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RCORP - Rural Center of Excellence on SUD Prevention

Implementing Videoconferencing Groups: A Timeline

Video-based group therapy in rural communities

Telehealth is a tool that can increase access to opioid use disorder treatment in rural communities, where the limited number of providers, geographic distance, lack of anonymity, and stigma can make it difficult to receive care.1 Group therapy is one of the important elements of treatment that can become more widely available in rural areas through telehealth.

To achieve this expanded access, technology and internet barriers need to be addressed. Internet hotspots can help patients get connected. Communities and providers can also look to offer a space with technology that patients can use.

Resources to help rural providers and patients include:


The following timeline outlines steps involved in shifting in-person group therapy for substance use disorder online. It charts the course that Strong Recovery took after they halted in-person group therapy the week of March 16, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program was able to reestablish groups—through videoconferencing—on April 27.

During COVID, patients at Strong Recovery have joined video calls from home. Rural communities looking to expand access may wish to explore the possibility of providing a space equipped with technology that patients can use as an alternative.


Week 1

(March 16-20)

Groups placed on hold

Focus on social distancing & medication dispensing procedures

Communicating changes to patients & staff

Week 2

(March 23-27)

Therapists move to telehealth (phone) for some individual sessions

Point person to lead on video-based therapy identified

Staff shift to partly remote schedule

Planning for video cameras/laptops

Week 3 
(March 30-April 3)

Patients & therapists ask for groups to return

Ongoing research (confidentiality, billing, electronic health record, etc.)

Week 4 
(April 6-10)

Point person trains in telehealth & consults with experienced program

Some individual therapy sessions shifted to videoconferencing

Integration of video platform with electronic health record

Week 5 
(April 13-17)

Therapists surveyed on group topics & days/times

Weekly schedule developed

Laptop cameras distributed

Staff kickoff meeting

Week 6 
(April 20-24)

Point person provides one-on-one & group training to staff

Administrative staff distribute schedule & coach patients on platform

Meetings scheduled & invitations sent

Week 7 
(April 27-May 1)

Launch of videoconferencing groups

Troubleshooting (e.g., helping patients sign on)

First post-launch huddle on Friday (held weekly moving forward)

10 weeks out


Number of groups & hosts has grown

Feedback & ongoing assessment

Point person has ongoing individual check-ins with staff

5 months out

(late August)

Several in-person groups have been reestablished

Operating under hybrid model

State certification process completed to obtain permanent approval for tele-practice


For an end-to-end description of this practice and how Strong Recovery made it happen, see our main article.

[1] Blanco, C., Ali, M.M., Beswick, A., Drexler, K. Hoffman, C., Jones, C.M., Wiley, T.R.A., & Coukell, A. (2020). The American opioid epidemic in special populations: Five examplesNAM Perspectives. Discussion Paper, National Academy of Medicine, pp. 5-8.