Process Addictions: Todays challenge for HR Professionals

Professional counselors, including those working in Human Resource Management, have addressed a myriad of employee issues during the last several decades. Substance abuse and drug addictions have been one of the major challenges faced by professional counselors employed in businesses, educational settings, hospitals, mental health clinics and private practices. Today we are confronted with a new challenge as we witness the exponential growth of process addictions.

Process addictions, often referred to as behavioral addictions, are defined as a relentless pursuit of a sensation or activity such as gambling, despite consequences to one’s health or wellbeing (Miller, Forcehimes, & Zweben, 2011). A diagnostic criteria offered for assessing process addictions (Smith, 2015, pg. 7) includes an assessment of an individual over a 12-month period of persistent and recurrent problematic behavior that indicates clinically significant impairment or distress.

Pathological gambling, sexual addictions, disordered eating, work addiction, exercise addiction, compulsive buying/shopping, and internet addiction are the seven most frequently identified process addictions. Together, the total cost of these seven process addictions and others less frequently mentioned are a greater financial burden to society then the combined cost of drug addictions. Medical costs, employment loss, family expenses, and criminal related offenses are figured in this estimate. It should be noted that comorbidity is commonplace, as individuals experiencing process addictions often are addicted to drugs.

The good news is that many of the evidenced-based practices that have been used for treating substance addictions seem to be appropriate with process addictions. These include Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and 12-Step programs. Researchers have found that process addictions involve some of the same pleasure-seeking principles as drug addictions, with the brain rewarding exciting and high-risk behaviors. However, there is a need for outcome studies on treating process addictions—similar to research that has investigated the treatment of substance addictions.


Miller, W.R., Forcehimes, A.A., & Zweben. A. (2011). Treating addiction: A guide for professionals. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Smith, R.L. (2015). Treatment strategies for substance and process addictions. Alexandria, VA., American Counseling Association.

All the best,

Robert L. Smith, Ph.D

Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.



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