Staging a Gambling Intervention for a Loved One

Dec 13, 2023

Getting immediate help for a person with a gambling problem can seem daunting. One step to help during the process is to stage an intervention. An intervention can be a nerve-wracking experience for all parties involved. But, if approached with understanding and encouragement, an intervention can put your loved one on the path to recovery.

What is an Intervention?

An intervention for gambling addiction involves a carefully planned and compassionate conversation to address the issue, express concerns, and encourage the individual to seek professional help.

During an intervention, these people meet with a loved one to discuss how their addiction and behavior has 

Who Should be There? 

Attendees at a gambling intervention for a loved one typically include close family members, friends, and individuals with significant relationships to the individual facing addiction. The group should be carefully selected to ensure a supportive and constructive environment during the intervention. Additionally, having a professional interventionist or counselor present can provide guidance and help facilitate the process.

Preparing Beforehand

Before an intervention, it is crucial to meet with the interventionist and participants the day before to discuss the format and agenda, and to conduct a run-through of the intervention for practice. This preparation ensures that everyone is on the same page, understands their role, and feels confident in the approach they will take. Additionally, making treatment plans beforehand is necessary to ensure that the addict admits to their problem and agrees to get help. It allows for a clear, structured plan to be in place so that the individual can go directly to a treatment facility as soon as the intervention is over.

These steps are essential in the intervention process because addiction is a complex and delicate issue, and any miscommunication or lack of preparation can derail the success of the intervention. Meeting beforehand and creating a thorough treatment plan increases the likelihood of a positive outcome and the individual getting the help they need. Overall, taking these preparatory steps shows a commitment to the seriousness of the situation and the importance of getting the addict the help they need.

Stages of an Intervention

A gambling intervention typically consists of four general stages.

Validation

Creating a safe and caring environment is crucial in an intervention. Begin by expressing your love and concern for the individual and acknowledging the challenges they may be facing with a gambling addiction. Let them know that you are there to support them and that their well-being is a priority.

Documentation

Documenting the impact of the gambling problem is essential. Share specific examples of how their gambling behavior has affected their life and the lives of those around them. This could 

Recommendation

Offer recommendations for treatment. Provide information on support groups, therapy options, and rehabilitation programs. Assure them that seeking help is a sign of strength and that recovery is possible with the right support.

Consequences

Explain the consequences if the loved one refuses treatment. This could involve setting boundaries, such as limiting financial support or access to certain resources. Clearly communicate the potential impact of their continued gambling and emphasize the importance of seeking help.

Remember to approach the intervention with empathy and understanding, and to emphasize problem gambling awareness and the potential for a better future with the right support.

It is crucial to create a safe and caring environment during the intervention to ensure the individual feels supported and understood. This approach can help the individual see the severity of their gambling problem and be more receptive to seeking treatment. Offering specific examples of the damaging effects of gambling behavior helps to illustrate the impact on various aspects of their life. Additionally, providing a prearranged treatment plan with clear goals and consequences if the loved one refuses treatment establishes a framework for accountability and change.

Guided Self-help Interventions

Guided self-help interventions for gambling typically involve structured programs, such as workbooks accompanied by informational phone calls, motivational interviewing, and motivational enhancement. Workbooks provide individuals with exercises and information to help them understand and address their gambling behavior. Informational phone calls offer guidance, support, and encouragement. Motivational interviewing focuses on helping individuals explore and resolve their ambivalence about changing their gambling behavior and increasing their motivation for change. Motivational enhancement involves a collaborative, person-centered form of guiding to elicit behavior change and resolve ambivalence.

Research suggests that guided self-help interventions can be effective in reducing gambling behavior and related harms. Engaging in these interventions may lead to a greater understanding of the problem, improved motivation to change, and increased access to support and resources. Compared to not engaging in self-help, these interventions offer individuals a structured and guided approach to addressing their gambling behavior, which can lead to positive changes and improved outcomes. However, the effectiveness of these interventions can vary depending on individual factors, such as motivation and readiness to change. Overall, guided self-help interventions can provide a beneficial and accessible option for individuals seeking help for gambling-related issues.

What is a Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, is a psychological disorder characterized by an obsessive and uncontrollable urge to gamble, despite negative consequences. People with a gambling addiction may continue to gamble even when they can't afford it, neglecting important responsibilities and relationships in favor of seeking the high of a potential win. This addiction can have severe financial, emotional, and social implications, often leading to financial ruin, strained relationships, and mental health issues. Understanding the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction, as well as the potential causes and treatments, is crucial in addressing and overcoming this destructive behavior.

Signs of Gambling Addiction

If you believe a loved one has a gambling problem there are some common signs to look out for. Behavioral symptoms of gambling addiction may include:

  • Loss of control over the amount of time and money spent on gambling

  • Preoccupation with gambling activities

  • Hiding or lying about the extent of gambling behavior. 

Emotional symptoms can manifest as feelings of:

  • Guilt

  • Shame

  • Anxiety

  • Stress related to the consequences of gambling. 

Physical symptoms may also arise, such as: 

  • Insomnia

  • Headaches

  • Digestive problems

  • Other stress-related symptoms. 

Those struggling with gambling addiction may also exhibit noticeable changes in mood, behavior, and overall mental health. It is common for individuals experiencing gambling addiction to deny or minimize the problem, leading to a cycle of concealment and denial. Seeking professional help and support from loved ones is crucial for individuals struggling with gambling addiction to address their symptoms and regain control over their behavior.

Treatment Options

When seeking treatment for gambling addiction, individuals have various options tailored to their specific needs. Professional help may involve one-on-one counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), or group discussions. Guided self-help interventions, such as structured programs and motivational enhancement, offer accessible approaches. It's crucial to collaborate with healthcare professionals to determine the most effective treatment plan, ensuring a comprehensive and personalized strategy for overcoming gambling addiction and regaining control over one's behavior.

References: 

A self-guided Internet-based intervention for individuals with gambling problems: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial - PMC

Definition of Motivational Interviewing

Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction - Mayo Clinic

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