1314 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Family members, friends, and others who are seeking to help a gambler may benefit from a few in-person therapy sessions to discuss the matter in person. In some cases when the gambler's family are being severely impacted by the gambling and the gambler, the family might need ongoing one on one therapy. I rarely would provide that more intensive level of therapy as it raises too many conflicts when I am working with the gambler as well. I have learned, the hard way, that once I start providing individual therapy for a gambler that I can no longer have ANY contact with their spouses or family unless they are personally in the same room or in some cases on the telephone. This can be difficult, but it is essential that the gambler knows they have total privacy with me. If the spouse makes the initial phone call, this can be already setting a tone where privacy is already compromised so I rather that the gambler makes the initial phone call if possible. In some cases this is not really an issue. I do suggest that nearly all the gamblers I treat bring their spouses/family members into treatment at least a few times.
With regards to the difficult situation where the gambler does not want to participate in treatment here are few thoughts.
MOTIVATION is the key and the type of intervention that is attempted needs to match the level of the motivation of the gambler.
If the Gambler is very unmotivated and you would like information about motivation and interventions go back to the top of the menus and you will find a motivation tab under the family page.
Central issues that some family members need help with include: trust/honesty; financial protection; physical safety in some cases; intimacy issues; co-dependency.
I recommend that ALL spouses and parents of gamblers look into Gam-Anon, a program that links family members of gamblers together to discuss the problem. For some reason the Gam-anon website is located within the general GA website... please consult this link for further assistance. www.gamblersanonymous.org
You can purchase some really good literature from the Gam-anon website as well, I strongly suggest reading this material fully.
I have recently found that the Gam-anon meeting in Downey, California is very strong, perhaps the strongest in the LA area, and would be well worth a drive over there if you are in the greater LA area. If you reside in the OC area or further south there are closer meetings that are probably just as good.
Please be sure to verify the meeting information as it is subject to change.
First Presbyterian Church - basement
10544 Downey Ave.
There is another approach if Gam-anon is not in your area or if you tried it a few times (and I would suggest going to several locations to see how the meetings are different) consider attending an Al-anon meeting.
I understand that there are several online Gam-Anon groups now available, you can start to search for them in yahoo. First go to yahoo.com, search for "yahoo groups" in the search bar, then you can search for the actual group: "gamanon support group". You will need to create a free yahoo account to do this.
There is another approach if Gam-anon is not in your area or if you tried it a few times (and I would suggest going to several locations to see how the meetings are different) consider attending an Al-anon meeting. These are very helpful free meetings and you can find the number by calling your telephone directory. Here is a link to free alanon literature, there is more on their site for sale that might be even more helpful follow this link to their home page as well for meeting location information.
Al-anon is primarily for people in relationships with alcoholics but this is where Gam-anon has developed from, just as gamblers anonymous developed from alcoholics anonymous. one of the important things to remember about any 12-step group is that focusing on on the steps and how to work them in your life is one of the most important aspects, it is not just a place to unload feelings and problems (although this is a part of it as well).
I recommend the book: Behind the 8-ball, by Linda Berman for spouses of gamblers. This very helpful book can be purchased used from www.amazon.com, or at www.ebay.com. It is geared towards the wife of a male gambler more than parents of a gambler. I also suggest another book Losing Your Shirt - Second Edition: Recovery for Compulsive Gamblers and Their Families by Mary Heineman. Try to look for that later editions of these books as they have been updated. Losing your shirt does not offer as many helpful suggestions but is good at helping with the more emotional aspects of this disorder.
Family members of Pathological gamblers are in as much need of help as the gambler. It is important to not deny this need or minimize it. Critical decisions must be made about the viability of a marriage if a gambler is not willing to seek help. Equally difficult considerations must be faced with a child who is having gambling problems. In my work with family members there is often a tremendous amount of neglect, hurt and pain that has occurred. "He/she is not the person I married.... he/she is ok when they are not gambling... they keep promising to quit but it never lasts..." these are some of the common things I hear. Also, the tremendous amount of lying is often very damaging. Some of the deceptions are so obvious that it is almost laughable, other times the deceptions are so devious that the spouse barely knows if the gambler is really gambling or not. Again, if the spouse/partner/child is able to admit that there is a problem then things are at least going to be easier at the outset.
Gamblers show an a amazing level of confidence. " I am sure that I will never gamble again" they readily promise after a big loss or being caught. The same confidence that allows them to place a huge wager, and often helps them to be confident successful businesspeople, contributes to a false sense of how easy it would be to quit gambling and eventually leads them back to the thought that they can control the behavior in the future.
Sometimes a family member will have some degree of hidden guilt that acts as an excuse for continuing to tolerate the addiction. Issues of co-dependency must be examined as well (the book codependent no more is excellent for an understanding of this concept). There is not a magic solution to help family members, but under the care of a therapist they can often sort out the right direction for them regardless of whether the gambler stops or not.
Copyright 2011 Dr. Eric Geffner's Gambling Treatment Program. All rights reserved.
1314 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90024