By Sarah Allen Benton, MS, LMHC, LPC, AADC
The past year has led to many changes in people’s lives. The pandemic has caused us to find virtual and remote ways to work, receive an education, deliver medical and behavioral health services, engage in spiritual practice, dating, attend self-help groups and communicate with loved ones. “Virtual” can be defined as “not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so”. “Remote” can be defined as “means of communicating at a distance via electronic tools that let you correspond with people outside of face-to-face communication.” While most people are grateful that we have had these technological options during this pandemic, there is still a missing human element to much of the interactions that we have been engaging in over the past year. This void has contributed to an increase in substance usage and mental health symptoms for many. While these forms of recovery support may have been initially working well, over time, they are missing several key factors.
Many individuals in treatment or recovery from Substance Use Disorders have relied heavily on and have been grateful for remote group therapy, Zoom self-help meetings, calls with sober supports and telemedicine. However, there can still be an element of loneliness that experience despite these virtual forms of communication. The power of individual and group therapy as well as self-help meetings has often been the collective energy that people sense in the actual room and proximity to others. Face-to-face connections cannot be remotely or virtually recreated without an integration with in-person interaction.
As we approach almost a year of living with this pandemic, many individuals are reporting “Zoom fatigue” and a craving to connect verbally, emotionally and physically in person with others. Additionally, some individuals with social anxiety report that speaking on Zoom calls and having a camera facing them anxiety provoking and therefore, this medium is less effective for them.
The In Home Addiction Treatment (IHAT) model is able to deliver services to client’s homes both in-person and remotely. This model can tailor the delivery modality based on the client and family needs. This combination can provide a nice balance for those who have grown weary of virtual communication and are craving in vivo connection. The IHAT model is adaptable and able to accommodate the many scenarios that individuals and families are facing at this time.
Throughout the past year, it has become clear that healthcare professionals also need teams and communities as support for our work with clients. For healthcare professionals that may have interest in learning more about this innovative model they can become fully trained through the IHAT Institute. Now is the time to learn and to try something different. Our field is evolving and changing as a result of this pandemic in ways that will impact the future delivery of addiction treatment services. However, we can never forget that human connection is at the core of recovery.