Chapter 7
THE TREATMENT OF COMPULSIVE GAMBLERS

DAVID LESTER

COMPULSIVE gambling has been viewed as an addiction, and the compulsive gambler seen as being quite similar to the drug addict and the alcoholic. Thus, the therapeutic techniques applied to compulsive gamblers are similar to those tried on addicts; and similar kinds of problems exist in the treatment.

The major obstacle to treatment of the compulsive gambler is that he is usually unmotivated to change. Few gamblers admit that they have a problem and few seek treatment. Often, they are brought into treatment by a relative, normally a spouse, and so they are reluctant patients. Therapists have proposed very little in the way of special techniques to overcome this reluctance. They customarily have presumed motivated patients.

Let us first look at the views of those who have tried individual psychotherapy with gamblers.


INDIVIDUAL PSYCHOTHERAPY

Fink ( 1961) feels that the appropriate treatment for the compulsive gambler is similar to that used for other kinds of addicts. Fink stresses that the gambler needs love and tenderness, concern and interest, understanding and reassurance from the psychotherapist. The gambler needs to be told that he is important for himself, in his own right, and not for his gambling habit. He needs to learn that gambling is not necessary for his self-esteem and that material possessions are not a sign of superiority or excellence.

While Boyd and Bolen ( 1970) note that psychoanalytic psychotherapy is effective with gamblers, Barker and Miller ( 1968) note that individual psychotherapy is alleged to be of limited

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