Gambling addiction: ways of treatment

Stop Addiction

Gambling addiction, as a kind of disease, needs treatments aimed at any person:

  • suffering from excessive gambling, its consequences or problems associated with gambling
  • those close to a problem gambler who need appropriate advice and support
  • institutions in contact with problem gamblers or their relatives
  • institutions concerned with gambling addiction

The Excessive Gambling organisations offer individual, couple, and family consultations, as well as therapeutic groups.

The treatment includes both addictive behaviour (gambling, video games, or other addictive behaviour) and other disorders (depression, anxiety) or associated difficulties.

The therapeutic relationship between the patient and the counsellor is based on collaboration. Following the initial assessment interviews, they agree on objectives and a treatment plan. The treatment plan is individualised: the frequency and duration of the interviews vary according to the individual situation.

Therapeutic approaches

The treatments integrate different therapeutic approaches, in particular the following:

Motivational approach

The motivational approach is aimed in particular at patients who are strongly ambivalent about changing their behaviour. The counsellor accompanies the patient in exploring this ambivalence, which is considered normal in any change process. The aim is to support the motivation to change, in particular by encouraging the identification of the patient’s resources.

Cognitive and behavioural therapy

This approach is particularly recommended for patients with gambling-related problems. It considers that people’s beliefs, behaviours and emotions are intimately linked and influence each other. It focuses in particular on the thoughts that the subject has about gambling during his or her gambling activity.

Indeed, problematic gambling behaviour is reinforced by certain specific beliefs. On the one hand, the gambler tends to overestimate the probability of winning, and on the other hand, he/she believes that he/she can influence gambling favourably through his/her skills or experience. One aspect of therapy is to challenge these maladaptive beliefs, with the aim of changing gambling behaviour. Another aspect of cognitive and behavioural therapy is to help the patient to identify situations associated with the urge to gamble, and to identify and train strategies for dealing with these ‘risk situations’. Treatments can be carried out individually or in groups.

Group therapy

Group therapy provides an opportunity for people suffering from excessive gambling to meet others who are experiencing the same difficulties. It allows for exchange, support, and sharing of resources.

Groups, co-facilitated by two counsellors, are offered upon prior registration.

Pharmacological treatments

When gambling problems are associated with depression, anxiety, or other psychological disorders, pharmacological treatment may be proposed, after medical evaluation.

Because of the associated financial and social consequences, treatment programmes often include a socio-educational or socio-therapeutic component, with advice on budget management or debt reduction, or the introduction of socio-professional or social reintegration activities.