In this article we present a service created in Australia by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation that deals with the intervention of people with gambling addiction problems .
The goal is to find out how the Single Session Therapy method is applied in the context of counseling services for people with gambling problems and in particular for their families, offered by the foundation in collaboration with the Bouverie Center.
For every person with a gambling problem, in fact, it has been estimated that at least five or ten others are affected (Productivity Commission 1999). These include the player’s families and friends , as well as co-workers , the local shopkeeper and the teachers from the children’s school.
This suggests the determining role played by the family both in terms of support for the treatment of the person presenting the problem, and as the recipient of the intervention itself.
So let’s see what the research says about the role of families in treating gambling problems?
According to research, families represent a fundamental element for the treatment and prevention of problems related to gambling. Partners, siblings, parents and children can play a significant role in encouraging people with gambling problems to seek help (Ciarrochi, 2002) and can also help them stay in therapy (Ingle et al, 2008). Furthermore, there is evidence that treatment may be less successful if the person’s relationships are not actually taken into account and conversely that the harm associated with the gambling problem can be reduced .through interventions that also involve other family members (Cunha and Relvas 2014, Hodgins et al., 2007).
What is the impact of this problem on families?
In the problem gambling sector there is a body of literature on the impact of gambling on families which shows, for example, how children of people with gambling problems are more at risk of developing the same problems as their parents (Dowling et al., 2012).
Orford et al. (2013) report that gambling addiction impacts the overall health of the family. Family members very often report poor general health, with sleep and eating disorders , increased or unstable substance use (smoking, prescribed medications), as well as symptoms of physical illness (headache, back pain, hypertension. , asthma, palpitations and migraines).
Gambler partners often face significant economic stress related to gambling (Kalischuk et al., 2006), making significant lifestyle changes , such as reducing spending , returning to work or selling real estate, and other household items to deal with losses associated with gambling. The financial contraction can also have repercussions on subsequent generations, forcing changes in activities for childhood, school or after school.
In addition to economic stressors, partners experience a range of interpersonal and relationship difficulties as a direct result of player behavior, reporting:
- feelings of betrayal
- loss of respect and isolation from one’s partner
- negative and unproductive communication with their partner
- recurring cycles of guilt
- placating, avoidance and withdrawal
- confusion of roles and responsibilities
- less satisfying sexual relationships
- long-standing distrust and resentment (Dickson-Swift et al., 2005).
Based on what has been said, let’s now see what types of services the Foundation offers.
The Foundation funds Help of Gambler services to offer support to both problem gamblers and family members through:
- support and advice for the person with gambling problems, the family and friends of the player;
- a Gambler’s Help telephone line offering brief advice, support, information and referrals;
- a special Gambler’s Help Youthline service for young people who have questions or concerns about their own gambling or someone else’s gambling;
- online gambling assistance made in partnership with other Australian states and territories;
- the Recovery Assistance Program (RAP ) to help stabilize the finances of individuals and families.
In addition to these interventions, since 2009, it has developed a familiar sector with the Bouverie Center . This approach involved training more than 300 physicians in conducting single-session family consultations .
What are the new developments?
The Bouverie Center continued its collaboration with the foundation to develop two new family-specific training programs in order to extend them into the Player Guide sector:
- The Family Practice Experts Program (2014) which provides for the training of professionals (doctors, psychologists, educators) specialized in gambling addiction to become experts in family practice. The goal of the program is to build industry-wide skills to work with partners, children and significant others;
- The Let’s Talk Parenting Program (2015) which aims to address parenting issues as a natural part of the alliance between parents (clients) and doctors. The model uses conversations with the parent to:
- help both the parent and the professional to explore the needs of the child;
- discuss how parenting problems can affect parenting;
- identify the support they may need in parenting.
Importantly, this approach seeks to address the ripple effect of gambling problems by focusing on the children of gamblers, identifying their needs and vulnerabilities, and developing strategies to address the impact of parental gambling.
Families play an important role in the recovery and prevention of the gambling problem. Family members, in fact, are fundamental in motivating problem gamblers to seek help and above all to keep them in treatment. Studies have shown that treating an individual gamer may be less successful if the person’s relationships are not actually taken into account. In this context, single session therapy can represent another useful method to be used with families, in particular those who do not want to face long treatments, but receive consultations aimed at the expressed needs of a relational , parenting ,financial , health .
Team of the Italian Center
for Single Session Therapy
Bouverie Center, (2015). From Individual to Families: A Client- Centered Framework for Involving Families. Developed for Mental Health, Drugs and Regions Division, Department of Health, Victoria.
Ciarrocchi, J. (2002). Counseling problem gamblers: a self-regulation manual for individual and family therapy. San Diego, Calif: Academic.
Cunha, D., & Relvas, AP (2014). Pathological Gambling and Couple: Towards an Integrative Systemic Model. Journal of Gambling Studies 30 213-228.
Dowling, NA, Jackson, AC, Thomas, SA and Frydenberg, e. (2010) children at risk of developing problem gambling. Gambling Research Australia . May 2010.
Ingle, PJ, Marotta, J., McMillan, G., & Wisdom, JP (2008). Significant others and gambling treatment outcomes. J ournal of gambling studies / co-sponsored by the National Council on Problem Gambling and Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming , 24 (3), 381-392.
Orford J, Velleman, R, Guillermina N, Templeton L & Copello, A. (2013) Social Science & Medicine 78, 70-77.
Productivity Commission 1999, Australia’s Gambling Industries, Report No. 10, AusInfo, Canberra.
Young, J., Weir, S., & Rycroft, P. (2012). Implementing Single Session Therapy. A ustralian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 33 (1), 84-97.