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Gambling Addiction Counseling

For compulsive gamblers, counseling is often the first-line treatment option for gambling addiction. While gambling disorder doesn’t involve a substance, the treatment methods are similar to those of substance use. By finding the best clinician for your unique needs, counseling can address compulsive behaviors and improve the well-being of problem gamblers ready for treatment.

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Who Needs Counseling for Gambling Addiction?

People diagnosed with gambling addiction or have issues with problem gambling can benefit from counseling. Some people struggle to quit gambling alone, so working with a mental health professional or addiction specialist can lead to real and sustained recovery.

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What Types of Counseling Helps Treat Gambling Addiction?

Counseling or psychotherapy is the most common and most effective treatment for behavioral addictions like gambling disorder. With so many different types of counseling available, an option is available for anyone of any background.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a favorite for behavioral addictions, and for good reason. CBT is an evidence-based talk therapy that works by helping the patient identify unhealthy thoughts and behaviors that lead to gambling.

The clinician will then help patients change or correct their unhealthy thoughts and behaviors so they can avoid turning to gambling in the future. CBT also helps patients develop better problem-solving skills and stress management, ensuring they don’t turn to gambling during high stress.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Motivational enhancement therapy (MET), sometimes called “Motivational Interviewing,” works by helping patients identify and resolve conflicted feelings about recovery. MET usually lasts 1-2 sessions and helps addicts increase their motivation to quit gambling and set attainable goals.

The therapist first works with the addict to build the motivation for a major life change. Next, the therapist and patient make a solid plan for change. Patients will also work through feelings of resentment and anger, slowly improving their self-confidence to change their lives.

12-Step Recovery Programs

12-step programs first began with Alcoholics Anonymous as a spiritual process, although not all 12-step programs today are religious in nature.

These programs work by focusing on the acceptance that addiction is a disease that can’t be overcome by willpower alone and surrendering to either a higher power or the 12-step process itself.

A 12-step program may also be a good option for addicts without a support system. By requiring attendance to regular meetings and activities, 12-steps also offers peer support throughout recovery.

Guided Self-Help Interventions

Guided self-help interventions include things like information workbooks, self-help books, and self-guided activities. Some options may be accompanied by or occasionally supervised by a therapist, helpline specialist, or other treatment provider.

While it’s key to remember that self-help treatment cannot replace professional counseling, research has shown that addicts who engage in self-help treatment do better over time than addicts who don’t. Self-help can be a great supplement to professional counseling and preventing relapse in the future.

Relapse Prevention

Relapse prevention is a cognitive-behavioral approach where a patient and their therapist identify situations that pose a high risk of relapse for the recovering addict.

Situations identified may include going to specific places like a casino, hearing gambling-relevant sounds like slot machines, or being around certain people they used to gamble with.

Situations may also refer to what headspace the recovering addict is in and any automatic negative thoughts that might lead to a relapse.

The patient and therapist will work together to develop strategies to address high-risk situations so patients can better cope when triggers occur.

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Benefits of Counseling for Gambling Addiction

Because gambling disorder is a behavioral addiction, counseling that focuses on behavior can be life-changing for addicts. Problem gambling often arises from issues or emotional disturbances the addict may be experiencing.

Counseling can not only address the addictive behavior but also address false beliefs (cognitive distortions) and unhealthy coping mechanisms the addict has been struggling with.

Many gambling addicts also experience substance abuse, which counseling can address.

In addition, some problem gamblers may have untreated or undiagnosed co-occurring mental illnesses. By treating their mental and behavioral health, counseling can play a huge role in turning someone’s life around and living a life free of gambling addiction.

How to Find the Right Gambling Addiction Counselor

Finding a gambling addiction counselor may seem daunting, but there are some key aspects to consider when finding a counselor for yourself or a loved one.

  • Specialization and training: Every therapist has their specialty, so don’t be afraid to ask what special training and experience they have with gambling addiction.
  • Cost: The price of counseling is often the biggest barrier to treatment, especially if the patient doesn’t have health insurance. Don’t hesitate to ask what the cost of sessions will be and see if any community resources exist at lower costs.
  • Schedule flexibility: Finding appointment times that fit your schedule will ensure you actually attend counseling sessions and stick with your recovery.
  • Feeling comfortable and supported: Finding a therapist that makes you or your loved one feel fully supported and comfortable is essential to address problem gambling properly. If you don’t feel like you can trust your therapist, you’re less likely to attend sessions and commit to recovery.

Other Support Options for Gambling Addiction

Although inpatient rehab gambling treatment is uncommon, some treatment facilities may offer the option if a person’s gambling addiction is severe enough.

For others, signing up for an outpatient treatment program can provide the level of accountability and structure they need without committing to a residential rehab program.

Aside from counseling, many gambling addicts can benefit from support groups.

Common gambling addiction support groups include:

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Finding Counseling for Gambling Addiction

Many resources are available if you or a family member are ready to get help for gambling addiction. You can start by asking your healthcare provider for a referral to counseling services or a treatment plan.

National Problem Gambling Helpline is also available by calling 1-800-GAMBLER or through their helpline chat. The helpline is free, confidential, and available 24/7 in all 50 states.

If you want to find treatment centers near you, try using SAMHSA’s online treatment locator or call 1-800-662-4357 (HELP).

FAQs About Gambling Addiction Counseling

Does therapy help with gambling addiction?

Yes. In fact, therapy is the most common treatment for gambling addiction. Therapy can help you recognize unhealthy thoughts or behaviors that led to your gambling behavior, helping to redirect those unhealthy patterns into healthier ones.

How does gambling affect your mental health?

Gambling can worsen mental health, especially if you have co-occurring mental illnesses. As the brain becomes reliant on the “high” of gambling thanks to dopamine release, many addicts experience guilt, shame, anxiety, and depression from their gambling addiction.

What type of therapy is best for treating gambling addiction?

It depends on factors like age, background, and co-occurring mental health issues. For example, most treatment plans focus on cognitive behavioral therapy or family therapy if the addict is an adolescent.

The goal of recovery is to correct the behaviors that led to compulsive gambling, which most therapies focus on achieving.

Does counseling cure gambling addiction?

Gambling addiction cannot be cured like an illness, as addiction itself is a lifelong brain disease. However, addicts can enter recovery from gambling addiction, which counseling can provide as long as the patient stays committed to quitting gambling.

How do you find a therapist for gambling addiction treatment?

Gambling addiction therapists can be found in many ways. You can start by asking your healthcare provider for a recommendation or referral for therapy.

You can also use the National Problem Gambling Helpline by calling 1-800-GAMBLER or through their helpline chat.

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. is a founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of AddictionHelp.com and ensures the website’s medical content and messaging quality.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

  1. Ford, M., & Håkansson, A. (2020, January 10). Problem Gambling, Associations With Comorbid Health Conditions, Substance Use, and Behavioural Addictions: Opportunities for Pathways to Treatment. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6953879/
  2. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, June 18). Compulsive Gambling. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/compulsive-gambling/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355184
  3. Motivational Enhancement Therapy. ColumbiaDoctors. (2022, February 14). Retrieved May 25, 2023, from https://www.columbiadoctors.org/treatments-conditions/motivational-enhancement-therapy
  4. National Research Council (US) Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of Pathological Gambling. (1999). Treatment of Pathological Gamblers. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK230629/
  5. Screening Tools. National Council on Problem Gambling. (2017, December 26). Retrieved May 25, 2023, from https://www.ncpgambling.org/help-treatment/screening-tools/
  6. Treatment Recommendations for Gambling Disorders. Mass.gov. (n.d.). Retrieved May 25, 2023, from https://www.mass.gov/info-details/treatment-recommendations-for-gambling-disorders

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