and will only worsen things (E). Once the goals are attained through regular therapy sessions, the client will develop new feelings, such as disappointment and sadness. Such feelings are normal when we experience work-related problems instead of resorting to substance abuse.

Relapse prevention

This technique is one part of the stress-management programs under CBT, where clients learn coping skills that will help them avoid relapsing back to substance use. For example, a client who was once addicted to marijuana will identify people, places, and things in their environment that might trigger a relapse. Once the triggers are identified, the therapist helps the client develop a plan to avoid them. In addition, this prevention technique allows the client to engage in alternative activities that can fill in time formerly devoted to substance use.

Research shows that using these techniques leads to significant improvement in daily functioning and quality of life. Also, substance abuse therapy activities require clients to participate throughout the therapy sessions. Group therapy is also beneficial, where you can share your experiences with people in the same situation as you and learn from their life stories. Other therapists also use homework or worksheets to track their client’s progress.

Is Online Therapy Right for Me?

Online therapy provides more accessible mental healthcare for all people in the world. Various approaches to substance abuse therapy, such as CBT, are an effective alternative to in-person treatment. As technology improves, mental health professionals also extend their services virtually. Platforms such as DoMental offer online therapy for everyone at any time and from anywhere. The price is also more affordable than face-to-face sessions since no office space needs to be rented.

You can find a therapist who is the best match for you and contact them via text and audio messaging or video call. Having your therapy from home also allows you to feel more comfortable and safe when talking to your therapist. Through online therapy, you can receive the help you need in just a few clicks.


Substance abuse disorder prevents a person from having a healthy mind. It can ruin one’s life, relationships, and even family. The good news is that recovery is possible through substance abuse therapy, which uses effective techniques for addiction, such as CBT. Online counseling platforms like DoMental offer online treatment for everyone, including substance abuse problems. It only takes a few easy steps — take a mental health survey, get matched with a therapist, and start your therapy sessions. 

The online therapy process may seem complex but can produce effective results through a collaborative engagement between you and your therapist. The more you talk with your therapist, the more you’ll achieve your goals of recovery. Life after addiction is possible, and you could even inspire others to get rid of their substance abuse.