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Board Member of the California Council on Problem Gambling
Member of the National Council on Problem Gambling.
Member of the
Thoughts on my work helping gamblers and their families:
I first became interested in psychology as a high school student after a close friend developed schizophrenia and was hospitalized. I was set on learning everything I could about the brain, mind, and psychology in order to understand what happened to my friend. I also was interested in helping the homeless mentally ill population. In high school I volunteered at the USC-County psychiatric hospital and the Anne Seppi institute for Schizophrenia. In college I was a pre-med student at San Diego State for 2 years and then transferred to UCLA which a focus in psychology.
Following graduation from UCLA in 1988 I moved to Chicago to attend Northwestern University where I spent the next 8 years working/studying psychology at the doctoral level. At this time I was providing psychotherapy for people with severe medical illnesses. I studied the relationship between stress and illness. I worked on helping people cope with the stress of pain and illness with the use of meditation, hypnosis and biofeedback. I completed medical-psychological clinical rotations in the following areas: inpatient & outpatient chemical dependency treatment, geriatric neuropsychological assessment, oncology, psychiatry consultation-liaison service, cardiac transplantation evaluation, and spinal cord injury rehabilitation and chronic pain. After becoming involved in a research project that examined treatment outcome for drug and alcohol addiction, I decided to focus specifically on addiction issues.
After graduating from Northwestern I spent a year in Europe and the middle east and then moved back to Los Angeles, where I was born. At this time, in 1996, I learned that a friend had a severe gambling problem. I was really amazed how this highly intelligent, very successful businessman was so completely powerless over his gambling that he regularly needed help getting home from Vegas after losing his airfare.
I spent the next year reading every article and book on gambling addiction that I could find. The more I read the more my interest grew. I contacted the California Council on Gambling and completed their training program for counselors. I was in their first graduating class and was the first Ph.D. Psychologist in California who was certified as a problem gambling treatment provider.
I attended local Gambler's Anonymous meetings as a guest and started to provide treatment for gamblers. I had supervision from experts in this area and still consult with them as needed. Since that time I have worked with many people, helping them to help themselves to be free from the addiction.
Pathological gambling is a treatable disorder. Most people can recover from it, although some have to experience cycles of relapse-recovery before they finally stop. Unfortunately, some patients do not recover, but most can and do. When I first started to do this work, I would ask patients "do you want to stop or learn to control the gambling?" I learned the hard way that this was not the right approach and do not work this way anymore.
Do not worry if you are not feeling like you want to stop or that you can, most people that see me can not imagine never gambling again so we work hard to find gentle ways of making changes so that it is possible to be very happy without gambling.
I feel blessed to have found a line of work that I love. I enjoy my work and feel grateful every time a patient invites me into their lives. I look forward to hearing from you soon.