Gambling is part of the addictive illness spectrum and, just as with other addictive disorders, initial assessments requires the use of trained mental health counselors who can assess the nature of your gambling problem as well as other potential related psychiatric problems such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse or other addictive disorders.
The types of psychotherapy used to treat pathological gamblers include Gambler’s Anonymous, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and family therapy.
Outpatient treatment for problem gambling employs a treatment plan that is based on a comprehensive assessment by a psychotherapist, and typically include group therapy (exclusively for problem gamblers), an educational component, and a plan for continuing care.
Intensive Outpatient Treatment programs are intended for individuals who have identified that they have a gambling problem but are unable or don’t need the oversight of an in-patient program.
Residential or in-patient treatment programs are designed and built exclusively for individuals and families experiencing problems due to gambling. These programs include a full array of services from psychological evaluation to a medical physical.
A support group and group therapy are similar in that they are gathering of people who share a common concern about gambling addiction.
Group therapy for a gambling disorder is a formal type of mental health treatment that brings together several people with similar conditions under the guidance of a trained mental health provider. Support groups however are not clinical and are not considered treatment.
While support groups may be facilitated by a clinical counselor or psychologist, they may also be run by a lay person with the disorder or by someone interested in it, such as a family member. When run by someone with the disorder they may also be referred to as a Peer group.
Unlike group therapy which is a component of treatment for the disorder, support groups are often educational or simply emphasize emotional support and shared experiences.
Continuing care programs and services, sometimes called aftercare, generally begin immediately following an inpatient/ residential and or intensive outpatient treatment. They often include an array of services based on the individual’s needs. Some services focus directly on helping the problem gambler refrain from gambling. These services often include group therapy meetings led by specialized gambling counselors or individual sessions to help them transition into a “gambling-free lifestyle.”
Some physicians prescribe psychotropic medicines that may help decrease the urge for gambling. This is often true if there is a coexisting diagnosis of depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorder, alcohol dependence or bipolar disorder. Depending on the circumstances, medications could include antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Luvox, which are also used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Some studies have shown Clomipramine may reduce pathological gambling. Wellbutrin, an antidepressant that is also used to treat attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder, may be prescribed to those who have a history of attention-deficit and depression.