Teletherapy service with substance abuse disorder clients during the COVID-19 pandemic



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The purpose of this qualitative research study was to explore the lived experiences of licensed mental health professionals who are providing teletherapy service to substance abuse disorder clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, clinicians were challenged to consider using communication technology to maintain continuity of care with clients due to shelter-in-place orders. Because these changes are so recent, little is known about therapists’ experiences of using teletherapy with substance abuse disorder clients. This study examined the advantages and disadvantages of providing teletherapy service to substance abuse disorder clients. There were six themes and subthemes discovered using an on-line qualitative survey on PsychData. The six themes and their subthemes are: (1) Teletherapy Advantages, with two subthemes, Reduced Cancellation and Flexibility and Convenience; (2) Teletherapy Disadvantages, with three subthemes, Technical Difficulties, Barriers to Therapist-Client Connection, and Privacy; (3) Continuity of Care; (4) Rewarding Experience; (5) Smooth Transition to Teletherapy; (6) Barriers with Teletherapy, with 3 subthemes, Urinalysis, Nonverbal Responses, and Camera Use. The sample consisted of twelve mental health professional participants. This study applied the theoretical framework of symbolic interactionism, a social theory, used to gain insight into mental health professionals’ experiences of providing teletherapy services to their substance abuse disorder clients. With the increase in mental health conditions and the increase in the use of alcohol and substance abuse brought on by the impact of COVID-19, mental health professionals should be prepared for long-term use of technology for continuity of care with the uncertainty of the ending of the pandemic.



Substance Abuse Disorder Clients, COVID-19