Cognitive versus exposure therapy for problem gambling: Randomised controlled trial

Abstract

BACKGROUND:
Problem gambling-specific cognitive therapy (CT) and behavioural (exposure-based) therapy (ET) are two core cognitive-behavioural techniques to treating the disorder, but no studies have directly compared them using a randomised trial. AIMS: To evaluate differential efficacy of CT and ET for adult problem gamblers at a South Australian gambling therapy service.

METHODS:
Two-group randomised, parallel design. Primary outcome was rated by participants using the Victorian Gambling Screen (VGS) at baseline, treatment-end, 1, 3, and 6 month follow-up.

FINDINGS:
Of eighty-seven participants who were randomised and started intervention (CT = 44; ET = 43), 51 (59%) completed intervention (CT = 30; ET = 21). Both groups experienced comparable reductions (improvement) in VGS scores at 12 weeks (mean difference -0.18, 95% CI: -4.48-4.11) and 6 month follow-up (mean difference 1.47, 95% CI: -4.46-7.39).

CONCLUSIONS:
Cognitive and exposure therapies are both viable and effective treatments for problem gambling. Large-scale trials are needed to compare them individually and combined to enhance retention rates and reduce drop-out.

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