A controlled evaluation of cognitive therapy for problem gambling


Reports on a study to evaluate cognitive therapy against three other brief treatments (behavioural, motivational, and minimal). A total of 99 community-recruited subjects entered treatment; 92 completed end-of-treatment assessment; 86 completed the three-month follow-up assessment; 73 completed the 12-month assessment. The sample was primarily male, middle-aged, non-partnered, under-employed and moderately educated. Gambling problems were most frequently reported for casino games, slot machines, and the racetrack. Previous psychiatric history and addiction problems were common. In the sample, 80% met diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling. There were no baseline group differences on cognitive distortions, high-risk situations, relationship satisfaction and problem-solving skills. There were no group differences following treatment; the sample as a whole improved significantly. {THE} {RESULTS} showed a significant reduction in gambling diagnostic severity, gambling frequency, gambling expenditures, cognitive distortions and emotional symptoms at three- and 12-month follow-up. In general, all groups were effective; there were no salient group differences. Based on these preliminary findings, brief interventions are effective in significantly reducing gambling symptoms. However, no treatment was superior to any other. The one-session intervention was as effective as the six-session interventions and suggests that nonspecific factors are important in determining clinical outcomes. Future treatment research may benefit from focusing on ways of enhancing very brief interventions as a first level of intervention.

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