The Benefits of Virtual Substance Use Care: How Technology is Revolutionizing Treatment

Until recently, the idea of receiving substance use care virtually may have seemed impossible to many. However, the past few years have shown us that health services are more adaptable than we ever thought. Primary care services, mental health care, and even veterinarian services have moved effectively into a virtual environment. What’s more, the ongoing rise of these offerings is being driven by the consumers of these services. People want more flexibility in the way they access care, less time off work, more time with family, less hassle scheduling around appointments, less of a commute, and less rigidity in the ways they can access support.

Substance use care can offer many benefits when delivered in a virtual environment. It reduces the fear of judgment and stigma, as people can access services from the comfort of their own homes. Those seeking care can remain in the workforce while receiving support, and they can access services when concerns around substance use arise instead of waiting until it becomes a problem.

Virtual substance use care services like ALAViDA, Substance Use, offer self-monitoring and virtual care assessments, allowing people to track their substance use, well-being, functioning, and moods on a day-to-day basis. This functionality is great for people who are using a self-guided approach to track their progress (something typically unique to the virtual care space), as well as for those who are working with a care provider. People can choose to share their tracked information with their coach or care provider, which can enhance the quality of care they receive.

Another key benefit of virtual substance use care is that it provides equitable access for people who live in remote communities who historically did not have specialized services such as addiction care. Meeting people where they are in their lives is a key component of any effective solution for change, and virtual substance use care has the potential to break down these barriers and provide accessible care for all.

Coach-Assisted Substance Use Care: The Key to Better Outcomes

One of the main barriers to substance use treatment is the availability of specialized care providers to deliver services. A progressive solution to this barrier is the introduction of health coaches that have intensive training, specific expertise, and robust supervision in providing substance use care. Virtual platforms allow anyone to access expert care regardless of their location and receive support from trained professionals who may not have been available in their community before.

Research has shown that combining coaching with self-directed resources and programs can greatly increase the success of mental health and addiction treatment. In fact, internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT) programs led by coaches show outcomes to be as effective as in person therapy. Research also shows that adding a coach to iCBT platforms decreases drop-out rates, increases engagement, and actually improves outcomes.

At ALAViDA, members of the care team use best practice coaching methods that have been developed in consultation with world experts in coaching support. When comparing the engagement and outcomes of those who use ALAViDA’s self-guided approach to those who choose to work with a coach, the addition of a coach has been shown to increase module completion by 57%, logins to the platform by 58%, and journal entries by 25%.

For many people, having a coach in their corner can make all the difference. Coaches can provide the support and guidance that members need to overcome challenges, develop healthy coping skills, and maintain motivation. Coaches are trained to provide personalized support, helping people set goals and develop strategies for success. With virtual substance use care, coaches can be available when members need them, and often provide support in real-time. This level of support and accountability leads to better outcomes and increased rates of long-term success.

Virtual care is transforming the way addiction treatment is delivered. It offers many advantages over traditional in-person care, including accessibility, cost-effectiveness, and reduced barriers. Virtual care is now a key component of employee wellness programs and continued innovation towards accessible services will be pivotal in meeting the demands of an increasingly remote work environment. As technology continues to advance, virtual care will undoubtedly become an even more integral part of substance use care.

ALAViDA offers both coach-assisted and self-guided programs for anyone who wants to change their relationship with substances. Support is accessed through the TRAiL platform and includes a wide range of resources to help you reach your goals, including iCBT modules (internet-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), notifications, tracking tools, and more. Access the ALAViDA TRAiL.


About the Author

Dr. Terri-Lynn Mackay, C.Psych, is the Mental Health Director of ALAViDA. She leads a care team that provides members with compassionate, non-judgemental, evidence-based care. Previously, Dr. Mackay served as the Director of Operations for the Canadian mental Health Pandemic Response, as the Associate Director of Counselling Services at the University of British Columbia, and as an Associate Professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She also works as the Provincial Director of Innovation and Partnerships for the Canadian Mental Health Association. Dr. Mackay holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology and a Masters degree in Behavioral Neuroscience.



Robinson, E., Titov, N., Andrews, G., McIntyre, K., Schwencke, G., & Solley, K. (2010). Internet treatment for generalized anxiety disorder: a randomized controlled trial comparing clinician vs. technician assistance. PloS one, 5(6), e10942.

Holländare, F., Gustafsson, S. A., Berglind, M., Grape, F., Carlbring, P., Andersson, G., … & Tillfors, M. (2016). Therapist behaviours in internet-based cognitive behaviour therapy (ICBT) for depressive symptoms. Internet Interventions, 3, 1-7.