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How Do You Treat Internet Addiction?

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Covering specific techniques for the treatment of Internet addiction.

The hardest issue to overcome in terms of treatment is breaking through an Internet addict's denial of the problem. Similar to alcoholism, the Internet addict must first realize the addiction and be motivated to seek help.

Many people believe the only way to cure Internet addiction is to pull the plug, cut the modem wire, or throw out the computer. But think again. You don't have to go "cold turkey" in order to deal with this disorder. Since the Internet is a productive tool when used properly, it important to find a balance between Internet use and other life activities. The treatment model is similar for eating disorders or controlled drinking programs. The focus being to identify triggers which onset binge-behavior and re-learning how to use it in moderation.

Unlike physical addictions like alcoholism, Internet addiction does not require abstinence for a healthy and life-enhancing recovery. To help in that recovery process, the book "Caught in the Net" provides practical tools and dozens of intervention techniques. Special emphasis is given to additional outside resources that are becoming available to treat this addiction and which can help Internet junkies stay on track in the months and years ahead.

Techniques for the Treatment of Internet Addiction

  1. Practicing the opposite: The goal of this exercise is to have patients disrupt their normal routine and re-adapt new time patterns of use in an effort to break the on-line habit.
  2. External stoppers: Use concrete things that the patient needs to do or places to go as prompters to help log off. If the patient has to leave for work at 7:30 am, have him or her log in at 6:30, leaving exactly one hour before its time to quit.
  3. Setting goals: Many attempts to limit Internet usage fail because the user relies on an ambiguous plan to trim the hours without determining when those remaining on-line slots will come. In order to avoid relapse, structured sessions should be programmed for the patient by setting reasonable goals, perhaps 20 hours instead of a current 40. Then, schedule those twenty hours in specific time slots and write them onto a calendar or weekly planner.
  4. Abstinence: If a specific application, such as chat or a game, has been identified and moderation of it has failed, then abstinence from that application is the next appropriate intervention.
  5. Reminder cards: To help the patient stay focused on the goal of either reduced use or abstinence from a particular application, have the patient make a list on 3x5 cards of the (a) five major problems caused by addiction to the Internet, and (b) five major benefits for cutting down Internet use or abstaining from a particular application. Instruct patients to take out the index card as a reminder of what they want to avoid and what they want to do for themselves when they hit a choice point when they would be tempted to use the Internet instead of doing something more productive or healthy.

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  7. Personal inventory: The clinician should instruct the patient to make a list of every activity or practice that has been neglected or curtailed since the on-line habit emerged. This exercise will help the patient become more aware of the choices he or she has made regarding the Internet and rekindle lost activities once enjoyed.
  8. Support groups: Support groups tailored to the patient's particular life situation will enhance the patient's ability to make friends who are in a similar situation and decrease their dependence upon on-line cohorts/friends. If an Internet addict resorts to going online because they are lonely, then encourage them to join a church group, bowling league, etc.
  9. Family therapy: may be necessary among Internet addicts whose marriages and family relationships have been disrupted and negatively influenced by Internet addiction

Please view our array of Services at the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery. If you are an addiction counselor, employee assistance provider, family therapist, or mental health professional who would like to arrange a full-day training workshop on the evaluation and treatment of compulsive Internet use, please contact us here.

Please contact our Virtual Clinic if you think you have a problem with controlling your Internet use (or you know someone who does).

If you are a therapist treating a client with signs of compulsive Internet use, please take our Survey for Therapists.

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