Help For Problem Gamblers
Monday, August 21, 2017
Help For Problem
Jim Harrison BS, MS, LPC,
CSAC, ICGC-II, BACC
Cornerstone Counseling Services, Inc.
The Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling Board
Ever since the beginning of time, gambling has been a part of
our culture. It can be a form of fun, pleasure, and
entertainment. Gambling has also been the cause of grief,
pain, and devastation for many individuals as well as their
families and other significant people in their lives.
The objective of this article is to provide education,
awareness, and resources on social, problematic, and pathological
gambling issues, while maintaining complete neutrality on the issue
of legalized gambling. It does not take a stand on supporting
or condemning gambling or gambling related situations. It is
designed to help the family as well as the gambler to deal with
emotional, financial, and spiritual consequences of gambling in a
non-judgmental, non-condemning, and non-shaming manner.
According to Robert Custer and Harry Milt, in their book
When Luck Runs Out: Help for Compulsive Gamblers and Their
Families, there are approximately 6 categories of
gamblers. These include the following:
THE SOCIAL GAMBLER: This is an individual who
gambles occasionally. He or she only gambles for fun and
sticks to their limit. Their gambling has no negative effect
on their families, friends, work, or society in general.
Their gambling also has no negative effect on their own physical or
THE SERIOUS SOCIAL GAMBLER: This is an
individual who gambles regularly. To them, gambling is a
hobby or avocation. Like a social gambler, they usually do
not spend more time or money than they can afford. They also
usually stick to their limits. There may or may not be
concerns about their gambling by others, but it normally has no
negative effect on themselves or other significant people or
activities in their lives.
THE PROFESSIONAL GAMBLER: To this individual,
gambling is a profession and way of life. It is his or her
way of earning a living. To them, gambling is a business, not
for fun. It is very rare to encounter a professional gambler
in a counseling situation.
THE PROBLEM GAMBLER: This individual is
beginning to have problems as a result of their gambling.
These problems may be related to finances, relationships, work,
school, or other significant facets of their lives.
THE PATHOLOGICAL OR COMPULSIVE GAMBLER: This
individual has substantial life problems related to their
gambling. There usually are major financial, relationship,
work, and social problems. Often there are also legal issues
as a result of their behavior.
THE BUNGLER: This is an unofficial
category. This individual is sometimes called the "stupid"
gambler. They usually play games of skill relying on luck
rather than logic and reasoning, i.e. places a stupid bet on
favorite colors, numbers, or names. The bungler may or may
not have problems related to their gambling.
Of these categories, there are two main types of gamblers;
action gamblers and escape
gamblers. Action gamblers games of choice require
skill, i.e. sports betting, table games, etc. Escape gamblers
choose gaming that requires little if any skill, i.e. slot
machines, bingo, lottery, etc.
Compulsive gambling has certain features in common with other
addictive behaviors. In fact, many problem gamblers also have
co-occurring substance abuse problems, specifically alcohol
abuse. Other common co-occurring problems may include
depression and/or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Problem
gamblers may also have an elevated risk for suicidal thoughts and
behaviors. Like other addictions, there tends to be an
increase in the frequency, intensity, and harm associated with the
behavior over time for problem gamblers. The problem gambler
may be in the early stages of questioning whether he or she has
developed a problem, while others around them are more convinced
that is the case.
There are many treatment modalities and interventions that have
been shown to be effective for problem gambling. Behavioral
approaches include steps such as:
Self-banning: This allows the individual to ban
or prevent themselves from entering a casino. This is a
contract the individual makes with all state casinos. If one
does enter a casino, they could be arrested for trespassing.
Harm reduction: The individual would attempt to
set a money limit, not bring a debit card with them, limit the
number of times they gamble in a week, month, etc., or not go alone
if they do gamble.
Money management: The individual limits access
to money by having someone they trust manage and control their
Other therapy modalities include:
Support groups: By attending Gamblers Anonymous
(GA), 12-Step meetings, or other support groups, problem gamblers
meet and interact with others who have similar issues and receive
support in making changes.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy: In this therapy,
individuals explore distorted gambling-related beliefs, warning
signs and triggers of a relapse, and learn to substitute more
effective strategies to cope with negative feelings such as
anxiety, depression, boredom, and restlessness.
Medications: Because problematic gambling
relates to a cycle of negative mood/tension followed by compulsive
gambling behaviors as an attempt to resolve or "self-medicate"
those negative emotions, proper pharmacological treatments have
been shown to help some problem gamblers. Some of these
medications may include opiate antagonists, antidepressants, and
As with any other disorder, there is no "cookie cutter" answer
to success. However, success is possible. If you or a loved
one believes that gambling has developed into a problem, consider
completing an assessment with a qualified professional.
Jim Harrison MS, LPC, CSAC, ICGC-II, BACC is an International
Certified Gambling Counselor, Level 2 and Board Approved Clinical
Consultant. He can be reached at Cornerstone Counseling
Services, 10850 West Park Place, Suite 100, Milwaukee, Wisconsin,
53224, 262-789-1191, Extension 191, firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also contact:
The Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling, Inc.
1585 Allouez Ave
Green Bay, WI 54311
1-800-GAMBLE-5 or 1-800-426-2535
1-920-888-HELP or 1-920-888-4357
Office: (920) 437-8888