Recovery agency and informal recovery pathways from gambling problems

Abstract

This study applied a holistic, strength-based lens to better articulate the impetus for, and processes of, informal recovery from gambling problems. Two research objectives framed the parameters of the study: to explore
(a) the process by which gamblers move from recognition of a gambling problem to action for recovery and
(b) the experiences, perceptions and contextual factors that shape the features of this process.

Narrative telephone interviews were conducted with adult residents of Victoria, Australia. Thirty-two adult participants (22 males and 10 females) were recruited from the general community. All participants were self-identified as recovering or recovered from gambling problems. Participants primarily used informal recovery strategies, rather than professional services or support groups.

The impetus for informal recovery was identified broadly as either
(a) dissonance between desired and actual self-image and goals,
(b) an uncontrollable adverse event, or
(c) confrontation and decisive action by others affected by the individual’s gambling involvement.

The impetus, process and goals of recovery were best described by pathways that were distinguished by agency in recovery: externally directed and self-directed. The application of a strength-based lens helped to illuminate the role of agency in informal recovery. A proposed pathways framework may inform strength-based informal recovery strategies for gamblers and affected others, and therapeutic approaches. The pathways, which have not been articulated in previous gambling recovery literature, generally cohere with pathways articulated in the alcohol and substance recovery literature.

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