Apr 10, 2012


This family-based group therapy intervention aims to reduce Internet addiction among Chinese adolescents and young adults diagnosed as Internet addicts. An experimental evaluation found that this intervention reduced Internet addiction and improved family functioning and social support.


Target population: Adolescents and young adults addicted to the Internet

This program is a semi-structured family-based group intervention model that was developed to promote appropriate perceptions and use of the Internet and to foster a supportive environment, improved self-concept and self-confidence, strengthened family functioning, and hope for future recovery.

The program consists of 14 weekly group sessions, facilitated by two experienced therapists: a psychologist or occupational therapist and a therapist assistant. Each session lasts one-and-a-half to two hours. Seven sessions are for adolescents only, four are for parents only, and three are joint sessions.

Adolescent-only sessions involve: discussing the effects of the Internet, both positive and negative; overcoming resistance to changing addictive behavior; exploring self-understanding through dream interpretation and sand-play; using role play and discussion to improve communication skills; using psychodrama and role play to express affection and disappointment to parents and to better understand parents.

Parent-only sessions involve: discussing the impact of the child’s Internet addiction on parents’ lives; discussing how to correctly deal with the addiction; and using psychodrama and role play to express affection and disappointment to children and to better understand children.

Joint adolescent and parent sessions involve: releasing pent-up emotions and expressing affection to one another; resolving conflicts and fostering communication between parents and children; dealing with family power dynamics, and improving family functioning.


Zhong, X., Zu, S., Sha, S., Tao, R., Zhao, C., & Yang, F. (2011). The effect of a family-based intervention model on Internet-addicted Chinese adolescents. Social Behavior and Personality, 39(8), 1021-1034.

Evaluated population: Fifty-seven participants diagnosed with Internet addiction (based on diagnostic criteria referenced in the evaluation) were recruited from the inpatient population at the Addiction Medical Treatment Center of the Beijing Military Zone General Hospital. Participants were randomized to experimental (n=28) and control (n=29) groups.

Participants were ages 14-25. The experimental group included 24 middle-school students and 4 college students (average age of 17.88), and the control group included 26 middle school students and 3 college students (average age of 18.32. The treatment group included 3 females and 25 males, and the control group included 4 females and 25 males. None of the participants had serious physical, psychological, or mental disorders.

Pre-intervention, there were no statistically significant differences between the two groups in terms of age, gender, education background, average time spent online daily, and total score on the Online Cognition Scale, which measures Internet addiction.

Approach: Participants were randomly assigned to experimental and control groups using a computer-generated allocations schedule.

While members in the experimental group received the family-based group intervention described above, the control group received conventional therapy, which included group therapy focused on treating addictive behaviors only, as well as military training consisting of long-distance running, weightlifting, formation drill, and swimming. An undisclosed number of participants (“some”) in both groups received pharmacological treatments and individual counseling.

Research assistants, who were blind to whether participants were in the experimental or control group, conducted baseline assessments and posttests immediately following the intervention and at 1- and 3-month follow-ups.

The assessments included: the Online Cognition Scale (OCS), the Family Assessment Device (FAD), the Perceived Social Support Scale (PSSS), and the Mach Scale IV Version I. The OCS measures Internet addiction, and includes subscales for social comfort, loneliness/depression, diminished impulse control, and distraction. The FAD evaluates seven components of family functioning: problem solving, communication, roles, affective responsiveness, affective involvement, behavior control, and general functioning. The PSSS measures social support based on self-perception. The Mach Scale assesses Machiavellianism, or the tendency to deceive or manipulate others for personal gain.

Results: Three months after the intervention, in comparison with the control group, the experimental group had statistically significantly lower levels of Internet addiction (as measured by the overall measure on the OCS) and improved levels of social comfort, general family functioning, family roles and perceived social support.

No statistically significant differences existed between treatment and control group members three months after the intervention on: the Online Cognition Scale (OCS) loneliness/depression, diminished impulse control, or distraction subscales; the Family Assessment Device (FAD) communication, affective responsiveness, affective involvement, or behavior control subscales; or the Mach Scale IV.

Using ANOVA to examine changes in treatment group outcomes, there were significant improvements from pre-test to each post-test for all scales and subscales, with the exception of the affective involvement and behavior control subscales of the FAD. For the control group, there were significant improvements from pre-test to each post-test only for the OCS scale and subscales and the PSSS.



Zhong, X., Zu, S., Sha, S., Tao, R., Zhao, C., & Yang, F. (2011). The effect of a family-based intervention model on Internet-addicted Chinese adolescents. Social Behavior and Personality, 39(8), 1021-1034.

Contact Information

Fengchi Yang, Room 316

No. 1 Teaching Building

School of Health Administration and Education

Capital Medical University

No. 10 Xitoutian Road

You An Men, Beijing 100069

People’s Republic of China

KEYWORDS: Adolescents, Young Adults, Males and Females, Asian, Clinic/Provider-based, Counseling/Therapy, Family Therapy, Other Mental Health, Parent-Child Relationship, Other Behavioral Problem, Youth.

Program information last updated on 04/10/12.