Michael Nover on
By Milton Spett
On Sunday, July 20, Michael Nover, Ph.D. led an NJ-ACT workshop on “Internet Addictions: Sexual and Non-Sexual.” Mike began by pointing out that people are particularly susceptible to internet addictions for three reasons:
1. Anonymity. People can gamble, look at pornography, etc. without interacting with any human beings who might disapprove.
2. Availability. The internet is available at home or at the office 24/7. In addition, most people use the internet regularly to perform tasks such as sending email, checking the weather, or getting driving directions.
Many individuals who had a strong interest in activities such as pornography or gambling, became addicts when they pursued these activities on the internet. Mike discussed the following techniques for treating internet addictions:
1. Motivational interviewing. Like other addicts, many internet addicts are coerced into therapy by a court or by their family and friends. Motivational interviewing helps patients to explore the pros and cons of therapy without putting any pressure on them to actually enter treatment.
2. Agree on goals. You and your patient should agree on whether the goal of therapy is to completely abstain from the addictive activity, or to learn to do it in moderation.
3. Reduce access. For example, put the home computer in a public room, such as the living room or kitchen, where others will observe the patient.
4.Correct cognitive distortions, such as “My internet activity isn’t hurting anyone” and “I will do it for just ten minutes.”
5.Treat comorbid disorders, such as depression or social phobia, which may be exacerbating the internet addiction.
6.Promote competing healthy behavior, such as healthy sexual and social activity.
7. Enlist family members to support therapeutic interventions but be careful not to make them into the “internet police.”
8. Covert sensitization. Have patients imagine the most negative consequences of their internet addictions.
9. Interrupt the antecedent triggers. Identify high risk situations and teach patients alternate, adaptive behaviors in those situations. For example, if family conflicts often lead to addictive behavior, teach conflict resolutions skills and ask the patient to rehearse those skills during sessions.
10. Utilize 12-step programs such as Sexaholics Anonymous (www.sa.org) and Gamblers Anonymous (www.GamblersAnonymous.org) for adjunctive treatment.
11. Prevent the abstinence violation effect. Some patients decide to completely abstain from their internet addiction. When they have a lapse, they tell themselves “Since I violated my abstinence, I might as well do any amount of my internet addiction.” This thinking converts a temporary lapse into a permanent relapse. After a lapse patients should tell themselves “I can go back to my abstinence right now.”
All rights reserved.