Efficacy of face-to-face versus self-guided treatments for disordered gambling: A meta-analysis


Background and aims
In the light of growing traditional and novel forms of gambling, the treatment of disordered gambling is gaining increasing importance and practical relevance. Most studies have examined face-to-face treatments. Although trials implementing self-guided treatments have recently been conducted, these options have not yet been systematically examined. The primary objective of this meta-analysis, therefore, was to analyze the efficacy of all types of psychological face-to-face and self-guided treatments.

A multilevel literature search yielded 27 randomized controlled studies totaling 3,879 participants to provide a comprehensive comparative evaluation of the short- and long-term efficacies of face-to-face and self-guided treatments for disordered gambling.

As expected, the results revealed significantly higher effect sizes for face-to-face treatments (16 studies with Hedges’s g ranging from 0.67 to 1.15) as compared with self-guided treatments (11 studies with Hedges’s g ranging from 0.12 to 0.30) regarding the reduction of problematic gambling behavior. The intensity of treatment moderated the therapy effect, particularly for self-guided treatments.

Discussion and Conclusions
The results of this meta-analysis favor face-to-face treatments over self-guided treatments for the reduction of disordered gambling. Although the findings broaden the scope of knowledge about psychological treatment modalities for disordered gambling, further research is needed to identify the reasons for these differences with the goal to optimize the treatment for this disabling condition.

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