Learn about work addiction treatment through therapy and support groups like Workaholics Anonymous and what recovery from workaholism really means.
First Steps in Treatment of Work Addiction
Confronting the workaholic will generally meet with denial. Co-workers, family members and friends may need to engage in some type of an intervention to communicate the effects of the workaholic's behavior on them. They may enlist the help of a therapist who works with workaholics to assess the person and recommend treatment options for work addiction.
Therapy may begin by exploring childhood experiences, since the workaholic's rigid beliefs and behaviors are formed in childhood. The work addict has often taken on parental responsibilities as a child to manage a chaotic family life or to take refuge from emotional storms, or physical or sexual abuse.
An important step in workaholism treatment is to establish the workaholic's right to give attention to his/her own health and well-being, rather than constantly responding to others' needs. Cognitive-behavioral therapy will assist him/her to examine the rigid beliefs and attitudes that fuel overwork.
A core belief such as "I am only lovable if I succeed" may be replaced by the more functional belief, "I am lovable for who I am, not for what I accomplish."
Work Addiction Treatment: What Constitutes Sobriety from Workaholism?
Clearly abstinence from work is not a realistic goal. Sobriety involves changing one's attitudes and behaviors. In treatment for work addiction, the workaholic develops a moderation plan that introduces balance into life, including a schedule that allows time for physical health, emotional well-being, spiritual practices, and social support. Setting boundaries between home and work is critical, as is scheduling daily and weekly time for self-care, friendships, and play. Each day, the recovering workaholic makes time for a quiet period, for prayer or meditation, listening to music, or engaging in another "non-productive" activity.
Workaholics Anonymous for Support
Meetings of Workaholics Anonymous, a 12-step program, can provide support and tools for recovery. Medication may also be helpful. In some cases, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) underlies workaholism. Assessment by a psychologist can clarify whether ADD or ADHD is a factor. If anxiety or depression is a contributing factor, medication may help to provide a more stable emotional climate as the workaholic makes the needed behavioral changes.
The work addiction treatment can also provide an occasion for the co-workers, family members and friends to examine themselves. These people, possibly with the help of a therapist, may participate in group sessions where they reflect on ways that they may be encouraging the person's overworking. Do tensions exist at work or home that the workaholic and others avoid by overworking or other addictive behaviors? Do family members hold an ideal of "the good father/mother" that does not allow for the normal successes and failures of human life? As the others who surround the workaholic examine their own lives, these people will be better able to support the workaholic as he/she continues his/her recovery.
About the author: Martha Keys Barker, LCSW-C is a therapist in the Talitha Life Women's Program at Saint Luke Institute.