Following on from Liz Carters When Gambling Stops Being Fun, Liz kindly agreed to answer some questions on gambling psychology in between her busy schedule and TV appearances
* I think I became interested in counselling and psychotherapy because in my nature I am very much a people person. I grew up with a large extended family and so know the support (and yes sometimes stress) that relationships of all kinds offer. The more I practice the more I see that at its core life is all about our relationships; family, friends, partners, colleagues.
* I became interested in addiction and particularly gambling by accident! When in the final stages of training back in 2000 I began working with GamCare and wondered like so many people how on earth anyone becomes addicted to gambling? I then discovered that to me it all made sense that people become addicted to gambling because they were using the high or the distraction from gambling to try to feel better when they were going through a difficult time. Going back to what I said earlier about relationships, I found that often at the bottom of gambling addiction would be relationship problems ranging from divorce, stress at work t in the very work cases they had experienced abuse or domestic violence.
* If as you so kindly suggest I might be good at what I do, I think there are a few factors. That my practice methods are built not just from theory but from now thirteen years of being taught from working with hundreds of people what gambling addiction really is about and so knowing from experience what helps and what hinders long term recovery. As to your question can I empathise with my clients? As a human being I can of course empathise with what it is like to sometimes feel feelings I would rather not have. I think in that way any of us could have some degree of empathy, if we live a full and rich life. With any addiction I have learned there but for the grace of god go any of us and often what makes the difference is having support networks to help us through those tough times.
*The method I use to help someone with a gambling problem depends on how long they have been gambling, the reasons for their gambling and how strongly they are addicted. Going cold turkey might work for some, but I have seen it be every bit as distressing as drug or alcohol withdrawal. If they are gambling for example to get away from feeling very anxious I would help them to identify what is causing in life causing that anxiety, support them to make changes in that area and work on what they can do instead of gambling next time they feel anxious.
* How long a treatment program takes depends on the individual. To stop gambling might take only 4 weeks, but the hardest part is staying stopped. Many people wisely chose to stay longer to really understand what it was about them and their life that meant gambling got so out of control so they can make life adjustments and make sure they are much less likely to relapse.
*Can you ever be cured? Yes! I see that all the time and have many clients who have had pathological gambling problems who get back in touch after several years to say they are still free of problem gambling and that is wonderful! It is not easy, but the people who stay free of gambling have taken time to understand why they were using gambling to escape or to achieve a high and made any necessary life changes so they just do not need to gambling in that way any more.
*I treat both men and women in my practices in London and in Sussex. Anyone I treat may chose to stay in therapy after they have stopped gambling and continue to get support with making necessary life changes to life a full and healthy addiction free life. For women I run women’s groups for problem gambling which have proved invaluable for learning life and relationship skills after gambling addiction.
* In answer to your question will I and others who treat gambling ever overcome the financial might of the gambling industry? I cannot answer for others, but for myself I do not feel I am in battle with the gambling industry. As an independent treatment provider in receipt of no funding I am able to speak freely the truth as I see and hear it and when asked to comment I am happy to do so, but truly believe that the roots of gambling addiction lie not only in the gambling industry but in society and an individual’s psychology.
*Banning gambling would achieve nothing for the addicted person but to move their addiction elsewhere. As a women I treated said “Liz, if we weren’t gambling, we would be ding drink, drugs, something else”.Early education in the fact that with gambling what can become addictive is how it feels doing it, not just the money could be helpful.
Is it the case that in recent years that we have gone down the route of non-competitive sports, no winners no losers and that children leave schools not mentally prepared for the world when rejection comes along, after all isn’t it the early days of childhood that we start to develop our cognitive thinking
*The finding of my practice are yes I absolutely agree, that a childhood which leaves one unprepared to deal with life problems and relationships is potentially carves a pathway to addiction.I fact I say this in detail in my second book ‘Working With Women’s Groups For Problem Gambling;treating gambling addiction through relationship’ to be published by Routledge 30th August 2014.
* What we can do to educate our younger generation to deal with life lies in the basics which are all too easily forgotten. Teach them to relate healthily, that talking through troubling thoughts and feelings is healthier than suppressing them, that facing and resolving life problems instead of avoiding them, as many do with addiction, may feel at time like a harder, but ultimately is a healthier and much happier path.
A big thank you to Liz again for taking the time to answer a varied set of questions. Do you have an opinion on gambling psychology or just gambling in general? Have your say at C4D. Comments or Valid Posts welcome
If you would like to know more on what Liz does visit her website Level Ground Therapy or you could purchase her books on the very same subject