Development of a brief intervention for concerned significant others of problem gamblers

Abstract

Objectives: This study identified the needs of concerned significant others (CSOs) of problem gamblers in its first phase through a focus group. Based on these findings, the Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) approach was modified into a self-help manual for CSOs of problem gamblers. In the second phase, a pilot project was designed to test the feasibility of the study design and to determine whether individuals who received the manual would show greater improvement compared with a control group. Methods: Thirty-one CSOs were randomly assigned to receive the manual or a control package and were reinterviewed after three months. Variables assessed were personal and relationship functioning, number of consequences related to gambling, gambling behavior, whether the gambler entered treatment, and satisfaction with the program. Results: There were no group differences found in the areas of personal and relationship functioning or consequences at the three-month interview; however, participants did display significant improvement overall. Significant group differences in favor of the treatment group were found in three areas: the proportion of participants who rated gambling as decreased, those who were satisfied with the program, and those who had their needs met. Only a small proportion in each group reported that the gambler had entered treatment. Conclusions: Although the feasibility of the study was established, these preliminary results need to be interpreted cautiously and a replication and extension is currently underway. This type of brief intervention is a logical extension of the telephone support services offered to CSOs through hot lines in most North American jurisdictions.

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