Online addictions treatment program being tested in P.E.I.

Jim Day
Published on December 21, 2015

Michelle Patterson, research coordinator with UPEI's Centre for Health and Biotech Management Research, is keeping a close eye on the web-based addictions treatment program being piloted in Prince Edward Island.

©Jim Day/The Guardian

Jean Tuplin sees the new web-based addictions treatment program being piloted in P.E.I. as a potential strong addition to her counsellor's tool kit.

Tuplin, who has been an addiction counsellor for 15 years on the Lennox Island reserve, says the online program helps people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction make better choices.

"I love the fact that we have another tool to battle the addiction...myself as a counsellor, I think it's really important,'' she says.

"I'm excited about it and the clients seem to be excited about it, too.''

The hope is to get up to 240 Island participants into the pilot program comprised of First Nations members, post-secondary students, participants in the province's methadone program, and clients of the Provincial Addictions Treatment Facility.

The program, developed by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine, allows 24-hour-a-day online access to cognitive behavioural therapy for addictions to complement traditional treatment, including counseling.

RELATED: New program offers tools, techniques for Islanders with addictions

The pilot will be run and assessed over the next two years by a team from UPEI's Centre for Health and Biotech Management Research.

The online program — called CBT4CBT -  is comprised of eight modules that deal with addiction triggers like cravings, pressure and negative thinking.

The program's focus on cognitive behavioural therapy strives to improve coping mechanisms and alter the behavior that leads to substance abuse.

Research co-ordinator Michelle Patterson says this type of therapy works well when done correctly.

"The issue is that it is often very, very difficult to do correctly,'' she says.

"It takes a lot of training for the counselors, which is something that's just not attainable in a lot of places.''

Patterson says feedback from participants and counsellors will be key to see how useful and relevant the online program can be here and elsewhere.

For instance, she notes it will be interesting to learn if the treatment is relevant to First Nations communities.

"The culture is different,'' she says.

"The everyday lives are different on reserves. So we would like to get some good feedback and work towards making a version for Canadian First Nations.

Once tested on P.E.I., the research team will do some tweaking before moving across Canada to conduct further research.

"This program has already been tested and shown success,'' says Patterson.

"We just have to show that it does work in a different population.''