Gambling

Gambling Addiction Counselling Services in Calgary

If you are here, chances are that you are recognizing you have a problem with gambling or you are connected with someone who does. Taking this step of considering support is a tremendous one so congratulations on making it here and starting to explore gambling counselling.

The short story

Gambling counselling is available at Sana Psychological for those unsure if they have an issue with gambling, those who know they have an issue and are starting to explore treatment, as well as those who have been in long-term recovery.

Support is also available for family members and loved ones who are currently being impacted by another person’s unhealthy relationship with gambling. Treatment can be short-term (3-6 months) or long-term (6+ months) depending on needs and preference. Typically, long-term support is recommended as Addiction involving gambling is a chronic condition and impacts many other aspects of health. However, if this is not possible then we will work to provide you with coping strategies and points of reflection that you can carry forward. The initial session or two involves background information gathering to get to know you, your challenges, and strengths. Recommendations and strategies will be provided along the way and collaboratively we will discuss treatment goals and general plan. Cost is $200/session and these appointments can be accessed in person or by phone or video. All it takes to get started is an e-mail, phone call, or text to request an appointment.

The long story

How do you know if you or a loved one has a problem?

It can be difficult to sort out if gambling behaviour is unhealthy or has crossed the line into Addiction. This is not something that you have to figure out on your own. Remember, you are not a trained healthcare professional with experience in making such diagnoses and, even if you are, doing so with yourself or in your personal life is much different than doing it with others. Let Sana Psychological help you determine where things are at and provide recommendations accordingly.
This is an informal checklist to help you get a general idea of the extent of your or your loved one’s challenges with gambling. Read through the following list and answer whether the statement applies to you or not.

Some red flags of problematic gambling include:

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it would be a good time to start to explore gambling counselling. These symptoms tend to appear after chronic gambling behaviour that has escalated in quantity, frequency, and had a progressive impact on your life over time. These symptoms rarely present themselves when people are engaged in minimal gambling behaviour.

Common myth

Many people think that you only have Addiction involving gambling if you spend all day and night gambling and have lost everything to the behaviour. This is not the case as the face of Addiction involving gambling can be a person of any gender, sexual orientation, race, and socioeconomic status and can exist in mild, moderate, or severe forms. It is important to start to explore gambling counselling when symptoms are mild (if this is possible) before progression occurs. Addiction is a genetic condition that is activated by environment, exposure, stress, and/or trauma and, therefore, it cuts across all demographic lines. Most people are genetically at risk, but may not experience activation or expression of this underlying vulnerability, whereas others do.

Addiction is Not a Choice

It is important for you to remember that you did not choose what is happening to you right now. A struggle with gambling does not define your personality or represent who you are, it is a symptom and a medical condition that it is important to seek treatment for. That is where gambling counselling can help.

Treatment Approach

The initial 1-2 sessions will involve gathering as much background information as possible about you, including: Strengths, available coping network and tools, challenges, as well as information about your relationship with gambling.

Information is gathered to know about all parts of you, not just your relationship with gambling. Gambling counselling is about much more than your engagement with the behaviour, as gambling typically starts to increase for a variety of reasons and there will be many areas of life that you can start to address to support a reduction in gambling, such as relationships, feelings processing, physical health, sleep hygiene, financial planning, and more.

Paige Abbott has been trained in Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy as well as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and also incorporates elements of solution-focused therapy, motivational interviewing, and Twelve Step Facilitation into her sessions. Follow-up appointments generally involve a check-in to see presenting issues and immediate things that have come up that you may want to process, follow-up on any suggestions provided in past appointments to get an idea of progress as well as roadblocks that are coming up, followed by more in-depth exploration of challenges, patterns, and coping. Sessions are active and engaged as Paige likes to ask lots of questions and provide reflections, challenges, and psychoeducation along the way. At any point if the therapeutic approach or goals need to be changed, please speak up and this will be processed. Sessions come from a non-judgmental, compassionate, empathetic place. We are here to support you in doing different and being different.

Logistics

Sessions are offered in person in Calgary, Alberta or by using Technology Assisted Counselling which can consist of phone or video sessions depending on need and preference. Cost is $200/session. Sessions are available to anyone who is in the province of Alberta at the time of appointment as this is Paige Abbott’s jurisdiction of licensure. Payment options include cash, credit card, e-transfer, and direct billing with a number of different insurance carriers.

Gambling counselling can be short or long-term, depending on your needs. Paige Abbott, Registered Psychologist at Sana Psychological, prefers to meet with people over a longer period of time (6+ months) to ensure sustainability and maintenance of progress as Addiction involving gambling tends to ebb and flow. If this does not work for your needs, that is okay too. We will do as much work as we can in the available sessions to get you building a healthy recovery plan that you can tailor as needed. All it takes to get started is an e-mail, phone call, or text to request an appointment.

For loved ones

Gambling counselling may also involve concerned family members or friends who have been impacted. They may come in individually for their own support and/or join some sessions or parts of sessions with the individual who has challenges with gambling. If you are a family member reading this and hoping your loved one will change but you are not sure if they are ready, I would encourage you to come in for yourself to look at your own health and recovery plan. Change in any member of a relational unit creates change for the whole unit, so perhaps change can start with you. Even if you are feeling that your personal changes are not having an impact on your loved one, it will provide you the strength, resources, and ability to cope with an extremely difficult, draining, and challenging situation.

A Face of Addiction Involving Gambling: Julie’s Story

Julie felt that she had a pretty unremarkable background. She grew up in a stable, loving, wonderful home with a great family. She moved on to her adulthood and created the same thing in her own life.

Julie felt she should be happy with her life, but she wasn’t. For some reason, she felt consistently discontent and bored. One day, some of her workmates went out for drinks after work to a local pub and Julie tagged along, which she often did. This was a different pub that had VLT’s in it. Julie had gambled once or twice when she was in Las Vegas in the past, bought a few lottery tickets, but had never felt much draw to it. She decided to put some money in one of the machines and felt an exhilaration that she had not felt for a long time, maybe ever. Julie felt like this was possibly the fun and excitement she was looking for in her life.

Over the next few years, Julie’s gambling use increased in frequency. She started to find excuses to go out on her own as her family were becoming suspicious and concerned. Her partner kept asking her about missing money from their account and she found different ways to lie and cover it up. Julie found gambling increasingly numbing and almost boring to her, yet she did not feel it was possible to stop. Eventually, Julie disclosed what was happening to her partner and he encouraged her to get some professional support. Julie initially did not feel ready for this, kept gambling, but six months later as her financial, emotional, and relational world became more unmanageable, she agreed.

The Recovery Journey

For most, the journey of recovery with Addiction involving gambling involves an initial detoxification or pursuit of abstinence period.

This is incredibly important to allow the brain to start to recalibrate and for the pleasure threshold to return to baseline (or as close to it as it can) which allows feelings of pleasure for everyday life and activities to return. Gambling provides one of the most potent sources of feel-good neurotransmitters to the brain that we can get due to its intermittent reinforcement pattern. Therefore, cutting off the source of this feel-good neurotransmitter spike is essential for healthy brain functioning.

During and after this period of detoxification, recovery action will be occurring. This can mean an exploration of underlying patterns and vulnerabilities, getting to understand triggers, identify other areas where compulsive or addictive behaviour may be active, as well as starting to explore and spend time developing relationship with self. Relationships will continue during this time but may look different as you start to detach from environments and people who bring with them a higher risk of exposure to gambling and triggers. The first 3-6 months of recovery will be a period of tremendous growth and feeling; it is often uncomfortable and is a vulnerable time where the likelihood of relapse is high. Withdrawal and change are uncomfortable, but they come with great benefit. After six months, changes are more established and have become routine so things feel less effortful. The lifelong work involves continued awareness of triggers, vulnerabilities, boundaries, and ongoing development of relationship with self.

Wherever you are at in this journey, it is an honour and a privilege for Sana Psychological to be a part of it.

Frequently Asked Questions

A: I understand that this is an unfortunate (but common) symptom of Addiction with Gambling. If no support is available to you for counselling through insurance benefits, family members, friends, or loved ones, then I would encourage you to reach out to Access Mental Health (811) or your family doctor to talk about no or low-cost services that would be available to you. You might also want to consider peer support options like SMART Recovery and/or Gamblers Anonymous (GA).
A: Absolutely! Counselling can be helpful wherever you are in your journey, including moving people who are “ambivalent” (meaning not even thinking about problems) to a state of openness to look at their issues. Ongoing gambling is not necessarily a sign of ambivalence, however. You may be primed and ready to make some changes, even though the addictive behaviour is active and ongoing. Recovery is an interesting journey and I encourage people to do what they can when they can because it all helps, whether it feels like it or not.
A: You can come for joint appointments if you are both willing and believe there would be a benefit in discussing boundaries, communication and your individual recovery plans. If one of you is not willing to participate, then I encourage whoever is ready to come in and get started as that change will have a helpful impact on the individual, as well as potentially others around them.
A: Never! Change is possible at any age or phase of life. Certainly, when addictive behaviours have been entrenched for years (or decades), change is more challenging but it is still possible. Recovery efforts are worthwhile even if the behaviour is ongoing.
A: Yes, lots. In Addiction counselling with any issue, I talk with people about coping, emotional regulation, relationships, feelings, boundaries, other behaviours, substance use, work, school, family of origin, and anything else that is personally relevant to understanding you and supporting you with change. This is what I love about Addiction counselling-it is not just about the behaviour or substance so all parts of life and self need to get explored. It is multi-faceted, fascinating, dynamic work that we get to do. I love it and I encourage you to jump into it open and willing (but it’s also okay if you’re hesitant and scared).