It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape for all areas of health care. People enrolled in intensive outpatient programs have been significantly affected, requiring strict adherence to new protocol and adaptation to various changes to be able to safely continue their recovery journey.
Considered an essential and even life-saving treatment, intensive outpatient programs continue to operate even in these trying times. But just like any other service, IOP providers have adopted a protocol to minimize the risk of infections for all of their stakeholders.
Maintaining Health Protocol
As required by the federal government, all individuals in public spaces are required to observe various health protocols to reduce the risk of infection. These include, but are not limited to, the wearing of face masks or coverings, social distancing, and frequent hand washing.
An intensive outpatient program that’s permitted to hold face-to-face treatment will have to require all participants to observe minimal health standards at all times when inside the facility. Moreover, some jurisdictions require IOP providers to reduce their facility capacity to just 10% at any given time.
This means that providers will have to adjust schedules so that all participants are accommodated. But even then, it’s often not possible for IOP’s to allow individuals to complete their treatment hours due to the tight schedules and limited capacity.
Finally, high-risk individuals might be discouraged and restricted from attending face-to-face programs. Only those within a certain age range, and without a comorbid condition such as but not limited to heart and lung disease will be allowed to continue visiting IOP facilities.
Migrating to Online Platforms
Although some treatment facilities might have chosen to continue offering face-to-face treatment, many others have taken a more contemporary route. Telehealth is becoming more and more popular these days, allowing IOP participants to experience the same benefits from the comfort of home.
Telehealth meetings occur via an online platform, allowing individuals to communicate with their therapists for individual, family, and group counseling. Individuals are provided schedules for their online meetings and are still required to meet the minimum hours of treatment per week, depending on what their primary care physician prescribes.
Challenges for IOP Participants During COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic presents a sundry of potential challenges and dangers for individuals who have yet to recover from substance use. The limitations and restrictions imposed by health protocol, social distancing, and isolation can pose several risks including (but not limited to):
- Boredom – Too much time spent indoors can leave a person with little to do. And when boredom sinks in, individuals struggling with addiction may be tempted with thoughts of use.
- Anxiety – Global stress and anxiety statistics are on the rise due to the uncertain conditions that the pandemic has imposed. Some individuals may seek drugs or alcohol to escape these negative experiences.
- Detachment – Social isolation is perhaps one of the biggest problems faced by individuals in recovery. Being away from family, friends, and even therapists can cause a sense of hopelessness and depression.
Tips for Drug Recovery During COVID-19
If you feel that recovery might have been put on hold as a result of the pandemic, then it might be necessary to get proactive about your situation. There are a number of techniques you can try to curb the challenges of isolation, boredom, and anxiety to support your recovery and overcome addiction even during these difficult times.
While the pandemic might have forced most people to stay indoors and avoid face-to-face social interaction, many support groups have migrated online to continue providing vital social connections. Both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have long since established online meetings so participants can continue their recovery without a hitch.
There are also a number of different online groups on platforms like Facebook that provide support from individuals with similar experiences. Almost all of these groups are absolutely free to join, giving you the opportunity to connect with people who might be going through similar circumstances.
It also helps to maintain connections with family and friends. From FaceTime to Zoom, there are no limits to the different online tools you can use to communicate with those you hold dear. Sometimes, even just exchanging a message or two can do wonders to support your mental well-being.
Establish a Routine
Boredom can be a dangerous threat to recovering addicts. So to make sure you never get a moment to think about substance use, it helps to establish a healthy, goal-oriented routine to keep your schedule in check. Discover new hobbies, take up a part-time online job, or start your own e-commerce business that you can work on in between telehealth sessions.
Aside from that, you might also want to incorporate an exercise regimen to maintain your health. Other activities you might want to consider include gardening, reading, and perhaps even adopting a new pet.
Practice Anti-Stress Techniques
Thinking about the pandemic might just make you feel worse and more hopeless about the present condition of things. So try to adopt techniques that can reduce your stress and take your mind off of the current status of your community.
Some individuals find that watching a TV show can easily whisk them away from reality. Others enjoy yoga or practicing a new dance style. If you ever find yourself thinking about the pandemic or other potential stressors, you can always just take a step back, breathe, and redirect your mind.
For those who might have access to a nearby park, taking a nature walk can be particularly helpful. Science has found that exposure to natural scenery can significantly reduce stress levels.
Yes, the pandemic has changed a lot about the way we live. But that doesn’t mean you have to put your recovery on hold. The best intensive outpatient program Dallas has to offer should be able to provide you the support you need despite the restrictions of society today. And with a few proactive measures from your end, you should be able to achieve a successful recovery — without having to leave home.