Addictive behaviors mess up a person’s whole life, and sometimes disturb assorted other lives. To the gambler and his family, it feels like this habit is out of control, yet they have no idea how to pull on the reins. Is therapy for them or just for people addicted to drugs and alcohol? Will anyone understand?
Gambling addiction therapists do understand the compulsion to gamble. The condition is variously known as addictive, compulsive, or pathological, but each term amounts to the same thing: a client cannot stop himself from betting on horses, putting money into the slots, or internet gambling.
This habit can involve gambling and betting in any form:
- It might be live gambling on races and events.
- It could be a private habit between friends, perhaps one initiated at a card table.
- Perhaps it takes place in casinos, at black jack tables, or in front of fruit machines.
The therapist knows that the addict feels powerless to stop his behavior, although the client knows there is no biological excuse. It is not like he is someone addicted to narcotics because of ongoing pain. What is driving this habit?
Understanding the Drive to Gamble
As in the case of any addictive behavior, a client’s therapist guides him back to a time, a feeling, or some other instigator, usually an emotional one. This could be anything which made him feel out of control. He might remember when he was poor during childhood and did not have money to buy socks, let alone fancy shoes.
His condition will be augmented by any form of mental illness wherein he pushes boundaries inappropriately and takes risks, like bipolar disorder or chronic impulsivity.
When he is driven to spend money in this way an addict:
- Forgets about his responsibilities
- Thinks about gambling constantly
- Hides his behavior, being vague about where he goes and where he has been
- Tries to exert excessive control over finances so his spouse will not see the debt they are in
- Is defensive whenever a spouse or parent questions his secrecy or spending
- Denies any concerns people have about him, no matter how worried they seem
Intervening in the Situation
Maybe the single thing a family can do with a problem gambler is hire an interventionist to train them so they are able to confront him, though not aggressively. They learn from this professional the best way to approach the situation, and some ideas about what not to do.
These “not to do” suggestions come from experiences people have had trying to intervene in an addict’s life without asking for help from an expert. The situation usually gets out of hand if there is no plan, participants have not rehearsed their speeches, and anyone starts getting mad. Leave that to the addict, but do not react.
Post your ultimatum if you have to (signing off on any debt if you can, taking the kids, filing for separation, or kicking a child out of the house). If your addicted loved one wants to get out of his chaotic situation, be ready with the names, phone numbers, and addresses of a handful of potential gambling addiction therapists. There are 24-hour addictive gambling counselors available on national hotlines to talk with gamblers and their co-dependents about getting help.
Where Are Compulsive Gambling Therapists Located?
You usually find gambling therapists at private centers. They are social workers, counselors, psychotherapists, and other mental health experts operating on their own, not affiliated with anyone else. They work with clients individually by the hour and sometimes run groups if they have numerous clients with the same problem. Some therapists are hired by the state and operate problem gambling clinics in the community.
Certain substance abuse addiction rehab clinics also treat clients for their gambling compulsion, or it turns up at a mental health treatment center or eating disorder treatment facility. If this is the case, then gambling is part of a package deal.
The client has started drinking alongside his usual hand of cards and six-pack of beer with the guys. He is abusing food at the same time, and the problem as a whole has evolved to help him forget about something on his mind, unless it is driven by the impulse control issues mentioned above.
Another place to find treatment is from your pastor. Pastors, even if they are not trained, will usually talk with people about issues like this. Christian counselors are actually trained to delve into problem gambling and the spiritual as well as emotional problems which have led to addictive behavior. Private Christian rehab centers are among the clinics treating the problem, often instilling into clients the need for accountability, responsibility, and for self-forgiveness.
Who Seeks Treatment for Compulsive Gambling?
There is only a small percentage of the U.S. population addicted to gambling, but it is enough to involve teenagers, adults, women, men, and grandparents in the mess. Often it seems to become a bigger issue when money is a national problem, such as during a recession. People obsess about money when they know they cannot spend it. The more controlled they feel, the more they rebel.
As a means of overcoming debt, they even wonder if they could win that week’s rent. Against all reason, they keep on raising the stakes thinking they have to win eventually, but these are games of chance. As soon as someone has sufficient income to enter into this frame of mind, the gambling problem can start.