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How COVID-19 Has Changed Treatment Options for Problem Gambling

Published: April 5, 2021

For many Ohioans, 2020 was not a normal year. The COVID-19 pandemic changed so many aspects of daily life, including how individuals take care of their mental health.

Due to the pandemic, virtual treatment has been the only option for many therapists and clients struggling with problem gambling. David Hodgins, Ph.D., FCAHS, would argue that it has been just as effective, if not more so, than residential therapy. In fact, he’s been so pleasantly surprised at the success that he doesn’t know if he will go back to face-to-face therapy once the pandemic ends.

He’s not the only therapist seeing positive results from clients undergoing virtual brief motivational treatment. Brief motivational treatment is different from other therapies in that it is a short-term, solution-oriented therapy that focuses on helping clients overcome challenges in the present moment.

This can play out in one to four short, remote sessions with some hands-off support from a licensed therapist. It is mostly self-directed by the client with additional resources and workbooks to do outside of the sessions, known as “motivational interviews.”

This type of therapy is growing in popularity, especially during the pandemic, but some drawbacks include lower engagement and higher drop-off rates from clients. However, Dr. Hodgins would argue that the pros outweigh the cons.

One example is that remote interventions work for people in their current life situation, as most tend to seek treatment on the internet. Researchers estimate an estimated 9-year lag from when a person develops a problem with gambling to when they get in-person treatment. Virtual therapy has the opportunity to meet people before that lag takes place.

There are also various ways individuals can get creative through this type of therapy. Some examples include motivational phone interviews, a cognitive behavioral therapy workbook, and reading a summary of strategies from people who’ve recovered from a problem with gambling.

If you think that you or a loved one might be struggling with a problem with gambling, free treatment is readily available to you by calling the Problem Gambling Hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-800-589-9966 or by texting 4HOPE to 741741.

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