Retaining pathological gamblers in cognitive behavior therapy through motivational enhancement: A pilot study

Abstract

Treatment for pathological gambling is in its infancy. Several cognitive and behavioral interventions have shown promise, but high attrition and relapse rates suggest that gamblers requesting treatment are not uniformly committed to change. This article describes an exploratory study with 9 severe pathological gamblers—in their majority horse race bettors—who were recruited from a community treatment center. The gamblers were treated with a hybrid intervention consisting of motivational enhancement and cognitive behavior therapy. All gamblers were retained in treatment and during a 12-month follow-up period. This retention rate was significantly higher than that of a control group of gamblers who received treatment as usual in the same community setting. Of the gamblers who received the experimental treatment, 6 maintained total abstinence during the 12-month follow-up period, 2 were significantly improved, and 1 remained unimproved. In addition to changing their gambling behavior, many clients made successful lifestyle changes. The possible benefits of combining a motivational intervention with cognitive behavior therapy are discussed.

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