Last Updated on
When people think of ways to “treat” Internet addiction, the first ideas that come to mind are “therapy” and counseling.” However, these are not the only options, and many people remain skeptical about whether or not the results will last in the long term. We examine what therapy and counseling do and follow up with an analogy to demonstrate why “life skills” are a necessary component.
The Purpose of Therapy & Counseling
Therapy and counseling are terms often used interchangeably, but they serve slightly different functions. Therapy is primarily designed to treat psychological problems while counseling is a mix of psychotherapy and specific problem-solving.
For instance, if a husband and wife have difficulty reconciling after every argument, then marriage counseling is a useful option to heal their relationship and compromise. On the other hand, if someone is suffering from depression or anxiety, then therapy can help them alleviate the effects of “negative thinking patterns.”
For more information on the differences, please read this article.
Now we turn to Internet addiction. Can therapy and counseling help? Yes, they can. Many people report positive results after just 2 or 3 sessions. However, what about those people who drop out of therapy or counseling? Usually, you don’t hear from those cases so it’s difficult to assess the ACTUAL success rate.
Are therapy and counseling the best options for you? This is something that YOU have to determine. Back when I suffered from gaming addiction, I did not find therapy particularly useful. This is because I did not display any overtly “negative thinking patterns” that affected my daily life. I wasn’t depressed or engaged in delusional thought, despite my doctor’s recommendation to go into therapy.
What ultimately helped me was the following:
- Discovering what my true values were
- Acknowledging why money was important to me (and it had nothing to do with materialistic desires)
- Implementing a plan with goals aligned with my values
Ultimately, overcoming Internet addiction requires examining the source of value conflicts (both internal and external) that go on in people’s lives. What do they specifically lack but wish for? How can they be persuaded to change themselves (from the inside)?
The Captive Animal Analogy
Suppose a zoo releases its wolves, tigers, and lions into the wild. These captive animals, which have known nothing but cages and human spectators, are suddenly turned loose. What do you suppose will happen?
If you said, “These animals will likely perish,” then you are correct. Only a third of these animals will survive. They are not accustomed to hunting for prey or evading human contact, which leads to an early death.
Having worked with many kids before as a tutoring center owner, I can tell if someone is ill-equipped to deal with adult responsibilities. These adolescents don’t stand up for themselves and only seem to focus on what their parents care about (not on their own self-interests). These are ingredients that create Internet addiction.
Adult life is far more than grades and exams (a major fault of our education system). Adults must learn to get along with coworkers, bosses, and new people they meet. Adults must learn about personal finances. Adults must learn how to manage the most precious resource: time. Demands become more and more oppressive if they are not sufficiently met. The only question is, do people overcome their obstacles, or do they regress to an earlier stage in life? For Internet addicts, the answer is obviously the latter.
It is wrong to keep 18 to 24-year-olds trapped in a child-like cocoon. (I rest my case by presenting you a typical 30-year-old living at home.) It is also a mistake to assume that they should know everything the moment they hit 18. The solution is to steadily integrate unique aspects of adult life into their daily routine until they are ready to make do on their own.
Going back to the zoo animal topic, those animals must learn how to survive in the wild first. That is essentially how we help families and recovering Internet addicts move forward.
Based on my own experience fighting Internet/gaming addiction and talking with parents, I’ve concluded that many Internet addicts do not have an underlying psychological problem. They either do not want to mentally accept the realities and difficulties of adult life or are too unskilled to deal with them. This is not a problem that therapy or counseling is intended to deal with.
This is a perfectly legitimate grievance – once again, adult life is not easy. But it’s something everyone needs to learn eventually through practice, failure, and eventual success.
Start by building the foundations of adult life. Start by explaining and testing the consequences of certain actions. Start by assessing values and have an action plan to act in accordance with those values. Start by integrating social outlets and exercise into a weekly routine. Start by learning the ropes of career mobility and personal finance.