In part 1 of this blog we had a look into what a gambling addiction is and which possible consequences it can have in daily life. This second part focuses on what is done to prevent gambling addiction and treatment options for individuals who despite divers prevention measures become addicted. 

Gambling addiction prevention

In general, public campaigns and school-based education programs can be mentioned as main prevention tools for gambling addiction. These are supposed to increase awareness of possible harms when gambling and to reduce misconceptions regarding probability for example. Studies have shown that these prevention measures show limited success.

In land-based casinos, staff members often receive training to be able to identify concerning gambling behaviour and raise awareness. Also, the venues are not supposed to provide access to ATMs to reduce impulsive overspending. For online gamblers, based on certain country regulations, there are more and more limitations in place. – When entering an online gambling site, gamblers often get on-screen pop up messages and warnings, there are options for them to set limits to their daily gambling time and amount for example, also the screen clearly shows the clock and cash counter to not loose the overview about the losses. In some countries the bet size is regulated as per law – German gamblers for example cannot bet over 1 euro as per new regulations.

Even though there are certain prevention tools in place, about 1-2 percent of all gamblers develop an addiction as previously stated. Once a gambler admits a loss of control over their gambling activities and seeks for help, a diagnosis can be made. Treatment for non-substance addictions is possible – a diagnosis is not necessarily needed to attend counselling/therapy.

Therapeutic interventions for gambling addiction in counselling/therapy

Similar to treatment of substance abusers, so-called ‘motivational interviewing’ can be used in treating gambling addiction – it is designed to enhance intrinsic motivation to change and based upon the premise that an individual is equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to engage in change. When we speak about change, we refer to a process, not an event. Motivational interviewing strategies include objective and non-judgmental feedback, direct advice and enhancement of personal responsibility for change among others.

Another form of treatment is cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) which is also based on the individual’s motivation to change and includes psychoeducation – teaching of skills. The client’s dysfunctional beliefs and misconceptions about gambling are challenged in order to bring about cognitive change, a restructured thought process. The client learns to solve problems in different ways instead of turning to gambling in stressful situations. Also, new coping skills are taught in CBT so the client learns to deal with stress, anger and other feelings in a healthier way and seeks support when needed. A main focus is also to prevent relapse.

Problematic gamblers often show different types of cognitive distortions – they think they have certain skills and the ability to control the outcome of their gambling activities. Also, they only recall successful outcomes even though there might have been many more unsuccessful ones in the past, perceptions of randomness are flawed.

It is important to keep in mind that individuals with a gambling addiction will remain vulnerable to further harms, their urges to gamble might get triggered by different factors like stress or mood swings or by seeing an advert or a promotion for example.

Apart from counselling/therapy for the gambling addicted client themselves, also family-based interventions are possible to increase understanding, improve family functioning and increase coping skills of all family members.

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Franziska Richter is a transcultural counsellor with Willingness Team, offering counselling sessions to individuals and couples. She is particularly interested in trauma, addictions, migration, sexuality, and eating disorders.