This page is still being modified as ofAugust 2008
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 click here: motivation-intervention.
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. Please visit the GA website and follow the link to Gam-anon 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.
If there are not any Gam-Anon meetings in your area, or you would like to try another approach, consider attending an Al-anon meeting. These are very helpful free meetings and you can find the number by calling your telephone directory.
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.
I strongly 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.
Sometimes it is appropriate for the spouse to become more active in managing the family's finances, but not always. It might be good for the spouse to run a credit report to see what is going on.
This is a legit company that will provide FREE credit reports once a year. A spouse might want to consider paying for monthly reports to see if credit cards are being taken out. There are three credit agencies and each one can give a FREE report from this website, you will need to request each one individually.
Also, a credit freeze can lock up a person's credit history so that no lender can access their credit report, and without being able to access the credit report they can not issue new credit cards. This is different than a fraud alert, it is much stronger. A request has to be filed with each of the three agencies, it will not help to just do one of them. There is a $10 dollar fee for each one, or a total of $30 dollars. There is an additional 10 dollar cost to unfreeze each one. This website can provide additional information:
Another way to stop the credit cards is at www.optoutprescreen.com or call 888-5678688.
Sometimes a gambler will take out a second or additional mortgage or home equity loan without the spouse knowing so you might want to check into this as well.
Putting the gambler on an allowance and controlling the money can create tremendous strain on both parties, and while this is a very important option, it needs a lot of team work to make it work, it is important that all critical household expenses are paid prior to paying off gambling debt, GA pressure relief can help families with this process.
Over the years I have made some of my worst errors as a therapist in working with families, it is very complex and difficult work and I find that I am still learning to do the best I can. I always appreciate hearing and learning as much as possible and you have any feedback for me please do let me know.