Troubling Mock Therapy Practices Emerging in China

A News Update

Aversion therapies can be successful in helping people with addictions, who also wish to free themselves from the related behaviors, overcome their difficulties. Such therapies are commonly administered after a more psychodynamic approach is taken; the exploration of the causes of the addiction itself and its role within a person’s life is often able to facilitate positive change, but is sometimes ceased in favor of the more invasive and direct approach of aversion. Such therapy is, for the most part, handled with extreme care and is carried out by seasoned experts, as the potential for psychological harm is a concern.

All the more concerning, then, is the news recently developing in China in regards to a pediatric “internet addiction” clinic which claims to use aversion therapy to help kids kick the online habit. A growing complaint among the country’s parents is the time and energy children spend surfing the web, playing video games, and communicating with friends online, and some parents are apparently desperate for help. The Center for Curing Internet Addiction, located at a hospital in the eastern province of Shangdong, claims to be able to rid children and teens of undesirable internet-related behavior, but its staff as well as its methods are highly suspect. The clinic administers electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, to children over a course of four and a half months, charging parents extra for early withdrawal from the program.

The staff points out that while the shocks result in a painful sensation, they do not cause any psychological damage, but this is contested by industry experts who argue that the treatment is excessive, and that criteria for internet addiction is vague and poorly understood. Of further concern is the fact that none of the staff’s members possess any qualifications in the field of psychotherapy. While many work to combat the abuse of aversion therapies, especially in relation to children, the prevalence of less aggressive therapy for addiction may realize a return to the spotlight.


© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Eliza


    May 25th, 2009 at 11:52 AM

    ECT for internet addiction? Are you kidding me?!? Give it to the parents who let their kids spend way too much time in front of the computer, not the kids! Parents are using this as an easy babysitter for the kids from a very early age and the children are the ones who end up hurt in the end!

  • David


    May 26th, 2009 at 1:55 AM

    How does the govt. allow these kind of things? How do parents take their children for these kind of treatments knowing fully well that permanent damage cannot be undone. This is inhuman and someone should do something about it. It cannot be legal as this is something involving children. Is there anything that can be done or do we all just talk about it?

  • Katie


    May 26th, 2009 at 2:36 AM

    This is so absurd!! shocking children because of exessive internet use.

  • lacey


    May 26th, 2009 at 2:38 AM

    I can’t believe that the shock doesn’t cause some kind of problems. there needs to be more studies to prove this

  • Judith


    May 26th, 2009 at 2:55 AM

    Why does everything in China have to have a system of punishment? Memory loss I have heard is one of the most common side effects of this. This becomes complicated when administered to children.

  • Oliver


    May 26th, 2009 at 3:46 AM

    I am with you Eliza. I cannot believe that the Chinese have allowed this problem to get so out of hand that they now consider shock therapy the only way to get a handle on the situation. Whatever happened to just taking away the video games and the computers? Have we all become so dependent on them that life without them is simply unimaginable? Well I probably know the answer to that- I rely on my computer a great deal too obviously but I think that if they disappeared tomorrow I would be OK with that too. People are starting out with allowing their kids to play too much on computers at much too early of an age, it is no wonder that it is hard to pry them away from them now! And the thought that the only way to get control is by having some loon shock them is just beyond words.

  • Dylan


    May 26th, 2009 at 7:52 PM

    I am 1 parent very guilty of this. I introduced my kid to a baby laptop when he was 1. Today he is 5 and hooked onto games. However, we have been successful in the amount of time he plays. He knows he cant play in the morning and can do so only on alternate days in the evening after 7. He knows his rules. Games or tv. Whatever it is, this is inhumane and I think parents worldwide must take an internet veto on this.

  • Rabin


    May 26th, 2009 at 8:21 PM

    What would they suggest next, taking a hammer and knocking their heads? When abortion is a crime in certain countries how could this not be?

  • Jeni


    May 27th, 2009 at 2:49 AM

    That is really hard to hear the China goes to these extremes with children. Yes, take the computer away, have it disconnected or whatever. Try to do something with the children like games, outside fun, anything, but to punish them?

  • Jonesy


    May 27th, 2009 at 1:14 PM

    Sound parenting would help a little here eh?

  • Melinda


    May 28th, 2009 at 11:28 AM

    Being a good parent takes a lot of hard work, that is why so many people are lazy about it to begin with. How horrible that ends up being for our kids.

  • Austin


    May 29th, 2009 at 6:03 AM

    Come on! Internet addicts as kids? You must be crazy!Unplug the computer and that should just about take care of that!

  • Kathryn


    May 30th, 2009 at 8:50 PM

    I think suggesting children having an addiction proves that as a parent or a caregiver, one doesnt know how to exercise authority without corporal punishment. Nothing fails with a consistent time out and withdrawal of rewards tactic.

  • Gracie


    June 8th, 2009 at 12:07 PM

    It is appalling to read articles like this. The fact that our kids are so tuned out to the things that are going on in the world is no surprise given that so many of them live their lives playing on the computer and video games. And shock therapy is the solution? I whole heartedly disagree. I think that the best ways to get past this is to talk and listen to your children not send them off to play on some electronic device that offers nothing in the way of nurturing and caring for them. I know that there are times when this is not possible but for the most part when you have kids you sign on to treat them with respect and raise them in the right manner- none of this shock therapy would even be necessary if we were all just doing our jobs!

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