CBT in Gambling Addiction

How Beneficial is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Compulsive Gambling Addiction

5 min

Gambling has been around for a lot of time, and people engaged with it driven by their natural inclination to pursue success.

But as someone engages in increasing gambling and dedicates more and more money to it, neglecting other daily tasks, a compulsive disorder may start to take shape and develop. This compulsive disorder poses the risk of evolving into a full-fledged gambling disorder. However, one of the ways to resist and fight this is through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Talking therapy, known as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), aids in problem management by changing thought patterns and addict behaviors. While it’s often applied to address anxiety and depression, its benefits extend to other mental and physical health issues.

Primarily, the attention is on how a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions are connected. It teaches strategies and skills to recognize and change troublesome thoughts, symptoms and behavior patterns.

At the moment, cognitive behavioral therapy stands out as the most effective approach for treating pathological gambling disorders. This therapy asserts that irrational thoughts related to one’s control over the game and ability to predict wins are key factors in the development and persistence of this condition.

Quick Note on the Consequences of Gambling Addiction & Disorder

Quick Note on the Consequences of Gambling Addiction & Disorder

Excessive gambling brings about harmful effects on both individuals and society. This may lead to issues like poverty, family breakdown, and resorting to illegal means to obtain money for gambling. The primary consequences of gambling disorders include:

  • Job-related challenges: It can cause loss of employment, compromising one’s career. As gambling takes precedence it may result in struggle and decreased efficiency at work as well as increased absenteeism.
  • Strained relationships with friends or family: Compulsive gamblers often conceal their addiction, leading to mistreatment of family members or neglecting familial responsibilities.
  • Financial troubles: Individuals resort to borrowing, selling possessions, and accumulating debt to spend on their gambling addiction.
  • Legal complications: Involvement in deceitful activities, forgeries, and thefts.
  • Health issues due to stress: It leads to severe Insomnia, nervousness, and depression. It can make individuals experience anxiety, and sometimes can ultimately escalate to suicide attempts.

Why choose CBT for gambling disorder?

Why choose CBT for gambling disorder

Studies indicate that CBT can:

  1. Decrease the frequency of gambling days
  2. Lessen the money lost during gambling
  3. Assist individuals in addressing gambling problems
  4. Offer mental health professional interventions to address gambling impulses and the addiction cycle

The main focus of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Treatment Sessions

If Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is suggested, you will typically meet with a therapist every week or every two weeks. The treatment usually spans 6 to 20 sessions, each lasting 30 to 60 minutes. In these sessions;

  • You and your therapist will do a breakdown of your issues. Such as your thoughts, physical feelings, and actions. Both of you will also analyze to see whether these issues are unrealistic or unhelpful, and then understand how they influence each other and you.
  • The next course of action is that your therapist will guide you in changing unhelpful thoughts and behaviors.
  • Once identified, you’ll practice these changes in your daily life, discussing your progress in the next session.

The ultimate goal is to empower you to apply these skills in your daily life, managing problems and preventing them from negatively impacting you even after treatment concludes.

Professional Mental Health Approach: How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Helps People with Gambling Addictions

Professional Mental Health Approach How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Helps People wit

Approaches to tackling problem gambling through CBT often involve increasing awareness and correcting cognitive distortions or ‘faulty thinking’ about gambling. This includes replacing gambling with healthier, non-gambling behaviors and acquiring skills to prevent relapse.

CBT sessions, whether done individually or in a group, encourage clients to discuss thoughts and feelings linked to their gambling experiences. This fosters a deeper understanding of triggers, the thoughts and emotions arising from triggering situations, and how they reinforce problematic gambling behavior.

Learning how to handle triggers and adjusting thought patterns contributes to reducing problematic behaviors. As treatment advances, therapists may prompt clients to participate in activities, reading, or exercises that build upon what was learned in counselling sessions and apply these newfound skills to their daily lives.

Let’s see how CBT works in real situations. CBT helps pinpoint situations that trigger certain thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It is a program similar to alcoholics anonymous.

For instance, a common gambling myth is the belief that one can recover losses. Imagine someone checking their credit card statement, and realizing they’re in significant debt. In response, they may intensify their gambling to tackle the debt.

In this scenario, receiving the credit card statement triggers fear and anxiety about the impending debt. The thought is, “I’m doomed unless I win at the casino,” and the behavior is an increased rate of gambling.

Therapists can collaborate with the client to identify the negative consequences of this behavior. This might include the risk of accumulating more debt, leading to increased stress and straining family relationships.

Following that, the therapist can assist the client in recognizing actions to disrupt or prevent the process at various stages. The aim is to change gambling behavior when faced with a similar trigger in the future.

Over time, the client may acquire the ability to form more rational and balanced thoughts, like acknowledging that gambling can lead to additional debt or understanding the unfavorable odds of winning. Adopting this new perspective aids in handling triggers and breaking patterns tied to adverse gambling behavior.

Let’s explore another example:

CBT can delve into mistaken beliefs that contribute to problematic gambling. Individuals dealing with gambling issues might think:

“I’ve got luck on my side. I can overcome the odds.”

“I’m currently winning, so it’s a good moment to increase my bets.”

“I’m familiar with this slot machine inside out. It’s going to pay off today.”

“If I continue playing, I’ll recover what I lost.”

In such cases, a therapist may inquire or have an interaction about a client’s understanding of how slot machines work. Probes into the odds of winning, and encouraging the client to elaborate on these beliefs. Bringing these beliefs into conscious awareness can instill doubts in the client’s mind, enabling her to challenge her thinking. This dialogue helps the client realize that her thoughts are ideas, not facts.

Let’s also consider another scenario:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is effective in preventing relapse. Individuals who have successfully reduced or stopped their impulsive gambling behaviors might still require ongoing support. A therapist can collaborate with clients to pinpoint and develop coping strategies for situations or triggers that elevate the risk of problem gambling.

Conclusion – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Prevention and Recovery

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is flexible, offered either individually or in a group. Additionally, there are free self-help workbooks and online tools for those aiming to cut down or quit gambling.

Notably, in CBT sessions, your gambling counsellor will prompt you to discuss your thoughts and feelings tied to your gambling. Throughout the treatment, your counsellor may assign “homework” like activities, reading, or practices that reinforce what you learn in your regular sessions and motivate you to apply these lessons in your everyday life.

Elena Buzincu
AuthorElena BuzincuSenior Author & Editor at Casino alpha

Elena is always ready to help players make their best gambling decisions. She already has a diverse understanding of what gamblers are looking for and what this industry is about, but she knows there is much more to discover. Maybe someday she will travel to Asia to learn about that unique gambling scene too.