How does therapy work, exactly? 

part 2 of 3, candid interview with luke vu phd. 


by sasha k.

On the previous post of the series, we talked about what gaming addiction might look like for those who suffer from it, and today we’ll talk about why it can be difficult for them to feel understood. Next, we’re going to continue our talk with Luke Vu – a PhD and psychologist treating digital addictions who runs his recovery clinic in Maroubra. This is Part 2 of a three-part topic that is available exclusively on this blog! 

Who usually comes into your clinic to seek help for gaming? 

I get a lot of young men come to my clinic, who are usually those between the ages of 16 to 35. I have yet to see a woman come in specifically for gaming addiction, but maybe that’s because the majority of gamers are men? But in general, addictions are more prevalent amongst men than they are with women anyway.

Why do you think there are more men who experience addiction? 

Beyond the obvious reasons [i.e. there are more male gamers than female gamers], men tend to run away from their problems, whilst women are more likely to share their difficult emotions with others which in turn builds stronger bonds in their support system.

Whilst some research does indicate that men don’t tend to ruminate as much as women, they do have a greater tendency to use alcohol and/or other substances to escape their negative emotions. It’s an old cliche - very much like in the movies - where a guy who gets depressed goes and grabs a bottle of whiskey to drink!

 

Even though alcohol is pretty easy to get, it’s even easier to game. You can do that anytime you want at the comfort of your own home, at minimal cost and you often don’t get the discouraging physical symptoms after a single binge.

Men are more likely to run away (Mario style) from problems via addictive behaviours. Photo by Cam Adams

When you say that young men usually go to your clinic, what’s that usually like? Does anyone go with them? 

For the younger ones who still live with their parents, they usually get taken in by a concerned parent. That isn’t to say that they’re taken against their free will though, as most will own their issues to varying degrees. Their relationships with their parents are often so heavy with conflict about the game, and parents often feel desperate because they can’t seem to “snap” their children out of their gaming habits.


A big proportion of my clients also come because their partners make them go. If you think about it, you can’t game all day and not piss of your wife or partner, right? So relationship problems caused by gaming addiction is also something I can help them repair.

I never thought gaming could affect anyone’s relationships - to the point that they’ll ask them to go to a psychologist for it. 

It can. It applies to any kind of substance or activity one turns to instead of dealing with the problem, which puts anyone at risk of it turning into an addiction.

Let’s take the example of alcohol addiction.

Let’s say Eddie (pseudonym) is unhappy with their marriage, he says “ugh, I can’t deal with this right now” and then he drinks. Now drinking can feel good both physically [e.g. get buzzed] and psychologically [e.g. momentarily less upset] by delaying having to deal with his marriage problems. He starts to drink so much that it starts to affect his sleep, then starts to impair his ability to work, and neglects critical tasks that need to be done in order to have a functioning household [e.g. chores, or saying hi to the children]. Then of course at this point, his relationships rapidly breakdown. Eddie’s partner resents him for having to pick up the slack, which further breaks down the relationship.


The same applies to gaming.


I had a client who was a young male [in his 30s] with two young kids, and he told me that he gamed six hours a day. Surely you can’t be a father and game for six hours a day, everyday! Who’s helping the kids with their baths, and who’s reading to them at night? And as for the household, who’s doing the chores and making the meals? The reality is that it wasn’t him. That’s when you can really see how gaming can lead to big relationship problems, exacerbated by even more gaming used as an escape, which later spirals out into making their problems even larger.

So when I talk to my clients, I ask them: “If you had 42 more hours a week to solve all your big problems. Wouldn’t you make progress towards solving them?

“The harsh reality is that you won’t see any progress from therapy unless you believe for yourself that your use has become a problem.

Luke Vu PhD.

How long does it take to solve a problem such as gaming addiction, actually?  

You’d be surprised; for a lot of clients it can only take about 6-10 sessions to make huge progress and regain a lot of control of their lives. Provided that they are really motivated to make changes to their life. Their own motivation is the biggest factor.

 

I usually start with building their motivation, then work on cutting back on their gaming use. I would ask them with an open heart “What do you get out of gaming?” They would then tell me all the great things they get out of it, such as fun or how stress-relieving it is. And given all these things, I’d tell them that “I want you to have all these things. But why would you ever quit?” where they then retort with how it’s obviously causing them problems. That really is the point where I can start working through it with them.

 

I’ve had clients who have flat out refused to say any downsides, exclaiming how it was entirely their partner’s problems and there is no part of them that wants to be here. Well, I politely say that we can’t work on it and wish them luck.

What’s motivation got to do with it? 

It’s important for them to really know how much they want to do this. During therapy, I also ask them whether or not they are ready to do the noble thing, because doing something like this doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone is going to pat them on the back for it. If my clients decide to give up something that they really enjoy and provides escape, without being acknowledged for it, would they still do it? And if they do, then that’s what I call the noble sacrifice.


The harsh reality is that you won’t see any progress from therapy unless you believe for yourself that your use has become a problem. Your own recovery has to be more important to you than anyone else, even if someone else has dragged you here.


And that ends Part 2 of our three-part series on the introduction to gaming addiction. If you think you might be at risk, or know someone that might, stay tuned for our next post where we will be talking to you about what you can do, first.

lightbulb-o

Highlights

  • It's impossible to game for hours, everyday without neglecting real and basic life tasks
  • If you're not attending to your responsibilities, someone else is. It is usually your family and its common for them to become resentful
  • Getting the right help, at the right time can mean significant progress in 6-10 sessions 
  • Therapy won't work unless you are willing to acknowledge that excessive gaming has caused some of the problems, directly or indirectly.

Ready for therapy?

Let's work towards overcoming your struggles with pornography

Not quite ready? Check out my blog or my youtube channel for free recovery tips


Hi, I'm Luke. I'm a registered psychologist and former award-winning university teacher that treats gaming addiction. If you're struggling with keeping your gaming habits under control or attempting to quit 

I can help.

My style of psychotherapy is a non-judgmental focused approach to teach you the mental skills to motivate yourself to take action and regain control over your gaming habits. I can help you build the mental skills to live your meaningful life where gaming isn't a problem

My practice is located at Suite 604 / 806 Anzac Parade, Maroubra, NSW 2035

Copyright 2019,  Luke Vu PhD.   

Information presented here does not constitute mental health advice and is educational in nature.