There are different types of therapies that can be effective in treating work addiction. Some of them are generally effective in treating a wide variety of addictions and mental health problems, including cognitive behavioral therapy or motivational interviewing. Other are specifically designed to address the problem of work addiction, such as Workaholics Anonymous groups. There are also treatment methods that address specific problems associated with work addiction such as schema therapy used in treatment of obsessive compulsive personality disorder or radically open dialectical behavior therapy (RO-DBT) targeting a spectrum of disorders characterized by excessive self control, i.e., disorders of overcontrol.
MI is a brief and highly cost-effective approach to modifying addictive behaviors with substantial empirical evidence. It includes a wide range of techniques used to help people explore and resolve ambivalence about behavioral change.
The interventions can be as brief as one meeting.
COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY
CBT has been successfully used in addiction treatment, including behavioral addictions. There are different modalities of CBT such as Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT), group CBT or Radically Open Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (RO DBT).
Berglas and Chen described the principles of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) applied to work addiction. Burwell and Chen provided a case example that includes cognitive reframing, emotive intervention, accepting self, shame-attacking exercise, behavioral modification, delegating tasks to others, setting boundaries, desensitizing anxiety, practicing substitution, and exercising leisure.
RADICALLY OPEN DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOR THERAPY
Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy (RO DBT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy developed for disorders of overcontrol. It is an evidence based treatment, supported by clinical research, targeting a spectrum of disorders characterized by excessive self control, including treatment-resistant depression and anxiety, anorexia nervosa, and personality disorders such as obsessive-compulsive personality disorder which is closely associated with work addiction.
At the core of an overcontrolled personality and coping style is a tendency to have too much self-control, which manifests as behavioral and cognitive inflexibility, high inhibition of emotion, high detail-focused processing and perfectionism, and a lack of social connectedness. Individuals characterized by overcontrolled coping tend to be serious about life, set high personal standards, work hard, behave appropriately, and frequently will sacrifice personal needs in order to achieve desired goals or help others; yet inwardly they often feel “clueless” about how to join in with others or establish intimate bonds.
The term “radical openness” means there are three important aspects of emotional well-being: openness, flexibility, and social connectedness. RO DBT is based on the assumption that increasing social connectedness by means of targeting social signaling is the central mechanism of change in treatment. Therefore, RO DBT targets maladaptive social signaling in order to improve social functioning of a person.
This approach may be helpful for individuals struggling with work addiction who show excessive self control which affects their ability to develop close and satisfying social relationships. In other words, it may be recommended for those who work excessively because they experience loneliness. Developing abilities to connect with others may enable refocusing from work to social life and other enjoyable experiences.
Family therapy of work addicts was practiced and described by Robinson. He analyzed the structural and dynamic characteristics of the workaholic family and provided treatment recommendations.
- acknowledging and working with denial,
- unrealistic expectations put on children,
- identifying the structure of a workaholic family,
- negotiating boundaries around work talk,
- developing effective problem solving,
- better communication,
- more clearly established family roles,
- greater affective responses,
- more affective involvement, and higher general family functioning,
- tracing intergenerational nature of addiction, and
- solving intimacy problems.
Different approaches to family therapy are available.
WORKAHOLICS ANONYMOUS – SELF HELP GROUPS
Workaholics Anonymous groups are based on principles of sharing experiences and supporting each other in solving common problems and recovering from work addiction. The organization offers meetings worldwide online and offline, literature, and conferences. It is based on the 12-step program and support groups, and has provided its book designed to help with recovery.
It reflects a spirituality based approach to addiction treatment, and recovery from long working hours. Thus far, the effectiveness of this intervention has not been empirically evaluated. Nevertheless, the group exists and actively operates in numerous countries for almost 30 years, which provides some indirect support for its potential benefits.
It is a type of therapy that is primarily used in treatment of personality disorders, including obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) which is closely associated with work addiction. It also shows efficacy in treatment of personality disorders cooccuring with addictions. It integrates elements of cognitive behavioral therapy, attachment and object relations theories, and Gestalt and experiential therapies.