Telehealth and Online Mental Health Resources During COVID-19 Pandemic

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Online Groups

Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous, the original 12-step program that meets in churches, hospitals, and community centers also has a visible online presence:

  • AA Online Meeting is a Skype-based (voice only), English-language AA meeting in three different time zones in Europe and Asia.

  • The e-AA Group has email recovery meetings and discussion forums.

  • The Alcoholics Anonymous Online Intergroup lists more than 150 English-language AA groups, about a dozen with audio or audio-optional meetings.

Narcotics Anonymous

Based on AA, this group uses a similar 12-step program and meeting structure but is open to individuals who are addicted to substances other than alcohol. It has more than 150 groups with online meetings.


Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) Recovery is an explicitly secular alternative to 12-step programs that states it is evidence-based and “self-empowered.” Online meetings are held every day, including text, audio, or video.

Women for Sobriety (WFS)

This women-only group has “online chat meetings” led by women who are “certified as chat leaders”, “are well-versed in the WFS New Life Program,” and have been continuously sober for at least a year.

LifeRing Secular Recovery

LifeRing offers three types of online meetings via smartphone, electronic tablet, and laptop or desktop computer. Most are text only, but some have voice and video. It is recommended you arrive early for your first meeting as you may have to download and install an app (Adobe Connect for text, sometimes an add-in, and Zoom for voice/video). In addition to the scheduled online meetings, there is also a 24-hour chat room.


In response to the isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Virtual Reality (VR) telehealth company XRHealth is scheduling VR telehealth support groups, including for substance abuse, as soon as April 1, 2020.

Mobile Apps

Although an article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found only seven out of 74 commercially available recovery apps had evidence-based features, and some might encourage substance abuse behaviors, the piece discusses a large and rapidly changing field. New apps are emerging all the time and the article only discussed a few.

Here are two apps that seem promising and were not included in JMIR’s analysis:

  • reSET-O. This is a prescription cognitive behavioral therapy app. It is not a replacement for treatment with a health care provider but a supplement to increase how long individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD) stay in outpatient treatment programs. It is also intended to be used in conjunction with other treatments, such as MAT with buprenorphine and contingency management (an incentive program that rewards clean drug tests with prizes).

  • HipoChat. This mobile app lets individuals in recovery keep in contact with all the people who help them stay sober—designated relatives, friends, support group members. It allows recovering people to alert others that they need urgent support with just the touch of a finger. People can also use this app to schedule online treatment sessions.

Coping with Long-Term Social Distancing

It’s not just those with substance use disorder who will have trouble waiting for COVID-19 to go away on its own or for a vaccine to be available. Everybody will have to find ways to cope with increased levels of stress, depression, anxiety, and fear.

Understandably, being cut off from social interaction, daily routines, and possibly income may cause loneliness, boredom, cabin fever, anger, and—if the individual has a SUD—the desire to use drugs or alcohol to mask the feelings.

Here are some some suggestions from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):

  • Practice relaxation techniques—stretching, going for a walk, exercising, meditating, or praying—that you enjoy.

  • Engage in a fun activity, especially after doing something stressful or difficult.

  • Talk with someone—a friend, coworker, or family member—by phone or Skype.

  • Keep a journal of positive or hopeful things.

If an individual experiences intense symptoms of anxiety, worry, fear, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for two weeks or more, they should consider consulting their health care provider, if available, or a mental health or suicide prevention hotline.


  • – Q & A on coronavirus (COVID-19)

  • – What Is A Pandemic?

  • – COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic

  • – Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19

  • – Coronavirus Resource Center

  • – Why COVID-19 is worse than the flu in one chart

  • – How The Novel Coronavirus And The Flu Are Alike … And Different

  •– Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID- 19 mortality and healthcare demand

  • – How Long Will It Take to Develop a Coronavirus Vaccine?

  • – Seasonality of SARS-CoV-2: Will COVID-19 go away on its own in warmer weather?

  • – Telemedicine and Telehealth

  • – Telemedicine underused in treating addiction- Telemedicine underused in treating addiction

  • – H.R.6 – SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act

  • – Treatment options

  • – DEA exemption allows for telemedicine addiction treatment during coronavirus outbreak

  • – Cognitive behavioral therapy

  •– Dialectical Behavior Therapy: Current Indications and Unique Elements

  •– Motivational Enhancement Therapy (Alcohol, Marijuana, Nicotine)

  • – AA Online Meetings

  • – Meeting and Event Links (The e-AA Group)

  • – Online Meetings Directory (Online Intergroup, Alcoholics Anonymous)

  • – Narcotics Anonymous Meeting Search Results

  • – Online Meetings & Events (SMART Recovery)

  • – Community (Women for Sobriety)

  • – Women For Sobriety Online

  • – Joining a Meeting

  • – Online Meeting Schedule

  • – Instant Insights: How the Coronavirus Affects HR, Benefits, and Retirement Professionals

  • – Smartphone Apps Targeting Alcohol and Illicit Substance Use: Systematic Search in in Commercial App Stores and Critical Content Analysis

  • – FDA clears mobile medical app to help those with opioid use disorder stay in recovery programs

  • – Contingency Management Interventions/Motivational Incentives (Alcohol, Stimulants, Opioids, Marijuana, Nicotine)

  • – DrFirst and GoHipo partner to combat substance abuse relapse via mobile telehealth

  • – Tips For Social Distancing, Quarantine, And Isolation During An Infectious Disease Outbreak

  • – Disaster Distress Helpline

  • – SAMHSA Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator

  •– Types of Treatment

  • – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

  • – Mission, Role and Pledge

  • – Coping with a Disaster or Traumatic Event

  •– Coronavirus (COVID-19): Manage Anxiety & Stress

  • – Coronavirus (COVID-19): What You Need to Know

  • – NAMI Updates On The Coronavirus

  •– COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information And Resources

  • – National Institutes of Health (Home)

  • – Coronavirus (COVID-19)

  • – World Health Organization

  • – Constitution

  • – Addiction Treatment Facilities: Are They Prepared For The COVID-19 Coronavirus Outbreak?

  • – Amid coronavirus, recovery community urges: Even if you skip 12-step meetings, stay connected

  • – Under Coronavirus Threat, Patient Connection Will Take on Different Form

  • – “The only thing missing are the hugs”: How people fight addiction amid coronavirus social distancing

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