The problem gambler faces several hurdles to recovery. First, he can find opportunities to satisfy his gambling addiction everywhere. Casinos continue to proliferate. There are lotteries in nearly every state. He can find betting pools for sports at most workplaces. Finally, he can find Meet Up groups that play poker on a regular basis. A person with a gambling problem must work hard to avoid satisfying his compulsion in today’s environment. Fortunately, there are many opportunities for gambling therapy these days, too.
Our facility uses a number of therapeutic programs to address compulsive gambling. Hypnotherapy and trauma therapy help the gambler to understand the source of his addiction. Coping therapy and family therapy provide the person dealing with a compulsive gambling problem with tools and support for avoiding the activity. Each patient responds differently to the various therapies.
In the last ten years, studies have shown success using a therapy called Mindfulness to treat compulsive gambling. Mindfulness derives from Buddhism, though many modern treatment programs have no religious components. A person who practices the technique learns to live in and appreciate all aspects of the present moment without passing judgment.
The idea of living in the present without judgment is useful in combating a gambling problem. A gambling addict lives for the excitement of the next big score, maintaining overconfidence and low risk aversion, which supports the gambler’s belief that this score is just around the corner. The gambler develops urges based on these misperceptions. A gambling addict can use mindfulness to combat these urges and misperceptions merely by focusing on the moment without judgment of the urges and accompanying beliefs. The person will develop the ability to become aware of the urge and then observe it objectively, almost commenting to himself, “Hmm, that’s interesting. I’m having an urge to gamble.” Mindfulness enables the addict to look at the urge in the present and without judgment.
Studies at Nottingham Trent University show lower relapse rates using mindfulness for gambling therapy versus other forms of therapy. Part of the reason is that mindfulness focuses on the present and acceptance of oneself. Such an approach allows the practitioner to identify and deal with the gambling urge when it comes. Mindfulness also enables the practitioner to appreciate each moment, leaving less opportunity to think about or desire hitting the casino or racetrack.
When combined with all of the therapies at our center, mindfulness can produce very effective results.