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Gambling: The Disease and Treatment

Addicted behaviors such as gambling can add unnecessary strife to the life of a gambler and his or her family. Before gambling wreaks havoc in your life, consider these options for treatment.

Pathological or compulsive gambling is a disease where the individual has an uncontrollable urge to gamble. The disease progresses generally until a crisis stage has been reached either in terms of finances, damage to career and livelihood, or destruction of the family unit.

Unlike chemical dependency treatments, gamblers are usually treated in outpatient programs. There are several options available.

Private Therapy: Individual psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and social workers may all treat gambling. Specialists are those who have had advance training in addictions and are certified as an addiction counselor. It is worthwhile to get the services of a professional who has the additional training in addiction counseling. Private therapists will usually involve the client in individual therapy and group therapy sessions. Other members of the family unit may be involved when appropriate.

Outpatient Treatment Centers: As gambling addiction often involves financial losses and the inability to pay for treatment, states now fund treatment centers. State centers offer programs modeled after successful chemical dependency treatments. Treatment involves use of the Gamblers Anonymous 12 Step Program, group therapy, family therapy, individual therapy, educational activities such as lectures, homework assignments, and attendance at Gamblers Anonymous meetings. Intensive treatment lasts approximately two months with follow up care for another year or two.

Residential Treatment Centers: There are private treatment centers for gambling addictions. These range from the plain and functional to very upscale. Some are solely for gambling but others include all kinds of addictions such as eating disorders and chemical dependency. The patient usually stays in residence for at least a month, with extended follow-up treatment as in the other options. Treatment models are again based on the Gamblers Anonymous model.

Gamblers Anonymous: As you see by reading, virtually all treatments included rely on the Gamblers Anonymous 12 step approach. Gamblers Anonymous meetings are usually available in all but the smallest of cities and towns. As with the Alcoholics Anonymous groups, treatment is by nonprofessionals helping others — or those that have been there helping others.

Your state council on Compulsive Gambling should be able to give you resources in your area.

By all means, if you or someone you love is having a problem with gambling addiction, seek help.

Remember, all of the above options for treatment can successfully treat gamblers and family members. The option you pick may depend on your family circumstances, financial or insurance coverage, and the particular personality of the individual. Check out the credentials and degrees of those who will give treatment. There are some unscrupulous individuals in the field. Trust your judgment. If you do not feel trust or confidence in the individuals you meet, the treatment has less likelihood of being effective. Also, check your own insurance or the EAP benefits offered by your employer. They may cover the cost.

There are options available to help gamblers and those involved with them. Get help before someone’s life is destroyed.

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