The Recorder – Tech addiction recovery center to open next month
LEYDEN — The Greenfield Recovery Center for internet, technology and video game addiction is gearing up for its first class of program participants who are set to arrive next month.
“We’ve been working to get this thing up and moving,” said Bill Parsons, vice president of development for Odyssey Behavioral Healthcare, which owns the Greenfield Recovery Center.
Odyssey, a national behavioral health care organization, first went before the Leyden Planning Board in July to discuss its plan to buy and convert Angels’ Rest Retreat Center at 63 North County Road into the specialized treatment facility. It was approved in October after months of discussion. Odyssey representatives say the 19 acres of private woodlands provides a natural environment conducive to healthy, therapeutic experiences, so participants can enjoy an alternative to the technological world.
“After much hard work we are excited to begin serving young men experiencing internet and technology addiction,” Parsons said. “Leyden offers the perfect site for our new program.”
The Greenfield Recovery Center — named in honor of Dr. David Greenfield, who is the founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and will be the new center’s medical director — will serve up to 16 young adult men, ages 18 to 25, who experience compulsive internet use, specifically compulsive internet gaming. During Planning Board meetings in the fall, Parsons said the center’s mission is “to provide the tools and coping skills needed to interact with the internet and technology in a healthier and more balanced way.”
The World Health Organization officially voted to adopt the latest edition of its International Classification of Diseases to include an entry on “gaming disorder” in May 2019. Gaming disorder is defined as “a pattern of gaming behavior (‘digital-gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities … and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”
In the United States, approximately 80 percent of young adult men engage in online gaming, according to the Greenfield Recovery Center’s website. For most, this is a normal and enjoyable recreational pursuit. However, between 1 and 12 percent of players fall into excessive and pathological use, spending as much as 16 to 20 hours each day online. Video game and technology addictions are categorized as process addictions — behavioral addictions involving a compulsion to engage in rewarding, non-substance-related behavior.
According to Greenfield, internet and video game use tends to spur increases in dopamine activity in the brain, triggering feelings of pleasure, reward and compulsion. Additionally, people tend to suffer from time distortion and lose time while looking at screens. This combination of time distortion and increased dopamine activity prove to be a dangerous combination. He has said academic difficulty is the main reason young adults and their parents call for advice and treatment.
The Greenfield Recovery Center program’s treatment aims to help participants overcome the dependency on technology, according to its website. Participants will relearn how to derive pleasure from real-world social interactions, and learn to mindfully moderate their use of social media after leaving the program.
Parsons said Odyssey hired Jodi Thompson, a Greenfield native, as the center’s administrator. It also hired Dr. Deanna Ferrentino as a therapist and digital wellness specialist. According to the Greenfield Recovery Center’s website, Thompson has over 22 years of administration and operations experience, with positions at Cleveland Clinic and Baystate Health.
Ferrentino has been trained in trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, Trauma Affect Regulation Guide for Education and Treatment (TARGET) and motivational interviewing. She also has experience conducting psychological evaluations.
“Dr. Ferrentino has worked in a variety of treatment settings and has a strong passion for working in residential treatment settings due to the positive benefits she has witnessed,” her professional biography reads.
Counseling, psychotherapy, medications (if needed), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and family therapy are offered in the program. Conducted by the digital recovery coaches and clinical staff, participants’ families will also be educated on internet, video game and technology addiction, so they can help loved ones with maintaining a balanced life. Family sessions will be conducted via video conference.
The Greenfield Recovery Center’s program also includes excursions to local destinations. Trained recovery coaches will partake in team activities that produce rewards in a real-world setting. Activities will include: hiking, cooking and nutrition education, daily living and self-care skills, meditation and mindfulness, yoga, exercise therapy, music and art therapy, mountain biking, care of animals and house pets, social communication training and woodworking.
Criteria for program enrollment includes gaming for more than eight hours a day — not tied to paid employment, and a person’s online gaming or technological addiction is causing dysfunction in areas of social, academic and work life. Frequent occurring behavioral health conditions can include: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, anxiety, obsessive compulsive behavior or learning disabilities.
“We look forward to providing a much-needed service,” Parsons said, “and to being great neighbors for the town of Leyden and the larger Greenfield community.”
Zack DeLuca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.