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Digital Media Overuse: Clinical Training for Assessment, Intervention, and Treatment

The Open Sky Team

As our society adapts to the expanding presence of technology, researchers and professionals have been looking at its effects on mental, social, and behavioral health. In fact, the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases will list “gaming disorder” for the first time in its 11th revision, taking effect in 2022.

Tracy Markle and Dr. Brett Kennedy from the Digital Media Treatment and Education CenterRecently, Open Sky primary therapists, family therapists, transition staff, and leadership participated in a training on digital media overuse with Tracy Markle, MA, LPC and Brett Kennedy, PsyD of the Digital Media Treatment and Education Center (DTEC®).

Tracy Markle is the Founder and Co-director of the Digital Media Treatment and Education Center (DTEC®) in Boulder, Colorado. DTEC® provides education, psychotherapy, and intervention support to individuals and their families who are impacted by the effects of technology and the common co-existing factors such as depression, anxiety, isolation, academic failure, and more.

As a leading practitioner in the field of technology and digital media overuse, addiction, and treatment, Tracy has examined the research and evidence-based strategies and developed a highly successful treatment approach.

In the training for Open Sky staff, Tracy and Dr. Kennedy walked participants through the addiction cycle and brain science as they relate to digital media. They went in-depth into the five types of digital media overuse:

  • Gaming
  • Compulsive spending
  • Social media
  • Pornography
  • Information overload

Open Sky staff at Digital Media Overuse training.

“These digital media overuse experts gave us a chance to further consider the broad scope of this problem and how to support students in detoxing from screens in wilderness, as well as how to prepare them for eventual reintroduction,” shared Adolescent Girls Therapist Kirsten Bolt, MEd, LMFT. “Lots to keep pondering about how wilderness is uniquely able to address this ongoing issue!”

The training answered questions such as:

  • What are the factors within each area that lead to addiction?
  • What are the often-alarming statistics about demographics, hours of use, correlated mental health issues, etc.?
  • What are the dangers, risks, and overall negative effects of these types of overuse and addiction?
  • What does the research say about all of this?

“One of the things that really stood out to me during the training was that the tech industry intentionally influences novelty-seeking behavior to activate emotional responses and dopamine release,” said Open Sky Clinical Director & Therapist Sebastiaan Zuidweg, MA, LPC. “In actuality, this creates the potential for an addictive relationship with technology.”

The training also provided insight, assessment tools, and evidence-based treatment strategies for addressing digital media addiction.

“The latest research around developing brains and the impact of exposure to digital media at an early age is so fascinating,” shared Adolescent Boys Therapist Morgan Seymour, LCSW. “I also appreciated the conversation around gaming disorder and the upcoming classification as an official diagnosis in the ICD-11. As a clinician, it’s important to be prepared for this classification, while also addressing it in the present. So many of my students come in having an extensive gaming history. Learning new and effective ways to assess their usage was amazing!”

Open Sky is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the digital media overuse training with Tracy and Dr. Kennedy. We are proud to have a team of clinicians committed to staying up to date on emerging research, ever-evolving client profiles, and innovative treatment modalities.

October 22nd, 2019

The Open Sky Team