Gamer Rehab - An Interview with the Founder of a Video Game Addicition Clinic

Updated Mon, Jan 25, 2010 by Medawky

Internet 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.


MMOZin: Hello. Can you tell us a few words about yourself and your role in the reSTART clinic?

Dr. Hilarie Cash: Hello. 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.

MMOZin: So how did you meet your first game addict?

Dr Cash: 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.

MMOZin: 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 therapy last?

Dr Cash: 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.

MMOZin: The girl also?

Dr Cash: 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.

MMOZin: You have a doctor there?

Dr Cash: 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.

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