Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Identifying and Intervening with Students Exhibiting Signs of Gaming Addiction and Other Addictive Behaviors: Implications for Professional School Counselors

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Identifying and Intervening with Students Exhibiting Signs of Gaming Addiction and Other Addictive Behaviors: Implications for Professional School Counselors

Article excerpt

This article discusses strategies professional school counselors can use to recognize and intervene with students who are presenting with signs of addictive behaviors. First, the authors present a definition of addictive behaviors. The authors then define and discuss the most common addictive behaviors impacting adolescents, with a special emphasis on gaming addiction. Finally, the article offers screening and intervention strategies that professional school counselors can use in the school setting.


Many professional school counselors who read the title and abstract of this article may be quick to ask why this content is important to the jobs they do, especially given their multiple other responsibilities. School counselors typically do not conduct the level of psychotherapeutic interventions necessary to address students' addictive disorders. However, we assert that most school counselors would be quick to recognize that, as the front line clinicians, they witness the impacts of these disorders on students like no other helper would (BurrowSanchez, Lopez, & Slagle, 2008). Whether affecting academic, emotional/behavioral, or familial situations, addictive disorders are tied into the world of children and adolescents more today than at any other time in history (Dickson & Derevensky, 2006; Medina-Mora & Real, 2008). Unfortunately, the vast majority of school counselors feel ill-equipped to address these concerns in their students (BurrowSanchez et al., 2008; Perusse & Goodnough, 2005).

Recognizing that most professional school counselors may not have had addiction-related content as a part of their graduate work in school counseling (Click, 2008; Hagedorn, 2006; Ritter, 2002), much less any graduate-level coursework related to the impacts of addictive behaviors (e.g., sex, food, gambling; Hagedorn, 2003, 2009; Hagedorn & Juhnke, 2005), we believe that the content of this article can serve the needs of school counselors for several reasons. First, a well-established connection exists between academic performance/problems and addictive disorders (e.g., Atwood, 2006; Bardick, Bernes, & McCulloch, 2004; Crosnoe, 2007; Dickson & Derevensky, 2006; Goble, 2008; Fergusson & Boden, 2008; Lambie & Sias, 2005; Petry, 2005). Similarly, studies have shown clear connections between substance use disorders (alcohol and other drugs) and behavioral addictions (e.g., sex, food, gambling; Merta, 2001; Ledgerwood & Downey, 2002; Potenza, 2002; Young, Pistner, O'Mara, & Buchanan, 1999), and between addictive and psychiatric disorders (e.g., depression, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and anxiety; Manley & Koehler, 2001; Ohlmeier et al., 2008; Ragan & Martin, 2000). Given these links, school counselors need tools to determine whether their students' academic or personal concerns are the result of an underlying addictive disorder. Otherwise, counselors may aim remedial efforts at enhancing a student's study skills when the actual problem may be much more profound.

In addition to the aforementioned connections between addictive behaviors and other student concerns, both the ASCA National Model (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2005) and the School Counseling Competencies (ASCA, 2007) call for professional school counselors to respond to their students' crises and immediate needs. Addictive disorders and their accompanying complications would fall into these categories. Finally, the recently updated and implemented counselor education accreditation standards by the Council for

Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP, 2008) mandated that all accredited counselor education programs provide their students, regardless of specialty area, with the content necessary for them to adequately prevent, intervene, and treat addicted clients and students. Thus, the purpose of this article is to provide the practicing school counselor with a list of warning signs, questions for assessment, and methods for intervening with addicted students. …

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