Where Families Find Support & Solutions


April 21, 2010

The School Solution Newsletter – Spring 2010 Gaming Addiction


spring 2010In 2009 I traveled to: Utah, California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, Missouri and Arkansas to tour schools and programs. The highlight of my visits were the two nights I spent in the field at 2 different wilderness programs in Utah this fall. I see these same kids in my office right before their parents make the decision to send them—they are so angry, and/or sad, so quiet and defended. When I see them in the field they are much dirtier ! but they are smiling and able to speak so honestly about their feelings and their relationships. I saw the boys playing with their guides, like the young boys they really are, recapturing their youth with the guidance of some gifted mentors. It was an absolutely beautiful landscape, the stars were unending and we all huddled by the fire sharing food and stories. It was not easy, it was cold and there were some challenging rappels that the kids helped me through, but I cannot wait to go back.

I wish more children had the opportunity to go to the wilderness, spend time in quiet reflection and decide what kind of adult they want to become with the wise and knowledgeable guidance of the therapists I know.

Clinical Updates : Gaming Addiction

DeathtoStock_Wired2We have all seen the growth of problematic gaming in adolescents. Sixty-six million people in the U.S. play online games at least 20 hours per week. When someone looses their sense of time, their mood is altered while playing, and they continue to game despite serious consequences (flunking school, loss of sleep, lost relationships) professionals are treating this as an addiction. The gaming addict can also display increasing tolerance through progressive gaming levels and withdrawal symptoms (rage, restlessness, and obsessive behaviors). When assessing whether the gaming is problematic it is important to understand the vocabulary of the gamer. Most problematic gamers are playing role-playing games such as; Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Halo. It is important to ask what game they play, when and how long they play, what their avatar is and when their guild meets. In addition, ask them to tell you about their guild. General consensus is that if the client is playing 4 to 5 hours a day their use is problematic.

The important defining characteristic of most gaming addicts is rigid thinking patterns rooted in anxiety or cognitive issues. They have a compulsion towards order, norm and predictability and by controlling the computer they can control their home and their world. Their rigid thinking has important implications for treatment especially in contrast to typical addiction treatment.They have a difficult time internalizing metaphors and are not usually motivated by repairing their relationships. It is best to avoid logic arguments, and longterm perspectives. Instead, it is best to focus on small, manageable steps, psychoeducation, mentoring from students in gaming recovery and gaming specific groups. If they are anxious, they will benefit from developing alternative coping strategies.

Of course, there are also unique issues for the family. Usually it takes time for the family to realize how serious the problem is because the child was previously very compliant. Also, in general, it is a socially acceptable and safe activity. However, when computer use becomes the dominant issue in the family the client can thrive on the conflict and the power his computer use has in the family. The family will need education and support in establishing new firm and extremely consistent boundaries. The parents must manage the recovery, by removing the computer from the child’s room and installing time tracking software (www.timesupkidz.com, www.wooglabs.com). The goal of treatment is to remove computers from the center of the client’s social and family life. One helpful method is to create a weekly calendar including pro-social out of home activities and family bonding in-home activities.


An Unchanged Mind, The Problem of Immaturity in Adolescence
by John A. McKinnon, MD
A great overview of the recent history of adolescent development and psychiatric care in the U.S. from the perspective of a psychiatrist who opened a therapeutic boarding school as his answer to what is missing in the current treatment of adolescents.

Why Gender Matters, What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about The Emerging Science of Sex Differences
by Leonard Sax, M.D, Ph.D.
A very thought provoking book reviewing the innate sex differences in children and asking for a corresponding understanding of those differences by schools, teachers and parents so that the differences do not become limitations.

“Orchid Children”
by David Dobbs from The Atlantic
Read it Online
An important article summarizing recent research redefining the theory that certain genetic variants predispose a person to behavioral, psychiatric or personality disorders. Instead Dobbs reviews new research proposing the “Orchid” theory; depending on how the children are raised the genes can either be expressed as unique temperamental gifts or deficits.

Breaking News

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has added new schools and programs to its list of approved residential placements.There are now a range of options available to families that are dependent on financial support from their school system.Of course, reimbursement is dependent on many factorsThe School Solution can help assess the possibility of reimbursement and refer to appropriate additional professionals. Most importantly, I have visited all of the schools and programs on the list and can give professional guidance about which program will be the best fit.

About Karen

karenSo, what do all those letters mean? Ed.S. is Educational Specialist, a post master’s degree in Educational Psychology. NCSP is Nationally Certified School Psychologist, which qualifies me to assess children and young adults for cognitive, and emotional issues and to plan the appropriate educational and social supports for them. CEP is Certified Educational Planner only available after an advanced degree and 5 years of experience. It represents the highest level of professional and ethical standards in educational consulting.

Contact me anytime.


Karen offered us a very professional service which was of great help in finding our son the help he needed.

- Parents of son



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