Treatment for gambling addiction is not simply a matter of substituting the word “gambling” for “alcohol” or “drug” addiction and doing an Internet search. While gambling addiction is a type of impulse-control disorder, and the classic addiction definition definitely applies, the gambling addict needs specialized counseling and therapy to overcome the compulsion to gamble. A treatment center or facility that specializes in only drugs and/or alcohol will not suffice. So, how do you find a gambling addiction treatment center? In the U.S. there are a few gambling addiction treatment centers that are devoted exclusively to helping the compulsive gambler. They are hard to find, however. The good news is that there are addiction treatment centers and facilities that also have what is called a gambling track, or a treatment program specifically designed to address gambling addiction. For immediate help or to find a gambling treatment center near you, contact the National Council on Problem Gambling’s 24-hour, confidential helpline at 1-800-522-4700.
Types of Treatment Programs
Residential treatment programs provide 24-hour, 7 day a week, general and specialized non-hospital interdisciplinary services. Clients reside at the facility and receive services from personnel trained to deliver specialized treatment for behavioral health disorders and other related problems. Such residential treatment programs may be in freestanding, non-hospital-based buildings or in a hospital wing. In addition, residential treatment programs may include domestic violence treatment homes, non-hospital addiction treatment centers, intermediate care facilities, psychiatric treatment centers, and other non-medical settings. Inpatient treatment programs provide treatment similar to residential, but in a hospital setting. According to Behavioral Health Care Programs, CARF, 2002, inpatient programs have as a key component the close coordination of other service providers and organizations. Participants in inpatient treatment programs are involved in daily therapeutic activities. The treatment goal is to provide a protective environment including medical stabilization, support, treatment for addictive or psychiatric disorders, and supervision.
Inpatient and Residential Treatment Facility List
The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) lists a number of facilities offering inpatient or residential treatment for gambling. The facilities listed have voluntarily applied to be listed on the site, but there may also be other eligible facilities which are not listed. Inclusion in the listing is not an implied endorsement by the NCPG.
Help By State
The NCPG also has links to a state-by-state list as a starting point to find help for or get information about problem gambling. It should be used as a starting point in any search for a licensed and credentialed gambling addiction treatment center or facility. The California Council on Problem Gambling (CCPG), for example, is a non-profit organization founded in 1986, dedicated to assisting problem gamblers and their families through promotion of awareness, education, research, prevention and treatment for problem gambling. It is one of 35 state affiliates of the NCPG. The CCPG site has links to affiliates outside California, as well as resources within the state, including a listing of problem gambling counselors.
What To Ask When Seeking A Gambling Treatment Facility
Not every treatment facility is alike in its approach to treatment of gambling addiction. Similarly, no one type of treatment works for every individual seeking help. In order to be effective, treatment for gambling addiction must be personally tailored to meet the needs of the individual client. Things to consider include the setting for the treatment (inpatient, outpatient, individual or group counseling, therapy, 12-step meetings, etc.), how long the treatment program lasts, philosophical approach for the treatment, and the specific concerns of the gambling addict and his or her family. The NCPG recommends asking the following 12 questions when considering the selection of a gambling addiction treatment center. The questions were adapted from A Guide to Finding Effective Drug and Alcohol Treatment, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 2002. Note that the questions listed here have been edited for clarity and simplicity.
- Experience – Do all the counselors and staff of the gambling addiction treatment facility have experience treating problem gamblers?
- How many problem gamblers are currently in the facility’s program?
- How many problem gamblers has the facility successfully treated in the past year?
- What percentage of the facility’s patients (if they treat other addictions as well) are problem gamblers?
- Hours and groups – How many hours each day are dedicated to gambling-specific treatment and education? What type of groups or educational topics does the facility have that address the problem gambler’s and his or her family’s specific needs?
- Insurance – Does the facility accept your insurance? If not, will they work with you on a payment plan or other means of financial aid?
- Range of assessment and treatment – Does the facility encompass the full range of individual/family assessment and treatment needs?
- Medical – including universal precautions for infectious disease
- Psychological – including co-occurring substance abuse and mental health problems
- Financial – to include budgeting, money management and restitution
- Sexual orientation/physical disabilities – Does the gambling treatment facility address sexual orientation and physical disabilities? Does it also provide age, gender and culturally appropriate services?
- Continuing care support – Does the gambling treatment facility encourage, provide and maintain continuing care support and guidance?
- Ongoing assessment – Does the facility provide an ongoing assessment of the problem gambler’s treatment program in order to meet his or her changing needs?
- Strategies – What type of strategies does the gambling treatment facility employ to engage and keep the client in treatment?
- Counseling services – Does the gambling treatment facility offer individual and group counseling along with other behavioral therapies to help the client’s ability to function again in the family and community following treatment?
- Medication – If appropriate to the client’s specific condition or conditions, does the treatment facility offer medication as part of the treatment?
- Relapse prevention – Does the treatment facility provide ongoing relapse prevention monitoring?
- Family services – Does the gambling treatment facility offer family services or referrals to help them better understand the nature of the gambling addiction, its impact on the family, and recovery from problem gambling?
Criteria for Licensing and Accreditation and Gambling-Specific Treatment
The NCPG site provides the following definitions: Licensed or accredited means the program must be approved to provide substance abuse and/or mental health treatment by one of the following:
- Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitative Facilities (CARF)
- Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)
- State Department of:
- Health, mental health or public health
- Human services or social services
- Alcohol, substance abuse or chemical dependency
Gambling-specific treatment plan and/or protocol, according to the NCPG, is a treatment plan specifically designed for treatment of individuals who are problem gamblers. Key elements of the treatment plan include a comprehensive view to gambling treatment, and a thorough assessment and adequate care of gambling-specific treatment needs (family, educational, financial, legal, and others). Certified Gambling Counselor – This individual has completed a specific course of study in problem gambling treatment and has been certified by either:
- A national credentialing organization – such as
- National Gambling Counselor Certification Board-NCGC
- American Gambling Counselor Certification Board-CCGC
- American Academy of Healthcare Providers in the Addictive Disorders (CAS)
- A state certification organization – requiring a minimum of 30 hours of problem gambling-specific training and direct supervision related to treating addicted gamblers.
Gamblers Anonymous and Gam-Anon
Many thousands of problem gamblers and gambling addicts find help and support through the Gamblers Anonymous (GA) 12-step process. Gam-Anon is for family members. Both groups are fellowships through which members with similar problems meet to provide mutual support. Their 12-step programs are modeled on the Alcoholics Anonymous program developed more than 70 years ago, but are specific to problem gambling. Membership is free and open to anyone sincerely interested in addressing gambling-related problems. The sites have a state-by-state meeting directory or schedules, as well as resources and links. Gamblers Anonymous also has a toll-free national hotline at 1-8888-GA-HELPS (1-888-424-3577).
How Long Will It Take?
Treatment length varies according to the needs of each individual. Together with the therapist, clients will address their specific needs. Some will be dealt with fairly quickly, while others, such as learning new behavior or coping skills to handle life’s problems, can take longer. Bottom line: don’t let anything get in the way of seeking professional treatment to address problem gambling or a gambling addiction. There is plenty of help available – if you truly desire to overcome your compulsion to gamble. It will take hard work and dedication, and it won’t be easy to undo years of bad behavior. But it can be done. Thousands of gamblers in recovery can attest to that. Again, for immediate assistance, contact either of the following hotlines:
- National Council on Problem Gambling national helpline – 1-800-522-4700.
- Gamblers Anonymous national hotline – 1-888-GA-HELPS.