In graduate school, I learned a lot about mental health and addictions. I studied different approaches and treatments for addictions. Like thousands of therapists before me, I learned about addictions to drugs and alcohol and treatment modalities that have been showed to be effective to treat them. I learned how to help people who are addicted to substances but none of my professors ever mentioned that some of my clients may be addicted to their cellphone, to video games or to porn. Nobody ever mentioned online shopping addiction or social withdrawal as a result of spending too much time on social media.
After a few years of working with individuals with substance related addictions (drugs and alcohol), I discovered that many of my clients had other types of addictions. I found that many of my clients are addicted to technology. Their cell phones, tablets, computers and video gaming consoles had had a destructive effect on their lives and—similar to the alcoholics and drug addicts—my clients felt helpless, depressed and powerless.
This new generation of addicts is much more socially acceptable. After all, who doesn’t spend too much time on Facebook? Who doesn’t play video games and how many guys do you know who never watch porn? The new generation of addicts needs help, but availability of specialized treatment is very limited. Most clinicians don’t even believe that cyber addicts need treatment, since Internet addiction wasn’t recognized as an official diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). According to the APA, there is not enough data to support the diagnosis of Internet addiction and its subcategories. The result is lack of treatment protocols and limited availability of therapy that is focused on helping Internet addicts.
The treatment I developed for individuals who are addicted to Internet and technology is based on cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness and treatment modalities for addictions. The interventions I developed are based on the understanding of the neurology of Internet addictions and the latest research in the development of habits. Most importantly, the treatment I developed is based on feedback I received from multiple clients with different types of Internet addictions. My clients have provided the most valuable feedback that allowed me to refine the treatment and interventions to assist them in their recovery.
Depending on the issue, we typically see results in a few months. The progress varies depending on your motivation, the presenting issue and if there are other underlying issues that may require some more work. In therapy, I routinely discuss the progress and the benefits of therapy. My clients’ feedback is the most valuable tool that allows me to provide better care for my clients.