A Psychotherapy Development Study for Internet Gaming


The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) introduces Internet Gaming disorder (IGD) as a Substance-Related and Addictive Disorder in Section 3, Conditions for Further Study. Although research is in the nascent stages, existing studies demonstrate that IGD is associated with psychosocial distress including suicidality, and adverse vocational and educational outcomes in youth. Internet gaming disorder also shares substantial overlap with substance use, and it primarily affects adolescents, who rarely seek treatment on their own. Parents more often express concerns about their child's game playing behaviors, and data suggest that parents can have strong influences on it. This psychotherapy development study will evaluate feasibility, acceptability, and effect sizes of a behavioral intervention designed to help parents reduce gaming problems in their children. Sixty concerned parents and their children will complete parental and self-report inventories and structured diagnostic interviews regarding the child's gaming behaviors, substance use and psychosocial functioning. Participants will be randomized to either a control condition consisting of referral for mental health issues and family support services or to the same plus a 6-week family-based behavioral intervention designed to assist with better monitoring and regulating the child's game playing behaviors and encouraging and rewarding alternatives to game playing. Gaming and other problems will be assessed pre-treatment, mid-treatment, at the end of treatment, and at a 4-month follow-up. This study is unique in evaluating initial psychometric properties of a parental version of a measure that uses the DSM-5 criteria for IGD in a clinical sample, and it will also assess associations of IGD with substance use, psychological symptoms, and family functioning over time. Most importantly, this study will be the first randomized trial of an intervention designed to reduce gambling problems, and results are likely to guide future research and treatment efforts related to this condition.

Full Title of Study: “A Psychotherapy Development Study for a New Addictive Disorder”

Study Type

  • Study Type: Interventional
  • Study Design
    • Allocation: Randomized
    • Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
    • Primary Purpose: Treatment
    • Masking: Single (Outcomes Assessor)
  • Study Primary Completion Date: July 1, 2020


  • Behavioral: Referral for care
    • referral for addictions support
  • Behavioral: Behavioral therapy
    • therapy focused on monitoring gaming behavior and replacing it with other activities and communication skills

Arms, Groups and Cohorts

  • Active Comparator: Referral for care
    • Referral for mental health issues and family support services
  • Experimental: Behavioral therapy
    • 8-week behavioral intervention designed to assist with better monitoring and regulating the child’s game playing behaviors

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • Proportion of participants who complete sessions
    • Time Frame: 8 weeks
  • Proportion of days of game playing
    • Time Frame: 6 months

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

  • parent/guardian of a 10-19 year old residing in the same household >8 months/year
  • reports significant problems with game playing

Exclusion Criteria

  • have a condition that may hinder study participation

Gender Eligibility: All

Minimum Age: 10 Years

Maximum Age: N/A

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: No

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • UConn Health
  • Collaborator
    • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Principal Investigator: Kristyn Zajac, Assistant Professor – UConn Health
  • Overall Official(s)
    • Kristyn Zajac, PhD, Principal Investigator, UConn Health

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