What Is early intervention?

What is early intervention?  When speaking of disorders or diseases that can affect a child's ability to learn and develop normally in terms of academia, early intervention seems more than intuitive.  A dyslexic child can develop normally if taught certain skills early on.  A child with poor vision can avoid issues learning in school by getting fitted with glasses.  A child with a hearing disability can develop normal language and speech if fitted with hearing aids in the first months of life.  It seems very natural and obvious for these ailments.  However, what does early intervention mean as it relates to problem gambling?

I've been researching the topic of what is early intervention in the context of gambling and other addictions.  It's a little less well defined, and certainly not nearly as intuitive, but the concept does still exist.  The general spirit is fairly obvious, which is that early intervention is meant to help avoid the devastation that can come a gambling addiction problem, both financially as well as with friends, family, and one's general health and well-being.  But how early is early?  To be honest, I haven't found a lot of good literature or professionals who can really speak well to this topic, though it's generally accepted that intervening sooner rather than later can have a positive effect.

Keep in ind that early intervention doesn't mean convincing someone to go to treatment before they've lost a certain amount of dollars.  Though that can be a form of early intervention, it's not at the core of the strategy.  In other words, it's even more fundamental than putting a price tag on losses, or counting the number of friends or family relationships impacted along the way.  Some even talk about a stage before early intervention as being prevention.  In this context, treatment does not even equate to intervention, but rather, treatment is a stage following problem gambling education, and service (i.e. therapy) awareness.

So then what is early intervention?  For me prevention is a stage where someone with the risk factors of addiction (even a young child) becomes aware and educated.  As stress and adversity can often develop into triggers for addictive behavior, youngsters can learn healthy techniques for coping with stress.  But how aware can, and should a child be about a predisposition to addiction that they may have?  Is it more of a subconscious lesson a child learns by growing up in an environment where the family system copes with adversity in healthy ways?  Or is the child specifically taught about the actual problem of gambling?  Are they told never to go to a casino, or just monitored for healthy vs. unhealthy recreational patterns that drive what further education or rules are required?

If you have children that have grown up in a family with an addict (of any kind), this topic is probably of great interest.  I'm continually seeking more definitive information on this topic, so if you have any good sources of such information, please feel free to Contact me.  In terms of adults, I think the key takeaway here is that you don't have to wait until you're relationship is destroyed, and you're financially devastated or bankrupt before an intervention can be considered.  In fact, an intervention ostensibly "brings up the bottom" as a form of early intervention for someone who hasn't yet reached what they would define as their rock bottom.

If you're still not sure what is early intervention, I recommend keeping in mind that waiting is never the better strategy, and the earlier the better is generally a good perspective.  For more information about the actual intervention process for someone who is already in the throws of a gambling problem, please visit the Addiction Intervention page.

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