Edition #3: Special research bulletin

Man and woman in conversation sitting together in office
Man and woman in conversation sitting together in office
Photo: iStock

New evidence

Psychological treatments for problem gambling

This study set out to investigate the relative effectiveness and durability of four psychological treatments for problem gambling for almost 300 Victorians.

The researchers examined:

  • cognitive behaviour therapy
  • behaviour therapy
  • motivational interviewing
  • client-centred therapy.

Conducted as a randomised controlled trial, participants were assessed and randomly allocated a treatment option. They then received up to six individual face-to-face sessions of treatment with a registered psychologist. Their gambling behaviour, including frequency and time and money spent, was measured six and 12 months after treatment.

This report focuses mainly on the six-month outcomes. A report on the 12-month outcomes will be published in 2016.

Led by Professor Shane Thomas, the study was a joint project between Monash University and the University of Melbourne. It was commissioned originally by the Department of Justice before being transferred to the foundation on its establishment in July 2012. 

Key findings

  • There was a significant decrease in the severity of symptoms for all treatment groups at the six-month follow-up, with the average number of days and money spent gambling cut in half.
  • Before the treatment, participants gambled on average on 17.8 days in a four-week period. This reduced to 9.33 days immediately after treatment and 10.44 days after six months. Average spend also decreased from $4320 to $1843 at six months.
  • The study suggests the treatments provided could result in an average problem gambler gambling on 101 fewer days, spending 227 fewer hours gambling and saving $39,975 in gambling losses per year.
  • The results did not differ significantly between the four treatment options, meaning it is likely all four are effective in responding to problem gambling.

How this research might be useful

The results of this study are encouraging for all providers of problem gambling treatment.  The findings suggest appropriately structured treatment is associated with meaningful reductions in gambling behaviour and gambling symptoms.

The foundation is expanding the use of one of the treatments in the study, exposure therapy.

This study is one of the largest ever conducted examining treatments for problem gambling and the results are likely to have a strong influence on future research in this area.

Download the report

Psychological treatments for problem gambling (PDF - 1767.4 KB)

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