How to help a gambler who does not recognize it?

Any attempt to help a gambler who does not recognize his disorder is futile. The first thing then is to get him to accept it. Therefore, the strategy must be aimed at making you aware of how it is affecting the lives of your loved ones, financial and work situation.

Before making an effort for the patient to recognize his gambling problem in himself or accept the appreciation of a third party, you should focus your efforts on having that person observe, for himself, the consequences or impact that he is producing in his environment and on himself.

Recommendation addressed to the family and friends of the gambler

As a family group, it is pertinent to request specialized help or go to psychotherapy, even if your gambling relative does not participate in it. It is a smart way to deal with the psychological damage caused by gambling in the family environment.

Family therapy will give you the tools to deal with the aforementioned psychological consequences, but also the tools to help the gambler to become aware that they have a serious addiction problem.

In this way, the purpose is to gradually incorporate the gambling relative in the healing process. Instead of forcing the patient to go to therapy (which is not recommended), and then bringing in the closest family members, the strategy works in reverse.

Of course, family therapy starts from the premise that one of its members is ill (the gambler, in this case) and regularly identifies himself as the patient; however, it is possible that others, if not all, are upset to some degree.

The presence in the home of a gambler is known to affect family life . In this case, the psychotherapist will address the interconnected pathological or dysfunctional processes with various methods.

The human environment is seriously involved when there is a dependency of this caliber. From this perspective, the family is another active agent or patient. To this end, gambling is treated as a systemic problem ; the gambler is accessed through the members of the family. Family interrelationships, roles, reactions and behaviors regarding the disease are addressed.

The systemic vision, which bases this type of family therapy, considers the members of the family as elements of an ecosystem, where interactions of reciprocal forces coexist. In other words, the behavior of a family member (the gambler or others) has an inevitable influence on the behavior of others. 

However, the theoretical premise does not blame members A and B for member C’s behavior, since each member exerts an influence on the others and vice versa.

Systemic-prescriptive therapy defines the family as a system that corrects itself, based on specific norms. Here, the specialist promotes the exposure of the hidden norms by means of which the family reproduces its dysfunctionality . These norms are regularly unconscious and have never been discussed within the family.

For example, in a family made up of a father, mother and four children, of which the oldest developed a gambling disorder, under the aforementioned perspective, the therapist prescribes exhortations and designates work to the elements of the group. One of them is the restructuring prescription, aimed at the adoption of a specific conduct .

The gambler is not an isolated element of the environment. Systemic psychology dictates that any system away from its state of equilibrium, due to an element coming from inside or outside (identified as the gambler), enters a stage of reorganization of the same, indeterminate, where it is not known what will happen to it.

It is precisely at this stage that the psychotherapist intervenes, considered another system, contacting the family (which includes the gambling patient), also understood as another system.

Although, as has been stated, attendance at therapy passes first through the acceptance of the patient that he needs professional help, when the gambling patient suffers from other serious disorders, such as psychosis, memory loss, antisocial (violent) behaviors, etc. , you can be declared mentally unfit and be forced to confine yourself to a hospital institution. In complicated cases with other mental pathologies, the treatment includes specific psychotropic drugs.

Recommendation directed to the patient

There are a number of “coping and support strategies”, the application of which makes sense if it has been recognized that you have a dependency problem. Any help or assistance to overcome compulsive gambling follows the subjective decision to change your addictive behavior.

Coping and support strategies

The idea is that you focus on rejecting or opposing the seemingly pleasant impulses that gambling generates.

  • The central idea is not to gamble. You should avoid places and situations that made you bet or think about the game.
  • Go to the linguistic reprogramming repeating to yourself the risk involved in gambling, due to its snowball effect.
  • Ask your family and friends for help. Getting to this point means you are ready for advice.
  • Addictions often have multiple causes. Recognizing what they are is helpful in avoiding the need to gamble.
  • The above supposes an extra effort to psychological therapy.

Once you are fully aware that you have a serious behavioral problem and decide to seek support, what is recommended to do? Before that long-awaited consultation, you can make a more or less complete record that includes:

  • Perceptions due to dependency, even those that are apparently unrelated to it. Write about the factors that you consider triggers and the consequences that you have experienced. What have you felt when you have tried to walk away from gambling.
  • Stressful situations and personal references. The immediate transformations it has undergone.
  • A list of the medications or substances you are taking and the respective doses.
  • A list of other physical and mental health problems you have had.
  • In addition to what is indicated, bring a list of some questions that you ignore and want to ask the psychotherapist. The following topics are proposed below:
  • Treatments / therapies that may help you.
  • Better therapeutic options.
  • Is it necessary to go to a psychiatrist?
  • Is drug intake necessary?

Frequently asked questions in the first consultation from the psychotherapist

The development and achievement of therapeutic practice aimed at gambling patients is long-term. In this article, systemic family therapy was discussed, but the methodology to be followed will depend only on the therapist and the very characteristics of dependence on gambling, time of existence, recurrences, personal and family conditions, related pathologies, physical and psychological implications, etc. .

At the beginning of the therapies, the psychotherapist will surely ask you a set of questions to structure your medical sheet, which does not rule out indications for analytics for drug use and screening for neuronal and nervous system diseases.

The relationship with the specialist is based on trust ; however, it is common for the specialist to ask you particular questions based on hard facts. They will deal with the following topics:

  • History and years of development of your problem gambling
  • Periodicity of gambling practices.
  • Redundancy of the game in your life.
  • The interest and intervention of friends and family in their dependence.
  • Budget bet every time you play.
  • Attempts to abandon dependency and immediate consequences.
  • Treatments received regarding dependence on gambling.
  • Current disposition, level of expectations, motivations, to receive treatment and therapy for gambling.
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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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