Addiction Intervention
- Should You Do One?

Are you looking for information regarding doing a gambling addiction intervention for a loved one who is struggling with problem gambling?  When I first started researching this type of family intervention, I recall finding very little information, and becoming very frustrated.  One of the biggest questions for me was "should I be doing an intervention?"  I later came to understand that if I was thinking about it, chances are that I should be seriously considering it.  For me, I personally struggled with whether or not to do an intervention for the better part of three years!  I did a bit of research here and there, and intellectually dabbled with the idea, but continually found reasons/excuses for not proceeding.

Addiction Intervention

The first thing to do is to determine whether this is the right approach for your situation is to understand what an addiction intervention is.  Consider the following example situation (your situation will vary of course):
  • Your spouse disappears for long periods of time during the day and/or night, and doesn't provide adequate reasons when questioned, or is obviously lying.
  • You know your spouse is gambling and money continually goes missing, and this is either creating financial strain in terms of paying for bills and activities, or you have already begun defaulting on loans and other payments.
  • When you discuss the topic of problem gambling, they either dismiss it as not an issue, or acknowledge that things have gotten out of hand, but that they can stop if they want to.
  • You've found yourself making significant financial adjustments, whether it's moving (whether due to a foreclosure or voluntarily selling your home), downsizing cars (or repossessions), etc.
  • You're credit cards have consistently higher balances due to cash advances, or are over limit, and you're getting calls from collectors.
  • Money from your bank accounts is disappearing due to unexpected/unaccounted for withdrawals.
  • Large unexplained sums of money are deposited to your bank account.
  • Communication with your spouse is difficult, stressful, or generally ineffective or non-existent.
  • They've attended Gamblers Anonymous and either continue to gamble or have discontinued attending meetings.
  • They tried individual therapy and/or couples therapy with you, and they continue to gamble.
  • You generally feel that your life is out of control and unmanageable.
  • Etc...

If you find that even a few of these issues hold true for your situation, then chances are that you should seriously consider a gambling addiction intervention.  Also keep in mind that whether or not your gambler recognizes or acknowledges the existence of a gambling problem, isn't important in terms of considering a family intervention.

So what's an addiction intervention?
Some people may describe interventions when close family members and potentially friends of the gambler have a "sit down".  Typically they point out the behaviors that are causing problems and tell them to "snap out of it - or else," and may even have some demands regarding how finances are to be managed.  I experienced this type of approach, and while I'm certainly not a professional, I personally don't consider this method to be a valid or helpful method of intervention.  That's not to say that some people don't find success with this approach, and I do know of people who have stopped gambling after such an intervention; however, I believe long term success with such an approach is few and far between.

That said, you can try that approach first, and the only real risk you take is further delaying getting proper treatment should it not be successful.  ALSO, please keep in mind that experts say that amongst all addiction (drugs, alcohol, etc.), gambling addiction has the highest suicide rate.  You might not feel as though your gambler/loved one is at the point of suicide, but if we're being honest with ourselves, I think we can admit, at least to ourselves, that we in fact truly have no clue what they're thinking, or when their thinking could change.  You can also read about a related topic, What Is Early Intervention, or jump to Behavior Intervention Plan.

With that said, my definition of a gambling addiction intervention has the following components:
  • A professional who's an addiction specialist (in the medical field) who either has experience doing interventions, or brings someone with them who has hands-on experience doing GAMBLING interventions.  I emphasize that their experience should be directly related to gambling addiction interventions, because as similar as many addictions are in the underlying psychology and physiology (of the brain), problem gamblers are unique enough that they deserve special consideration.
  • There should be a planning and preparation period; this can take a number of days, weeks, or more.
  • Close family and friends should be involved.  Participating members should truly believe in the process, and be committed to following the instructions of the interventionist(s).
  • The end game objective should be to have your loved one, the problem gambler, agree to go to treatment.
  • The course of treatment, whether in-patient or out-patient, should be reviewed in advance, and proper preparation made well in advance of the day of the intervention.
  • An effective intervention must be a surprise.
Page 2 - Mental Health Intervention (Next Steps)

Or skip to:

Page 3 - Crisis Intervention Strategies
(How does an intervention work?)

Page 4 - Family Intervention
(What's the intervention process?)

Page 5 - Family Crisis Intervention Services
(How much does is cost?)

Page 6 - Intervention Tips

Return to Help With Gambling Addiction Homepage

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