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Minimal Treatment Has Lasting Impact For Gamblers

12 September 2006

Research Shows Minimal Treatment Has Lasting Impact for Problem Gamblers

Problem gamblers can benefit greatly from treatment methods such as self-help workbooks and phone-based treatment, according to a leading expert in addiction recovery.

Dr David Hodgins, Professor of the Department of Psychology at the University of Calgary, presented the findings of his research at the third annual Problem Gambling Think Tank currently taking place in Auckland. He is also investigating how different forms of technology such as text messaging or internet-based programmes can be used to assist problem gamblers.

The Think Tank is an annual event that brings together researchers, policy makers, service providers and the gambling industry from around the world.

Dr Hodgins conducted a two-year study where 102 participants received a combination of treatments based on telephone interventions and/or a guided self-help workbook in the mail. As part of the study, some participants received no treatment.

Overall, the survey results show brief telephone and mail-based self-help treatment can bring about significant reduction in problem gambling.

“Eighty-four per cent of participants reported a significant reduction in gambling over a 12 month follow-up period,” Dr Hodgins said.

“We found that a programme based around minimal intervention, such as telephone calls and workbooks, was still effective up to three years after the problem gambler first sought help.

“The challenge now is to match the best treatment options to each individual. What we need to do is delve deeper into the findings to determine what makes each form of treatment successful. For example, is it the information in the workbook, talking to somebody on the telephone or a combination of both which is the motivational ingredient for successful self-help?”

Dr Hodgins said his next research project would focus on the potential for technology to play a greater role in providing solutions for problem gamblers.

“The question is how to provide problem gamblers with the necessary support, encouragement and motivation if they are using technology such as email and the internet as opposed to traditional recovery techniques such as face-to-face counselling.”

Gambling Helpline chief executive, Krista Ferguson, says the Gambling Helpline has been in discussion with David Hodgins during the past year to see if there is any way to replicate his research in the New Zealand context.

“This approach worked well for people with gambling problems in Canada, and we’d like to see if it works here. Dr Hodgins’ research gives us the opportunity to combine our eight years of experience with the results of a successful research project, and as a service, we like to explore any opportunities which will deliver effective support to New Zealanders harmed by gambling.”

If you are worried about your own gambling or that of someone close to you call the Gambling Helpline on 0800 654 655 or visit For international information and helpline services visit:



Gambling Helpline 0800 654 655 (Monday–Friday, 8am-10pm, Saturday–Sunday 9am-10pm)

Maori Gambling Helpline 0800 654 656 (Wednesday 5-9pm, Saturday 8am-12noon)
Pasifika Gambling Helpline 0800 654 657 (Tuesday 5-9 pm, Thursday 6-9 pm,
Friday 12 midday - 4 pm)
Youth Gambling Helpline 0800 654 659 (Monday 5-8pm) or
Gambling Debt Helpline 0800 654 658 (Saturday 12-4pm)

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