First Internet Addiction Rehab in U.S. Opens

September 8, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR (b)lines) - Hardcore Internet junkies in the U.S. now have their very own version of the Betty Ford clinic.

Live Science reports that the Heavensfield Retreat Center, located in Fall City, Washington, claims to be the first U.S in-patient center to treat Internet, video game, and texting addictions. The clinic has already enrolled its first patient: a 19-year-old boy from Iowa who admitted to being hooked on the online game, World of Warcraft.

Enrollment in the clinic’s 45-day Internet addiction recovery program, called reStart, costs roughly $14,500, according to LiveScience. The program is designed to wean patients off the Internet by combining traditional talk therapy with social skills training, such as lessons in conversation techniques and dating. Patients also feed goats, raise chickens and do home-maintenance work as a way of getting reoriented with the offline world.

“The purpose here is to get the patient to experience gratification from something that doesn’t require an Internet connection. So giving the patient someone who needs them, appreciates them and doesn’t judge them allows them to reach out to the flesh-and-blood world,” said Stuart Fischoff, a psychologist and Senior Editor at the Journal of Media Psychology, who is not affiliated with the facility.

The program’s Web site cites research that suggests “anywhere from 6 and 10 percent of the online population is dependent on one or more aspects of cyber technology and the Internet,” the news report said.

In China, there are roughly 400 Internet addiction clinics, where some patients have been reportedly subjected to shock therapy, according to LiveScience.