Suggestions for Counselors
It is important for counselors to know the frequently overlooked symptoms of work addiction and to be able to recognize them. Once the pattern is identified, they can take the first step to treat it by helping clients develop a self-care plan. Counselors and clients can jointly identify the type of work addiction and accompanying problems that are presented and match counseling goals with the specific type of work addiction.
Matching Counseling Goals to Type of Workaholism
Counselors and clients can jointly set therapeutic goals that match the clients' type of work addiction because different workaholic types lead to different kinds of job and family problems. Goals for work bulimics, for example, might include devising a more consistent and even work style and setting limits on the time they work. Some bulimic workaholics need more help overcoming procrastination and lethargy, along with concurrent mental obsessions and working.
In contrast, relentless workaholics often need a self-care plan that might include time-outs to help them reduce their frantic, nonstop approach to work. Counselors can help savoring workaholics deal with their fears of imperfection and develop more realistic time lines for completing work projects. They also can be encouraged to reframe their outlook on work by looking more broadly and long-range at tasks versus becoming overly focused on one aspect of their work responsibilities.
Although many individuals have ADD that is unrelated to overworking and some individuals have workaholism without ADD, there are occasions when a dual diagnosis of attention deficit workaholism presents itself. Counselors need to be aware of this possibility and clients' need for medication when the dual diagnosis exists. Hallowell and Ratey (1994) described what they called the "high-stim" ADD individual who abhors boredom. Similar to attention deficit workaholics, the high-stim ADD individual seeks diversion from boredom and is unable to relax without intense stimulation. This appetite for excitement and crisis is a strategy that these clients unwittingly use to self-medicate themselves with adrenaline, which helps them focus on their work.
Thus, it is difficult to treat attention deficit workaholic clients without proper medication, thereby reducing their appetite for crisis and high stimulation so that therapy can have maximum benefit. Once it is clear that medication is not necessary, clinicians can use other traditional therapeutic techniques for stress reduction. They can let clients know that it is acceptable to indulge themselves periodically by setting aside a block of time to soak in a long, warm bath, relax by a fire or on a cool screened porch, or listen to soft music by candlelight.
They must have the cooperation of both their body and their mind to get the full benefits from this special time. Clinicians can also encourage their clients to block all work-related thoughts that try to enter their mind, and teach them thought-stopping techniques to make this easier. Clients should be advised that they may feel bored or restless the first time they try this but not to become discouraged. The only way to get over adrenaline withdrawal is through it. When restlessness occurs, clinicians should encourage clients to exercise vigorously, use deep-breathing techniques, or meditate, but to keep a low-key mood at all costs until the anxiety abates.
Abstinence for those who are chemically dependent means total sobriety. But workaholic clients, most of whom need to work, must learn work moderation--abstaining from compulsive overworking and freedom from negative thinking. For some workaholics, an effective work moderation plan includes specific activities and time commitments. For others, it is a broad framework that provides maximum flexibility, along with balance in other areas of life--namely, the familial, social, and personal-spiritual areas.
Giving time and thought to their work in proportion to other activities in their lives becomes a primary goal for workaholics. There is a general consensus in the literature that the best predictor of a positive approach to work is a full life outside of work (e.g., Fassel, 1990; Robinson, 1996, 1998a). A full home life, acting as a psychological absorber, can dissipate work's negative effects and augment its positive effects.
Counselors can help clients develop a self-care plan that is tailored to their personal needs, lifestyles, and preferences. The plan should include ways that clients can instill their lives with social and leisure activities, hobbies, and family, as well as personal and spiritual time. A work moderation component includes setting regular work hours rather than bingeing and purging, planning ahead for deadlines, and spreading projects over a realistic span of time. Putting the plan on paper for 1 week helps clients see how they are spending time and which part of their lives gets overlooked. Counselors can help clients to lower perfectionistic standards to more reachable goals and to delegate and hire out work in the office and at home.
It is critical that counselors and social scientists give more attention to the subject of work addiction to achieve a better understanding of this condition. Because the terms work addict, workaholic, workaholism, and work addiction are used interchangeably in the literature, more standardization of these terms is needed as well as clarification of the various types of work addiction. Moreover, few empirical studies currently exist to support many of the workaholic types that have been described in this article.
Empirically contrasting and comparing the previously described four types of workaholics on a variety of dependent variables would be a major step in advancing our understanding of work addiction. One organizational authority noted that "understanding of workaholic types would be further enhanced if longitudinal studies could document the degree of change or stability in workaholism over a work career" (Naughton, 1987, p. 186).
A need exists for an increase in the sheer quantity of studies on work addiction that directly assess workaholics instead of polling physicians or magazine readers. In addition, more empirical research is needed on the psychological problems and adjustment of workaholics, their children, and their spouses (Robinson, 1998b). A multimethod approach to data collection in which observational techniques are used in conjunction with the traditional self-report and interview techniques will yield more sophisticated data and lead to a better understanding of the workaholic individual and the workaholic family.
- Robinson, Bryan; A typology of workaholics with implications for counselors; Journal of Addictions & Offender Counseling; Oct 2000; Vol. 21; Issue 1.
Reflection Exercise #7
The preceding section contained information
about implications for counselors with the new typology of workaholics. Write
three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section
in your practice.
What are some counseling goals for bulimic workaholics? Record the letter of the correct answer