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How Recovery Unplugged is Setting the Standard for LGBTQ-Inclusive Virtual Addiction Treatment


People often speak of hitting "rock bottom" – a point where their lives have spun so far out of control with drugs or alcohol that just getting through the day can be a struggle. The stressors of the pandemic have exponentially amplified these factors. As a result, national addiction treatment organization Recovery Unplugged quickly pivoted to address the growing need for virtual programming, once again establishing its presence as an innovative leader in recovery treatment.

"It's been a wild ride," reflects Sandy Hollier, licensed chemical dependency counselor and Recovery Unplugged's executive director, Austin, Texas. "Clients, staff and families were affected – what was standard procedure one day in treatment had to be completely reinvented the next."

Hollier says accessing COVID testing to finding ways to safely quarantine clients have been among the many hurdles to leap along with "continuing services for a population that now needs it more than ever because we've now added the stress of a pandemic. It's affecting every single person on the planet; you cannot escape it. Even if you're working a very solid recovery program, you're going to need support."

Recovery Unplugged's Commitment to LGBTQ+ Inclusivity
Since its inception, Recovery Unplugged has opened its doors to the LGBTQ+ community, responding to the National Institute on Drug Abuse's assessment that "LGBTQ individuals often enter treatment with more severe substance abuse disorders."

While no two stories are the same, queer populations often encounter trauma at home, school, or within their communities regarding their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Internalized queerphobia comes from generational gaps and a lack of educational resources to create supportive environments. And co-occurring disorders such as depression and anxiety add potentially complex layers to reveal as trained staff begins to dismantle the root causes of addiction.

Recovery Unplugged's , music-driven treatment modalities and trained staff mindful of the LGBTQ+ community have provided a home away from home for those with nowhere else to turn.

And then COVID-19 hit.

Adapting to the New Normal
Recovery Unplugged faced the ultimate question with no singular answer: "How do we find a way to continue treatment for a population that needs it now, more than ever?"

"Each new variant wave brings new challenges in the treatment environment, and the CDC, city guidelines and government mandates are always changing," says Hollier. Recovery Unplugged relies heavily on the power of music as part of its treatment philosophy, from detox to inpatient to IOP (intensive outpatient program). The full continuum of care requires a thoughtful approach, with long-term sobriety rates most successful after 12 months of care.

Recovery Unplugged's admissions team is responsible for an extensive screening process, which evaluates at what level a client can maintain abstinence and sobriety. Hollier says the most common scenario for virtual care occurs during the IOP phase.

There are plenty of benefits for virtual care, which harnesses the power of technology and combines it with the emotional resonance of our favorite musical artists. By establishing a dual support system, clients can maintain a career, stay connected to family and continue medical care with their primary physicians and other medical professionals at home.

Integrating back into daily life is a considerable step toward continued sobriety. Flexibility with virtual meetings, travel, and continuation of care are also important benefits for those appropriate for virtual care.

Recovery Unplugged's virtual care runs deeper than simply group Zoom meetings. Substance abuse counseling, psychiatric services, medication management and peer creative a collective and personalized support system from experienced doctors, nurses and therapists to guide them through every aspect of continued care.

While Recovery Unplugged virtual care may be from a distance in terms of measured miles, its commitment to each individual's needs is as close as a hug from a best friend. As technology continues to transform addiction treatment, the future use of augmented reality and other advancements offer untapped potential.

But for someone in the throes of addiction, concentrating on the present is a critical first step.
"If done well, and if you give it the adequate amount of time and energy and resources that it needs, Virtual IOP definitely has its place," says Hollier. "People just want to get their lives back, but recovery isn't linear and you can't put a time-stamp on it. Recovery Unplugged gives them hope."

Are you or someone you love struggling with drugs or alcohol?
Recovery Unplugged offers LGBTQ-welcoming substance abuse treatment.

Visit or call 855-909-8818.

by Matthew Wexler

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's Senior Editor, Features & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.

This story is part of our special report: "How Music Medicine Heals". Want to read more? Here's the full list.

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