Treatment for gambling addiction
The National Problem Gambling Clinic offers a range of psychological treatments for gambling addiction, depending on the needs of the individual.
Individual gamblers are able to refer themselves to the service. Alternatively, a GP or other service may make the referral. In this instance we would require an accompanying letter or report from the organisation.
Once the referral is received an acknowledgement letter will be sent out. There is usually a wait for assessment that is around three weeks from receipt of referral. We will send you a letter with an assessment appointment. If other means of communication are required this should be indicated on the referral form.
You will meet one of our clinical staff who will spend about 90 minutes talking through with you the nature of your gambling problems and any other issues that cause you concern.
The multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals at the gambling clinic meets weekly to discuss new assessments. In this meeting a decision is made about the best treatment options.
Treatment options - psychological treatment
1. Brief intervention
This comprises four meetings between the gambler and a psychologist. The sessions are combined with a self-help manual. The psychologist will work with the individual to focus on specific topics from the treatment manual used in the clinic. This type of treatment is usually offered for individuals who may have managed to stop gambling for a period of time, or for those who may be unsure of whether they wish to stop.
2. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) treatment
The CBT programme offered at the clinic was sourced from a research trial that showed good results with a large number of problem gamblers. It is an eight-session treatment covering a different topic in each session with sessions held weekly.
Research shows that CBT is an effective treatment for problem gambling. CBT is a form of talking therapy with a 'here and now' focus. It can be used to help clients to identify and manage the triggers to their problem behaviour, challenge irrational thinking and find ways to better cope with feelings, thoughts and urges that may precede a gambling episode. CBT places an emphasis on putting what has been learned into practice between sessions, sometimes termed 'homework'. This may consist of filling out sheets to enhance awareness, trying out new ways of coping and developing new, more helpful behaviours including developing new hobbies, and this work is seen as vital to the treatment effectiveness.
The CBT treatment is usually delivered in a group format, with groups running in the evenings. However, it can be delivered with an individual therapist should that be more appropriate. Group sessions last for 90 minutes with individual sessions lasting 1 hour. The group times are set but there is flexibility of appointment time when working with an individual psychologist. Individual sessions are usually held within working hours.
The CBT programme can also be delivered remotely, by means of telephone and email, for individuals who do not live within easy travelling distance of the clinic. In this instance we require the individual to attend the clinic for the initial assessment only, although a follow-up visit is offered if required.
3. Additional psychological help
At the end of the brief intervention or CBT sessions there will be a review where the need for further help is discussed between the individual and a psychologist from the team. We currently offer further individual sessions with a psychologist for:
- Additional support with stopping gambling if the initial treatment has not helped sufficiently
- Short-term work on associated mental health difficulties, such as depression
- Psychological formulations of issues that may have preceded gambling or may cause later relapse
All individuals who complete a course of treatment are invited to attend the monthly Post-Treatment Support Group. Following feedback from service users it was decided to keep this group open for individuals for as long as they wish. This enables individuals who have attended the clinic to ‘drop-in’ should they feel the need for advice or to pass on support to others.
With support from the Financial Services Authority the clinic offers money management sessions with a financial advisor. This is offered at the time of assessment and sessions take place twice a month at present.