Treating Tech Addiction at Omega Recovery

Social Media Addiction Austin

Madison Hamm- Clinical CoordinatorHello! My name is Madison Hamm, and I am the current Clinical Director of Omega Recovery. Part of my journey with Omega has been working closely with Dr. Kardaras to consistently build, improve and innovate within the field of technology addiction. What I have found in my experience with technology addiction is that it is very common in those on the Autism Spectrum, along with those experiencing depression or ADHD. Technology provides (the illusion of) a safe space, consistency, reward and an escape. Today, I wanted to share with you the perspective and approach we take to treating technology addiction at Omega Recovery.

Technology is a very common form of escape, social connection, entertainment, etc. So, we go into treatment with an open mind, because it could serve a different purpose for each client. In order to ensure that we’re being thoughtful and personalizing each client’s care, we begin with a lengthy technology use assessment. This tool helps inform us on what the main tech of choice is, what purpose it serves, and at what point it becomes an issue. From there, we take this information to set the framework for individual therapy.

For example, if I have used TV as an escape, and I tend to watch TV for 12 hours each day, it may be most beneficial for my treatment to begin with some mindfulness and exploration of escape, so I can learn to stay present and engage with life. However, if my main technology outlet is gaming because I get social connection from it, but have no friends in real life, it may be most beneficial for me to begin with some social skills. All of Omega’s therapists tend to use this approach in order to be the most effective and intentional in their work with each client.

While the above may be a good approach for individual therapy, how can we transfer treatment to the group setting, to be effective for everyone? At Omega, we’ve developed a 9 week curriculum, with two groups per week, in order to address all of the different aspects of what may start the addiction process, all the parts in between, and a sustainable way to use technology in a balanced way going forward in life. As we all know, we live in a very tech-central society and world. It’s near impossible to completely avoid technology, so that is not the answer to effective relapse prevention.

In these groups, we discuss the under-the-surface issues to a technology addiction. Some of these things include escapism, identity, dopamine and other chemicals in the brain, impulse control, relationship skills and meeting our own psychological needs. Like any other addiction, a technology addiction does not start and end with the screen. In addressing the other areas of life and addiction, our clients are able to learn and establish ways to build up their lives and facilitate growth, so technology or the digital world is not their only option for connection, autonomy and distraction. Omega Recovery’s 60 day Partial Hospitalization Program is designed to address all of these areas of life, along with other adaptive skills. The program is rooted in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which focuses on emotional regulation, interpersonal skills, distress tolerance and mindfulness, which supports recovery from technology addiction.

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