Gambling addictions can be very hard to treat, even when they are discovered in their early stages. Hence, specialists usually recommend trying out several treatment plans.
Classical cognitive therapy has shown positive results over the year in the treatment of gambling problems. But during the past few decades, a new treatment method has gradually been implemented: motivational interviewing. However, few truly understand what this type of therapy implies and what it is based on.
When you feel encouraged to fight for what you want to achieve, you are already halfway through your goal. Constant motivation can make you feel like you can even move mountains.
This concept has been proven to apply to people struggling to overcome a gambling problem as well. However, giving up on vices can be quite difficult, especially if one uses gambling for escapism or to avoid their everyday problems.
Addiction recovery is all about modifying one’s behaviour and helping patients see the problem they are experiencing from a whole different perspective. Usually, hearing other people’s journeys on gambling can also be beneficial.
How Does Motivational Interviewing Work for Gambling Addiction?
If you have ever tried to lose weight, quit smoking, or get off the couch and exercise, then you know how difficult it is to change one’s habits. This is especially true for people who are battling an addiction.
To come to their aid, addiction specialists have created motivational interviewing (MI), a widely used, scientifically-proven clinical strategy that uses a directed, client-centred counselling style to help clients explore and resolve ambivalence about quitting their addictive behaviour.
MI is guided by five overarching principles: (1) express empathy, (2) develop discrepancy, (3) avoid argumentation, (4) roll with resistance, and (5) support self-efficacy—as well as core skills such as asking open-ended questions, listening reflectively, providing affirmation, summarising, and eliciting self-motivational statements.
Up to a year after treatment, motivational interviewing was linked to a considerable reduction in gambling frequency. In post-treatment only, motivational interviewing resulted in significant decreases in dollars spent gambling when compared to non-motivational controls.
Core Principles for Motivational Interviewing
Licensed therapists and substance abuse counsellors employ motivational interviewing. Hence, motivational interviewing was first defined in 1983 by William Miller as a type of therapy for those suffering from a certain kind of addiction, such as drug and alcohol addictions.
Interpersonal strategies that patients utilize to maintain or change specific addictive behaviours are studied throughout treatment.
The treatment differs from more typical therapies because of the five principles of motivational interviewing, which emphasize patient empowerment.
Empathy for clients should be expressed and demonstrated by therapists. So, when discussing the behaviours, attitudes, and daily habits that clients engage in regularly, counsellors or psychologists should express their empathy towards their patients.
Counsellors can help build trust by showing empathy to their clients, which may encourage patients to share more of their personal history, challenges, and concerns.
This approach can also help patients who feel conflicted about their feelings during counselling sessions, especially in the beginning, when one may feel unsure about how much they can reveal during therapy.
Dealing with resistance
Counsellors should avoid challenging their clients when they refuse to change their conduct. They should also avoid trying to impose their point of view onto their clients.
Ideally, counsellors should engage with clients in order to help them see and explore different points of view as the discussions go, allowing them to choose the best solutions for themselves. Additionally, when resistance emerges, it is a signal for counsellors to change their approach to talk therapy.
Clients are encouraged to believe that they can make the changes they desire. Counsellors use this principle to discuss and highlight previous behaviours and life triumphs that clients have had.
For instance, counsellors may remind clients suffering from a drug addiction that they have worked for two years and are drug-free for six months. Clients’ current or prior qualities and skills should also be discussed, enhancing their belief in their ability to change.
Counsellors should show their clients that the genuine power to change comes from within them, not from the therapy sessions. This stresses the idea that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving the desired change.
Clients should also be told that modifying their behaviour is ultimately their responsibility. Counsellors should therefore help their clients create a list of actions they can do to improve their daily habits.
All in all
Motivational interviewing can be a great solution for people dealing with a gambling addiction, for it creates the opportunity for them to address their conflicting emotions as they learn to overcome their current state.
Counsellors should try their best to support their clients during the therapy sessions, by helping them build a motivation strategy that can help them overcome difficult moments. It should all come down to respecting the client’s individuality and helping them realize which scenario fits them best on their healing journey.