When Tom was just 17, he’d spend his nights glued to his screen with his hands locked to a remote control. He lost interest in school, forgot to study for exams and stopped sleeping. Eventually, after reaching a bleak point where gaming controlled his life, he decided to get help and reached out to Yes We Can, a specialised treatment clinic in the Netherlands.
Yes We Can Clinic
The Yes We Can Clinic is the only addiction treatment centre for young people in Europe. They start accepting people as young as 13 until mid-twenties for treatments. It was started in 2010 by a man named Jan Willem Poot who battled behavioural and addiction problems since he was 12 years old. After many failed attempts, his recovery process finally kickstarted one day when he attended an addiction meeting and the therapist “just started telling ‘his’ story instead of (me) having to tell my story for the umpteenth time,” explained Poot. “I listened breathlessly for one hour. So much recognition. So many of the same thoughts. So many the same wrong choices … so much the same! Finally a click!”
The treatment at Yes We Can begins with a ten-week programme at a clinic in Hilvarenbeek (a little town 90 minutes’ drive south from Amsterdam). Afterwards, patients can attend an aftercare program in Abcoude or Heeze that lasts between ten and twelve weeks.
The programme involves a myriad of techniques including individual and group therapy, family bonding, outdoor sports and trauma processing. The programme doesn’t permit patients to have mobile phones or other electronic devices and no energy drinks or caffeine. Patients are not allowed to have contact with parents for the first five weeks.
Since attending the programme, Tom’s life has transformed. He tells the Guardian “I changed through the course of the programme, slowly but surely. At first, I was super anxious and I could not talk to anyone, but slowly I started to open up and became comfortable. I started to face my avoidant behaviour and understand why I do it. I started to open up about my past and figure things out.”
If you type in “gaming” to Google, some of the first search results will be “is gaming bad for you” and “is gaming addiction real”. Some people think it is not a real addiction but earlier this year, in May, “gaming disorder” was added to the World Health Organisation’s official list of diseases.
Poot believes other online addictions such as YouTube, pornography and Netflix are also becoming more common. “They have found a way to feel better just by being in the online world because it is escapism,” reports the Guardian.
The clinic originally only treated Dutch citizens but decided to open its doors in 2017 to international patients. The initial 10-week treatment programme costs €64,000 and the aftercare programme will incur additional costs. Dutch nationals are paid for by the government or by insurance companies (given it is obligatory to have health insurance in the Netherlands). International guests, like Tom from the United Kingdom, are self-funded.
What do you think of Yes We Can’s approach to treating gaming addiction? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
Feature Image: ExplorerBob/Pixabay
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in August 2019 and was fully updated in December 2020 for your reading pleasure.