While it’s definitely a cultural and generational affliction, constantly checking your phone and checking out of reality seems to be especially problematic for people who already struggle with other addictions. But online gaming, dating, shopping, social networking, texting and web surfing have become addictions within themselves and treatment is now available at reSTART.
Accommodations and Food
Located in Fall City, Washington—just 30 minutes down the road from Seattle— the program at reSTART is actually quite simple. The facility allows a maximum of seven clients at a time and there is a good amount of free time allotted in the daily schedule. However, with double occupancy bedrooms, don’t expect free time to mean alone time. With no access to cell phones, smart phones, tablets, computers or anything with a blinking light, free time might also feel like a four-letter word to a detoxing tech addict.
And speaking of food, the cuisine at reSTART is described as home-cooked and healthy, incorporating lots of fruits and vegetables and shying away from processed foods and sweets—including soda. Each day begins with a solid, healthy breakfast free of caffeine or sugary cereals.
Treatment and Staff
reSTART’s average demographic tends to be about 25 years old and male (although they have treated a few females). Many of these young adults have lost touch with friends, flunked out of school, dropped out of sports and confined their lives to their bedroom as a result of the gaming and Internet addiction. The negative affects of this process disorder aren’t just social either; many suffer physical afflictions such as obesity and diabetes due to the sedentary and junk food-riddled lifestyle that often accompanies tech addiction. Which is why the program at reSTART focuses less on the reading and writing of the 12 steps (although the concept is introduced and access to 12-step meetings are available) and more on physical activities like Frisbee, volleyball, backpacking, camping, climbing and even kayaking.
There are three stages of treatment at reSTART. Stage one is 45 days—although reSTART points out that the National Institute of Drug Addiction (NIDA) found that individuals showed better long-term outcomes when they stayed in treatment for at least 90 days. The first stage revolves around “detoxing” clients from anything technology related, getting them acquainted with their peers and counselors—who are a combination of LSWs, mental health counselors and an art therapist—and introducing them to the concept of process addiction and 12-step recovery. This is also the stage where clients begin their individualized treatment through a variety of therapies and classes.
Stage two begins after the mandatory 45 days, when counselors, coaches and staff begin to reintegrate the client into social settings, moderation management and how to put their individualized technologically sustainable lifestyle into practice. This may happen during extended treatment or in reSTART’s transitional living facility (located in Redmond, WA). Stage three is community re-entry which takes place after the client has left the facility. Follow up care in counseling—both individual and family—and educational and vocational couching is available. Clients are also strongly encouraged to seek out Internet and Technology Addiction Anonymous (ITAA) meetings or start one of their own.
Days at reStart begin early. After breakfast, clients move on to chores and exercise (reSTART prides themselves on being CrossFit promoters). Depending on the day, clients then head out to individual counseling sessions or group therapy focusing on CBT, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Psychoeducational Instruction, Brief Solutions Focused Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills Training (DBT), Interpersonal Skills Groups, Life Skills Psychoeducation, relapse prevention groups and relationship classes. Specialized activities are also available like Sand Tray Therapy (which sounds deliciously regressive), Pet Therapy, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MPSR), guided meditation groups, yoga, massage, 12-step meetings, nutrition and fitness counseling and usually some kind of special project (like making a video journal of their experience at reSTART) or outdoor activity. The idea is to get clients socially acclimated and physically activated so they can get a sense of healthy living and reality.
ReSTART allows minimal exposure to technology and media, as residents can make videos (like the suggested video journaling) and watch some TV (though it’s restricted to sporting events and movies).
Regardless, reSTART does its best to try and make the six weeks clients are in treatment to be as enjoyable as possible. The facility has its own tree house and the unique, multi-purpose space used mostly for meditation, personal reflection and listening to music.
ReStart also has its own in-house mascots—Dakota the dog, Jitters the cat and several doves, gold fish and chickens. Field trips are arranged to downtown Seattle, Olympic National Park and Mount St. Helens, as well as some feel-good group service work like feeding the homeless.
Since treating tech addiction is still relatively new and the age-old abstinence-based 12-step program isn’t entirely applicable, it’s hard to gauge how effective the program at reSTART actually is; still, parents of former clients have reported that overall their kids are better and try their best to moderate use post treatment. Since, like with food and sex programs, tech is something that will always have to be watched and controlled, it’s safe to say that former clients of reSTART will be at an advantage if they utilize the life tools they are given during their stay.
Heavensfield Retreat Center
1001 290th Ave SE
Fall City, WA 98024-7403
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