Web-based counseling for problem gambling: Exploring motivations and recommendations

Abstract

Background: For highly stigmatized disorders, such as problem gambling, Web-based counseling has the potential to address common barriers to treatment, including issues of shame and stigma. Despite the exponential growth in the uptake of immediate synchronous Web-based counseling (ie, provided without appointment), little is known about why people choose this service over other modes of treatment. Objective: The aim of the current study was to determine motivations for choosing and recommending Web-based counseling over telephone or face-to-face services. Methods: The study involved 233 Australian participants who had completed an online counseling session for problem gambling on the Gambling Help Online website between November 2010 and February 2012. Participants were all classified as problem gamblers, with a greater proportion of males (57.4%) and 60.4% younger than 40 years of age. Participants completed open-ended questions about their reasons for choosing online counseling over other modes (ie, face-to-face and telephone), as well as reasons for recommending the service to others. Results: A content analysis revealed 4 themes related to confidentiality/anonymity (reported by 27.0%), convenience/accessibility (50.9%), service system access (34.2%), and a preference for the therapeutic medium (26.6%). Few participants reported helpful professional support as a reason for accessing counseling online, but 43.2% of participants stated that this was a reason for recommending the service. Those older than 40 years were more likely than younger people in the sample to use Web-based counseling as an entry point into the service system (< italic > P < /italic > = .045), whereas those engaged in nonstrategic gambling (eg, machine gambling) were more likely to access online counseling as an entry into the service system than those engaged in strategic gambling (ie, cards, sports; < italic > P < /italic > = .01). Participants older than 40 years were more likely to recommend the service because of its potential for confidentiality and anonymity (< italic > P < /italic > = .04), whereas those younger than 40 years were more likely to recommend the service due to it being helpful (< italic > P < /italic > = .02). Conclusions: This study provides important information about why online counseling for gambling is attractive to people with problem gambling, thereby informing the development of targeted online programs, campaigns, and promotional material. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)

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