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Strategies for Reducing Gambling Behaviors
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In the last section, we discussed finances and relationships. Strategies for dealing with finances and relationships in the face of a gambling problem might include transferring management and the "Relationship Developing Technique".
In this section, we will discuss attaining and maintaining abstinence from gambling. Three effective methods for attaining and maintaining abstinence from gambling are self help groups, photographs, and time management. As you listen to this section, you might consider your client. How might he or she benefit from actively abstaining from gambling altogether?
Attaining and Maintaining Abstinence
♦ #1 Self Help Groups
First, let’s discuss participation in self-help groups. Perhaps there is a chapter of Gambler’s Anonymous which meets near your client. As you know, meeting with other individuals who experience the same problem and sharing with them can help gamblers to solve difficulties when they occur. I find that with my clients, whether they are trying to control gambling behavior or abstain altogether, programs like GA can be a productive way to meet those treatment goals.
Clearly, gamblers will find some support and encouragement among people who have experienced the same difficulties. There are many GA groups. Would your client feel at ease in a group setting? If not, perhaps the client can visit different groups to find one he or she fits well with. Though mutual support might not be suitable for some clients, regardless of the group dynamic, this resource can be very helpful for many gamblers.
♦ #2 Photographs
Next, let’s discuss photographs. How could a photograph help your client? Rob, age 41, kept a photo of his daughter with him. Rob stated, "Whenever I have the urge to gamble, I just take out Ellie’s picture and look at it. Her sweet face reminds me of what is really important and keeps me from wanting to gamble my life away." If you suggest this technique to your client, would it be productive to make it clear that the photo is not to be used to bring luck, but strictly to break the desire to gamble out of love and respect for the person in the photo?
♦ #3 Time Management
In addition to self help groups and photographs, let’s talk about time management.
-- First, gamblers can plan activities in advance to not be surprised by the urge to gamble.
-- Next, you might suggest your client avoids free time by efficiently managing use of time by trying new and stimulating activities. Or perhaps your client might like to return to activities he or she enjoyed prior to taking up gambling.
-- Finally, clients can identify concrete goals that they wish to attain. These might be financial goals or relationship goals. Productive goals will be clearly unobtainable if the gambler continues with problematic gambling behavior.
Perhaps your gambling client could also benefit form motivational writing. One client, Dan, age 32, kept a notebook in his pocket. Dan stated, "I use my notebook to write what I want. Some of the things in there are ‘take care of you.’ ‘Do not gamble.’ ‘Gambling can only cause problems.’ My choice is happiness within my family, so I use my notebook as a way to make my thoughts concrete."
In this section, we have discussed attaining and maintaining abstinence from gambling. Three effective methods for attaining and maintaining abstinence from gambling are self help groups, photographs, and time management.
In the next section, we will discuss relapse prevention. How can a gambler serious about recovery fend off relapses? Three simple guidelines to avoiding relapse and staying stopped are using support systems, watching company, and watching where they go.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Gavriel-Fried, B., Moretta, T., & Potenza, M. N. (2020). Associations between recovery capital, spirituality, and DSM–5 symptom improvement in gambling disorder. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 34(1), 209–217.
Hutchison, P., Cox, S., & Frings, D. (2018). Helping you helps me: Giving and receiving social support in recovery groups for problem gamblers. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 22(4), 187–199.
LaBrie, R. A., Peller, A. J., LaPlante, D. A., Bernhard, B., Harper, A., Schrier, T., & Shaffer, H. J. (2012). A brief self-help toolkit intervention for gambling problems: A randomized multisite trial. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 82(2), 278–289.
Petry, N. M. (2012). Discounting of probabilistic rewards is associated with gambling abstinence in treatment-seeking pathological gamblers. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 121(1), 151–159.
Pickering, D., Blaszczynski, A., & Gainsbury, S. M. (2021). Development and psychometric evaluation of the Recovery Index for Gambling Disorder (RIGD). Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 35(4), 472–485.
Rodda, S. N., Bagot, K. L., Cheetham, A., Hodgins, D. C., Hing, N., & Lubman, D. I. (2018). Types of change strategies for limiting or reducing gambling behaviors and their perceived helpfulness: A factor analysis. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 32(6), 679–688.
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