addictions, and more specifically MMOG addiction, have been hot button
topics for several years now. From prime time news stories on
“investigative journalism” shows to our own
articles here at Ten Ton
Hammer, the problem has been examined from nearly every angle. With the
growing number of gamers and the increased visibility of this type of
addiction it seems a foregone conclusion that we would begin to see
specialty clinics pop up to treat folks who are struggling to control
their play time.
Polish gaming website MMOZin
has tracked down just such a clinic, reSTART
Internet Addiction Recovery Program
and were able to sit down and speak to its director, Dr. Hilarie Cash.
We have partnered with them to bring an English language version of the
story to you, thanks to MMOZin writers"Achilles" and "Kroliczek"for
this fascinating interview.
THE CLINIC AND HISTORY
Hello. Can you
tell us a few words about yourself and your role in the reSTART clinic?
I am the co-founder of the clinic and we started it just this summer. I
have been developing my work with internet addicts since 1994 when I
met my first video game addict. 11 years ago I co-founded an outpatient
clinic called Internet/Computer Addiction Services and last year I
co-authored a book called Video Games and Your
Kids: How Parents Stay in Control.
So how did you
meet your first game addict?
: He came to my office
when I first moved to the Seattle area. He was one of my early clients
and he was depressed; his marriage was falling apart. As we worked
together it became clear that he was addicted to an early Dungeons & Dragons
game--text only, no graphics. But he was classically addicted. He had
lost 2 jobs because he could not stop playing and he eventually lost
his marriage as well.
Can you tell us something about the clinic itself? Where it's located?
How many patients you have now and how many a year? How long does the
Sure. The clinic started just at the end of July 2009, so we are
relatively new. We have had four clients: three young men and a woman
in her thirties. They have all finished and we are on a break until the
New Year. It's located in Redmond, Washington which is the home of
Microsoft. When people come, they come for 45 days. It is only for
adults; patients must be 18 or older. When they first come, they come
for a minimum 2 days to be interviewed and to interview us, because we
don't want anyone there who doesn't want to be there. So if they decide
they want to be there then they stay for 45 days or longer if they
choose. During that time they don't have access to the internet. The
idea is that it takes at least 30 days for the brain to make some
adjustments it needs to make to get over this addiction, so the brain
can begin to rewire back to normal. During that time we are helping
them look at why they got addicted, what
motivated their addiction and we're assessing to see what skills they
are lacking so they can be successful in their adult lives. We try to
make a good start at helping to build those skills. It is a
multi-faceted approach. They live on a regular, daily routine of waking
up at a normal hour, having breakfast, cleaning up, then after
breakfast doing chores in the house and on the property with the
animals and in the garden. After that they have psychotherapy and
education related to their addiction and the skills they need to
develop. Then it's lunch, and after it is group psychotherapy and life
skills coaching. Then it is time for them to work with Cossetes
husband, Gary, who is in construction. They help him with building
projects on the property.
The girl also?
No, she had art projects. She didn't want to work outside so she was
able to do work on them - she's an artist. In the evening people come
together and there are responsibilities that are shared for preparing
the evening meal--cooking planning, all of that. There's also
meditation training and one twelve-step meeting during the day on
Monday and another in the evening on Friday. Then it's free time for
the rest of the evening.
The addicts, and in particular most of
our clients, will be like the young men we’ve seen so far,
who were 18,
19, and 25. They will be behind in social skills, because their social
lives have been lived online and not in real life. So, the idea of all
these structured activities is to help them develop social skills and
begin to address the lack of just simple daily skills that they need to
develop if they're going to take care of themselves independently as
adults--taking care of their personal hygiene, learning to cook, clean
up their physical space and just being adults in the real world. We
find that they generally are not good at that. And then, we start to
look at psychological factors they need. Sometimes they're on
medication for depression, anxiety, or ADD.
You have a doctor
We work with a doctor in Redmond that they can visit. They sometimes
choose to go off medication, or they can stay on medication, or they
might need medication for the first time. What I have certainly found
over the years is that depression and anxiety and even Attention
Deficit Disorder are conditions that are sometimes brought on by some
spending too much time online and playing video games. When they get a
break from that and begin to engage with life and begin to develop the
skills to feel successful in life, the depression and anxiety begin to
lift and go away without the medication.