Overcoming Your Pathological Gambling: Workbook

Overcoming Your Pathological Gambling: Workbook

Robert Ladouceur Stella Lachance


Overcoming Your Pathological Gambling


David H. Barlow, PhD

  

Anne Marie Albano, PhD Jack M. Gorman, MD Peter E. Nathan, PhD Paul Salkovskis, PhD Bonnie Spring, PhD John R. Weisz, PhD

G. Terence Wilson, PhD

Overcoming Your Pathological Gambling


Robert Ladouceur • Stella Lachance




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About TreatmentsThatWorkTM

One of the most difficult problems confronting patients with various dis- orders and diseases is finding the best help available. Everyone is aware of friends or family who have sought treatment from a seemingly reputable practitioner, only to find out later from another doctor that the original di- agnosis was wrong or the treatments recommended were inappropriate or perhaps even harmful. Most patients, or family members, address this prob- lem by reading everything they can about their symptoms, seeking infor- mation on the Internet, or aggressively “asking around” to tap knowledge from friends and acquaintances. Governments and healthcare policymakers are also aware that people in need don’t always get the best treatments— something they refer to as “variability in healthcare practices.”

Now healthcare systems around the world are attempting to correct this variability by introducing “evidence-based practice.” This simply means that it is in everyone’s interest that patients get the most up-to-date and effective care for a particular problem. Healthcare policymakers have also recognized that it is very useful to give consumers of healthcare as much information as possible, so that they can make intelligent decisions in a collaborative effort to improve health and mental health. This series, TreatmentsThat WorkTM, is designed to accomplish just that. Only the latest and most effec- tive interventions for particular problems are described, in user-friendly language. To be included in this series, each treatment program must pass the highest standards of evidence available, as determined by a scientific advisory board. Thus, when individuals with these problems, or their fam- ily members, seek an expert clinician who is familiar with these interven- tions and decides that they are appropriate, they will have confidence that they are receiving the best care available. Of course, only your healthcare professional can decide on the right mix of treatments for you.

This particular program presents the latest version of a cognitive-behavioral treatment for pathological gambling.

David H. Barlow, Editor-in-Chief, TreatmentsThatWorkTM

Boston, Massachusetts

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Chapter  Chapter  Chapter  Chapter  Chapter  Chapter  Chapter  Chapter  Chapter  Chapter 

Introduction  Pretreatment Assessment Session  

Sessions  & 

Session  

Sessions –

Sessions –

Sessions  &  Posttreatment Assessment Follow-Up Assessment  References 

About the Authors 


 



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Chapter 1



■ ■

To learn about pathological gambling

To learn about this treatment program and what it will involve

What Is Pathological Gambling?

Pathological gambling is characterized by a loss of control over gambling, deception about the extent of involvement with gambling, family and job disruption, theft, and chasing losses (American Psychiatric Association [APA], ).

Diagnostic Criteria for Pathological Gambling

The characteristics and criteria defining pathological gambling are described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), which is published by the APA. Pathological gambling is listed under “Im- pulse control disorders not elsewhere classified” and is defined as persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling that interferes with personal, family, or occupational functioning. The  criteria established by the APA (APA, ) can be used to obtain precious information regarding gambling- related behaviors, as well as the severity of gambling habits. Furthermore, examination of the gambling problem according to these criteria shed light on the consequences of gambling in different spheres of gamblers’ lives: family, occupational, social, academic, financial, and legal. Note that at least  of the  criteria listed below must be met for a diagnosis of patho- logical gambling.

. Thegamblerispreoccupiedwithgambling(e.g.,preoccupiedwithre- living past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, or thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble).


. The gambler needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.

. The gambler has had repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling.

. The gambler is restless or irritable when attempting to cut back or stop gambling.

. The gambler gambles as a way of escaping from problems or of re- lieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression).

. After losing money gambling, the gambler often returns another day to get even (i.e., “chasing” one’s losses).

. The gambler lies to family members, his therapist, or others to con- ceal the extent of involvement with gambling.

. The gambler has committed illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft, or embezzlement to finance gambling.

. The gambler has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling.

. The gambler relies on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling.

Brief Description of the Program

This program is based on the concepts of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It will help you to understand all aspects of your gambling prob- lem, as well as teach you ways to stop gambling and also how to deal with the consequences of your gambling behavior. The primary goal of treat- ment is to help you completely abstain from gambling.

Over the past  years, we have studied the basic psychology of gambling. The crucial finding was that the majority of gamblers hold erroneous thoughts concerning the outcome of the game. Many believe gambling is a game of skill and that they can control the outcome by adopting differ- ent strategies. During treatment, you will learn to recognize errors in your thinking that keep you gambling, while also learning to correct them.


Using This Workbook

Throughout this program, you will be required to complete various exer- cises and worksheets. These tools will help you to acquire and develop the skills you need to counter your desire to gamble in your daily life. These exercises will also assist you in mastering difficult situations where you may be tempted to gamble.

Steps of the Program

Pretreatment assessment

Treatment (approximately  sessions) Session 

Motivational enhancement

Sessions  and 

Behavioral interventions:

Chain of behaviors linked to excessive gambling High-risk situations

Behavioral strategies to adopt

Sessions  to 

Cognitive interventions:

Analysis of a gambling session

Definition of chance

Importance of the inner dialogue

Presentation of the gambling traps

Awareness to erroneous cognitions

Recognition and modification of erroneous cognitions

Sessions  and  Relapse prevention

Posttreatment assessment Follow-ups

This workbook contains all the forms, worksheets, and exercises you will need to participate in this treatment program. You will move through this book under the direction of your therapist. Each chapter includes a list of goals and is focused on specific methods or techniques to help you assess


your problem, understand it, and modify your thoughts, feelings, and be- haviors. Interactive forms and worksheets are included in each chapter where they are introduced. Additional copies can be downloaded from the TreatmentsThatWorkTM Web site at http://www.oup.com/us/ttw. Follow your therapist’s instructions for use of these forms. Homework exercises are listed at the end of each chapter and will be assigned by your therapist.


Chapter 2

Pretreatment Assessment


Pretreatment Assessment

To complete assessment questionnaires

Before officially beginning this program, your therapist will want to work with you to complete several different assessment measures. A detailed assess- ment enables your therapist to determine the severity of your gambling problem with regard to frequency and intensity, while taking into account the consequences you and those around you have experienced because of your gambling. Furthermore, pretreatment assessment is a necessary step for your therapist to tailor a treatment plan that fits with your specific needs.

The Diagnostic Interview for Pathological Gambling

Gambling-Related Questions

Your therapist will begin your assessment by asking you a number of ques- tions from the Diagnostic Interview for Pathological Gambling (DIPG). This questionnaire will help both you and your therapist determine whether you meet the criteria for pathological gambling.

The five questions on page 6 help your therapist to quickly obtain infor- mation regarding your desire to gamble in the past week, the number of times you gambled, the time spent gambling, as well as the amount of money spent gambling during the last week.

You will complete this exercise during your session.


Gambling-Related Questions

For questions  and , circle the number that corresponds to the way that you have felt over the past week. Perceived Control

. To what extent do you feel that your gambling problem is resolved or under control?

 —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —– %

Not at all A little Moderately A lot Totally resolved resolved

Urge to Gamble

. To what extent have you felt the urge to gamble in the past week?

 —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —– %

Not at all A little Moderately A lot Totally

Gambling Frequency

. How many times have you gambled in the past week?

4. How much time (hours and minutes) have you spent gambling during the past week? 5. How much money have you wagered during the past week?

Perceived Self-Efficacy Questionnaire


You will describe the situations you consider the most risky for you and then estimate the extent to which you believe you are able to resist the urge to gamble if you find yourself in one of these situations. The exercise on page 7 will allow your therapist to determine which situations need to be tended to and to create a behavioral intervention plan adapted to your needs.

Your therapist will go over the results of your assessments with you. To- gether you will determine your goals for treatment. Your therapist may want to further explore some of the material you brought up. This phase is important.


Perceived Self-Efficacy Questionnaire

Please describe your high-risk situations for gambling excessively (for example: “when I am bored and have nothing to do” or “when I just had an argument with my boss”). Then, indicate on a scale of  to  your level of confi- dence in controlling your gambling habits if you faced these situations at the present time.

Situation 1

If you had to face this situation at the present time, to what extent would you have confidence in controlling your gambling habits?

 ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  Not at all A little Moderately A lot Totally

Situation 2

If you had to face this situation at the present time, to what extent would you have confidence in controlling your gambling habits?

 ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  Not at all A little Moderately A lot Totally

Situation 3

If you had to face this situation at the present time, to what extent would you have confidence in controlling your gambling habits?

 ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  Not at all A little Moderately A lot Totally


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Chapter 3

Session 1


■ ■

To enhance your motivation to change

To clarify your treatment goals

In this session, and throughout the rest of the treatment program, you will need to work to keep your motivation high. High motivation is key to suc- cess. Work with your therapist to complete the Advantages and Disadvan- tage exercise on page 10. This will help you to see the negative effects that gambling has on your life. This worksheet will also help you to realize the benefits of stopping gambling.

Why Do You Gamble and Why Do You Want to Stop?

Your Treatment Goals

The three exercises on pages 11–13 will help you think more closely about the reasons why you gamble in the first place, and why you want to change your behavior.

The two exercises on pages 14 and 15 are designed to help you become aware of how much gambling occupies your life. At this stage, gambling takes up a large part of your time, energy, and financial resources. You are likely ignoring, or at least paying less attention to, other areas of your life, like work and family. The first pie chart included here will show you just how big a part gambling plays in your life right now. After completing it, fill out the second chart and visualize how much you want gambling to be represented at the end of treatment.


Advantages and Disadvantages

POSITIVE ASPECTS OF GAMBLING (the benefits that gambling gives me)

NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF STOPPING GAMBLING (what I lose if I stop gambling)

NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES OF GAMBLING (current and potential for the future)


ADVANTAGES OF STOPPING GAMBLING (what I gain if I stop gambling)



What I Like About Gambling


What I Hate About Gambling


Here Are the Reasons Why I Want to Stop Gambling


Gambling’s Place in My Life Today

Using this circle, create a “pie chart” to indicate the portion of your life currently taken up by:

• gambling

• your work

• your family

• your other leisure activities

• your social life

• other priorities (list)


Gambling’s Place in My Life at the End of Treatment

Using this circle, create a “pie chart” to indicate the portion of your life you would like to be taken up by each of these at the end of treatment.

• gambling

• your work

• your family

• your other leisure activities

• your social life

• other priorities (list—include new ones if you like)


Daily Monitoring


A central part of this program is record-keeping or daily monitoring. Some- times, it is hard for a gambler to acknowledge the full extent of his or her gambling problem. Keeping a daily record of your gambling activities will help you become conscious of your problem. It will quantify the intensity of your desire to gamble and the large sums of money you have lost. The Daily Self-Monitoring Diary on the following page enables you to monitor your progress throughout treatment. As time goes on, you will be able to see the changes that take place and the progress you’re making.

Use the diary every day to rate how in control you felt of your gambling, as well as your desire to gamble, on a scale from  to . Indicate the number of times you gambled during each day, the number of hours you spent gambling, and the amount of money you lost. Write about the feel- ings you had throughout the day and any event that may have provoked your urge to gamble. Since you will complete a diary on a daily basis, you may photocopy the sample included here or download multiple copies at the TreatmentsThatWorkTM Web site at http://www.oup.com/us/ttw.

Complete the following exercises:

✎ What I Like About Gambling

✎ What I Hate About Gambling

✎ Here Are the Reasons Why I Want to Stop Gambling

✎ Gambling’s Place in My Life Today

✎ Gambling’s Place in My Life at the End of Treatment

Begin using the Daily Self-Monitoring Diary and complete one each day from now to the next session.


/ /







Daily Self-Monitoring Diary


. To what extent do I perceive that my gambling


. What is my desire to gamble today?


. To what extent do I perceive myself as being

able to abstain from gambling?


. How much time (hours & minutes) did I spend

. Did I gamble today?


. How much money did I spend on gambling,

. Specify your state of mind or the particular events of

excluding wins?

the day.

not at all a little moderately very much completely

problem is under control?

nonexistent weak average high very high

not at all a little moderately very much completely


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Chapter 4

Sessions 2 & 3


Risky Situations

Exposure to Gambling

■ ■

To understand the chain of events that leads to excessive gambling, and the importance of high-risk situations in this chain

To increase your awareness of high-risk situations

To help you identify concrete strategies that can be used to avoid high-risk situations

To learn the five steps to effective problem-solving

Over the next two sessions with your therapist, you will work to identify high-risk situations in which you are more than likely to gamble and to learn strategies for abstaining from gambling in these situations. A high-risk situation is the first step in the chain that leads to heavy gambling (Fig. .).

Risky situations can be divided into the following categories: exposure to gambling, financial situation, relationship problems, free time, and con- suming alcohol or drugs.

Being in a gambling establishment obviously represents an important risky situation. If you persistently frequent these places, you repeatedly foster your desire to gamble and make it difficult to resist. We understand that it is unrealistic to think that you can continually avoid gambling games, given their increasing availability and accessibility. However, did you know that you can voluntarily bar yourself from gaming establishments?

Certain casinos offer a program that allows gamblers to ban themselves from the establishment. In these self-exclusion programs, the gambler meets with the establishment’s security service and signs a self-exclusion form.



Thoughts associated with urges and temptations to gamble

Exposure: going to a gambling venue (e.g., casino, racetrack, bingo hall)

First bet “the first $”

Increasing the amounts bet

Figure 4.1



Exit the cycle: no more money or forced to leave.

Chasing losses, need to recover the lost money

Problem Gambling Behavioral Chain


The gambler’s photo is also taken so that security can identify him or her if he or she tries to enter the establishment again. The duration of self- exclusion varies according to the gambler’s request and the norms in place within the casino. Certain contracts last a few months, while others extend over several years.

If the places where you gamble do not offer this type of program, you can arrange to meet with the managers of the establishment to explain your problem and ask that they don’t let you in. If you find it impossible to self- exclude from certain places, you should expect to confront numerous situa- tions that risk you being exposed to gambling.


Your therapist will discuss with you in more detail the following strategies for dealing with these situations.

Finding Oneself Near a Gambling Establishment

Many gamblers report that they most often gamble after work. If this ap- plies to you, try the following suggestions:

■ Change your route and ensure that the gambling establishment is not on your way home from work.

■ Systematically avoid going to places where it is possible for you to gamble.

Finding Oneself in a Gambling Establishment

If you find yourself in a gambling establishment despite your attempts to avoid it, your therapist may propose that you do the following:

■ Remain as far as possible from the video lottery terminals or the counter where lottery tickets are sold.

■ Avoid asking personnel or other clients about the output of video lottery terminals, the results of lottery drawings, or the re- sults of any other form of gambling game.

Finding Oneself Alone in a Gambling Establishment

For certain gamblers, the problem is not so much being in a gambling es- tablishment as it is going to one alone. You may find that you can go out to bars with friends without being tempted to gamble. When you are alone, however, you may feel a strong desire to gamble and be likelier to succumb to it. In this case, we suggest that you never go to gambling places alone.

Receiving an Invitation to Gamble

Receiving an invitation to go to a gambling establishment represents an- other risky situation that deserves consideration. If you find it difficult to refuse these invitations, your therapist will work with you to:


Financial Situation

■ Discuss your gambling problem with friends and family, and tell them that you are in the process of dealing with this difficulty. Let them know that they should avoid inviting you out to gambling establishments. If the majority of your friends are linked, closely or not, to your gambling activities, it is justifiable to make changes to certain relationships or to question them.

In addition to avoiding being exposed to gambling, you should restrict your access to money as much as possible. You can temporarily transfer the management of your money to a loved one or a third person, or engage the services of a financial consultant.

You may find it embarrassing to give control of your finances to someone else, but you will realize that in the short term, a little embarrassment is better than the risk of losing it all.

You can discuss with your therapist the possibility of hiring a financial con- sultant or an organization to teach you how to establish a budget according to your revenues and current expenses. Together, you and your consultant can assess your financial situation and decide what actions to take. If you settle your financial situation, you will be less preoccupied by the idea of gambling to make money and will be in a better position to continue with this program.

What to Do When You Have Money

There are other ways you can deal with your financial situation if you can’t bring yourself to allow someone else to handle your money. Try to carry only a limited amount of pocket money with you. You can also try not keeping any cash on you at all. Here are some suggestions for restricting ac- cess to your money:

■ Cancel your credit cards.

■ Avoid the ATM and don’t get a bank card.

■ Learn to assert yourself and develop strategies to refuse such offers.


■ Limit access to your bank account by requesting that a co-signature be required for all cash withdrawals.

■ Give clear instructions to friends, family, and owners of gambling establishments that they are not to lend you any money.

If you receive a regular paycheck, or if you sometimes receive an inflow of money from other sources, you can:

■ Sign up for direct deposit with your company.

■ Have a close friend or relative accompany you when you deposit

money into your bank account.

■ Give your paycheck to your spouse or other trusted person.

■ Plan the payday scenario in advance: plan all of the day’s activi- ties and each movement in detail.

■ Warn a friend or relative of the next arrival of money and discuss solutions.

■ Give another person the responsibility of picking up the mail so as not to be in direct contact with checks or bills received.

What to Do When You Don’t Have Money

Lack of money is as risky a situation as is access to money. There are sev- eral risky situations that are directly linked to a lack of financial resources. Here are a few:

■ Lacking money to pay for rent, food, and clothing

■ Receiving a bill

■ Having lost the evening before

■ Wanting to buy a birthday present for a loved one

■ Being invited to an outing or a leisure activity and not having enough money to participate

How can you decrease this financial stress? Simply through communica- tion: you must discuss your gambling problem with friends and family.


Relationship Difficulties

Often, pathological gambling leads to a deterioration of the gambler’s so- cial network. Certain of your relationships may have ended because of your gambling. Now that you have decided to stop gambling, you may likely face isolation and loneliness. Your therapist will help you to progres- sively resume contact with your friends and family. Do not hesitate to ex- press your feelings on this issue. What is your goal? How would you go about solving this problem? Ask your therapist to help you out.

Lack of Occupations and Activities

Consuming Alcohol or Drugs

Once you stop gambling, you will find that all of a sudden you have a lot of free time that you must occupy. What were your activities and interests before gambling took up all of your time? Do you have any passions or hobbies? As gambling became increasingly important in your life, you likely neglected or completely abandoned other activities that you once found pleasurable. You may find it relatively easy to find new pastimes and to resume the activities you gave up. Keeping yourself active avoids peri- ods of idleness during which you are likely to be flooded with thoughts about gambling.

If you have always used gambling to fill a void and don’t really have an idea of where to start in terms of getting involved with other activities and pas- times, your therapist will help you to make a list of activities (new or other- wise) that are accessible and that are likely to interest you. Your list should include activities that you can do alone, as well as those that require the presence of other people.

Consuming alcohol or drugs can greatly reduce your willpower to resist gambling. The effects of alcohol can impair your perception and prevent you from becoming aware of the seriousness of beginning or continuing to gamble. We strongly encourage you to decrease your consumption of al- cohol or drugs while participating in this program.


My High-Risk Situations

Use the following checklist to identify the situations where your urge to gamble is particularly intense. According to your own experience, would you say that you tend to gamble heavily:

when you expose yourself to gambling? □ when you are low on/out of money? □ when you are experiencing relationship difficulties? □ when you consume alcohol or drugs? □ when you have no other activities to do and feel bored? □ when you have to deal with daily problems and unpleasant emotions

(e.g., frustration, feeling of failure, sadness, disappointment)? □

Daily Problems (Frustration, Failure, Rejection)

Certain gamblers experience difficulties that are not specific to gambling, and these problems can cause the gambler to relapse. An inability to deal with daily problems and a lack of problem-solving skills can lead to a de- sire to escape.

The problems that we refer to here can take on diverse forms. They are difficulties or events in our daily lives, from problems at work to situations of conflict at home. Clearly, we speak of any problematic situation that leads to anger, frustration, sadness, or discouragement.

You can use the problem-solving steps and the problem-solving exercise found at the end of this chapter to deal with any of the difficulties you face in your daily life. Your therapist will discuss these in more detail with you.


Knowing the high-risk situations that apply to you allows you to develop strategies to address them. The two most effective strategies are avoidance and management. In some cases, you can easily avoid risks (for example, drinking alcohol before you gamble), while others are more difficult to get around (no one is beyond experiencing problems with other people, for ex- ample). It is therefore very important to learn to deal with high-risk situa- tions you cannot avoid. This is what you will learn to do, with the help of your therapist.

Strategies to Help Avoid High-Risk Situations

Here is a list of strategies that many people use to help control their gambling habits. Read them carefully and decide those that might work for you.

. Strategies to avoid unwanted exposure to gambling

■ Avoid being near places where you can gamble outside your des-

ignated hours.

■ Change your route to ensure that a gambling venue is not on

your way.

■ Avoid asking the staff or other clients how the slots are paying

out, about lottery results, or about results from any other form

of gambling.

■ Avoid being alone in a gambling venue.

. Strategies to improve your financial situation

■ Restrict your access to money (cash, credit, and ATMs).

■ Temporarily assign the management of your finances to a signifi-

cant other.

■ Ask a significant other to manage your deposits and payments.

■ Get help from a credit counselor or an agency that can help you

with your budget.

■ Learn how to develop a budget that fits your income and


■ Make firm plans to pay off your debts (starting with the most

urgent ).


■ Keep very little money on you (strict minimum).

■ Cancel your credit cards.

■ Cut up your debit cards.

■ Designate a co-signer for your bank withdrawals.

■ Give a clear message to friends and family not to give you per-

sonal loans.

■ Arrange for an automatic deposit for your paycheck.

■ Take someone with you when making bank deposits.

■ Hand your paychecks over to someone you trust.

■ Plan non-gambling activities around payday.

■ Inform a significant other about incoming money (e.g., income

tax refund).

■ Ask someone else to get the mail in order to limit your access to

checks and income.

. Strategies to work out relationships with others

■ Identify a significant person (e.g., parent, work colleague) who

has strong assertive and communication skills, and take the time

to observe and learn from that person.

■ Participate in Gamblers Anonymous (GA).

■ Join a new leisure, educational, or recreational activity.

. Strategies to control the effects of alcohol or drugs on your gambling

■ Drink only nonalcoholic beverages when you are in a gambling


■ Stay at home or at a friend’s when you want to drink alcohol.

■ When you go to gambling venues, always go with someone who

knows that your gambling problem is linked with alcohol or drug use.

. Strategies to help with boredom

■ Find some new stimulating activities (off-road cycling, in-line

skating ).

■ Do some volunteer work.

■ Play games of skill (e.g., billiards [without gambling!], golf ).

■ Make a detailed schedule to help yourself with time manage-

ment and with your activities.


Dealing With My High-Risk Situations

In the spaces below, describe the high-risk situations that affect you the most, and indicate how you might deal with them.

A. Situation :

My strategy:

B. Situation :

My strategy:

C. Situation :

My strategy:

D. Situation :


Dealing With My High-Risk Situations continued My strategy:

E. Situation :

My strategy:

F. Situation :

My strategy:

G. Situation :

My strategy:


Five Steps for Problem-Solving

1. Clearly Identify the Problem/Stop and Think

Give yourself time to reflect on the problem so that you avoid impulsive reactions. Pausing allows you to clearly identify what the problem is. Spend- ing enough time defining a problem often gives better answers in the end. This is not always easy, especially when we are dealing with the consequences of the problem. At such times, it can be useful to ask yourself the follow- ing questions:

■ “What is it about this situation that I do not like?”

■ “What exactly needs to change?”

■ “What do I want?”

■ “What is my goal? What would it look like if the problem were no longer here?”

■ “What are the obstacles?”

■ “What prevents me from attaining my goal?”

Another approach is to “begin with the end in mind.” Imagine you got up one morning and the problem was no longer there. How would you know it was gone? What would be different? How would people act differently? Paint a picture of your world without the problem, and ask yourself what changes you can make that might move you in that direction. In this con- text, a change involves doing something differently, or thinking about something in a different way. Any change you adopt has the potential to affect the problem in a positive way.

2. List Different Possible Solutions

There are a number of ways to address any problem. To begin the process of identifying answers, list as many possible solutions (i.e., changes that you can make) as you can without judging or evaluating their potential effectiveness. The more possible solutions you can generate, the more likely you are to solve the problem and overcome the related obstacles. Here are some questions that can help to frame possible solutions:

■ “What can I do to resolve this problem?”


3. Assess Each Possibility

■ “How can I react? What can I do differently?”

■ “What can I tell myself ? Is there a more constructive way to in-

terpret the situation?”

At this stage, do not eliminate any solution because it seems impossible at

first glance. Later, if seen in another light, it could offer some advantage.

Before selecting your preferred solution, spend some more time evaluating the ones that seem more promising. For each of these possible solutions, explore the potential consequences using the following questions:

■ “What will happen if I decide to do this? What will change?”

■ “What are the advantages of this choice? How will it reduce the


■ “What are the disadvantages of this choice? What might go wrong?”

Again, we suggest that you write out the answers. This helps you state your answers in a more thoughtful way and will make it easier to select your final course of action.

You are now at the stage of making a choice. Review your statement of the problem and the various promising solutions you have written out. Select the one that appears to offer the best positive impact. This, in theory, will be the one that serves you the best. You will now need to test it in the real world.

4. Choose a Solution

5. Experiment With the Chosen Solution

If you give your solution a trial run and the results are satisfactory, excel- lent! If they do not have the expected effects, however, you will need to go back to your list of possible solutions. Choose another that might avoid the problems you encountered with the first, and give it a trial run, just as you did the first time. Continue to experiment in this way until you achieve a satisfactory result.




Here are some tips to consider as you strive to solve problems and make things better:

■ Consider enlisting a family member or a friend to help imple- ment your solution. Explain that you are trying to fix things and that his or her support or contribution could increase your chances for success.

■ Accept that it is sometimes possible only to reduce a problem, and not eliminate it altogether. When this happens, it is still progress and moves you in the direction you want to go.

■ On occasion, give things a bit of time to come around. Problems often take quite a while to develop, and so will turning them around.

To conclude, there is no miracle solution or perfect solution to any given problem. However, these steps offer a model that can help you solve some of the difficulties that have developed. At first, you may need to get famil- iar with this approach, but over time, you will notice that the more you have gone through the steps, the less time it will take. They will give you time to stop and think about the situations you face and to make effective decisions for you and your significant others.

Complete the following exercises:

✎ My High-Risk Situations

✎ Strategies to Help Me Avoid High-Risk Situations

✎ Dealing With My High-Risk Situations

✎ Five Steps for Problem-Solving (optional)

Continue to complete the Daily Self-Monitoring Diary.


Five Steps for Problem-Solving

Until you become familiar with this approach, we recommend that you take the time to write out each step of your problem-solving action plan. You may photocopy this exercise from the book or download multiple copies at the TreatmentsThatWorkTM Web site at http://www.oup.com/us/ttw.

. Identify clearly the problem/stop and think:

What is going on? Give details—try answering whichever of the following questions apply to the situation

you are addressing. What is the problem?

With whom do I have a conflict?

What do I dislike about the situation?

Exactly what must change?



Problem-Solving Exercise continued What is my goal?

What are the obstacles?

. List possible solutions:

Be uncritical at this stage—list all solutions you can think of. In this context, a solution is a change that you can make. Changes most often include doing something differently (e.g., reacting in a different way) and thinking about something in a different way. Introducing changes to what you currently do will also change what happens, often for the better. Ask yourself the following questions to help come up with answers:

What can I do to solve this problem?

How can I act/react in a different way?


What could I think about in a different way?

. Evaluate each possibility:

Which solution appears most promising? What will happen if I decide to apply it? What are the advantages of this choice? Describe the disadvantages of each choice, and grade it with a code (+++, ++, +, -, –, —, X) to help sort things out.

Option :

Option :

Option :


Problem-Solving Exercise continued Option :

Option :

. Choose a solution:

Review your assessments and scores, and select the most promising option(s) to try.

Here is/are the selected solution(s):

. Try out the solution you have selected:

Here are the results or the effectiveness of trying out my solution, along with my comments:

If the solution you have selected does not give the expected results, go back to step  and consider another option.


Chapter 5

Session 4


Analyzing a Gambling Session

■ ■

To discuss in detail your most recent gambling session

To identify the erroneous thoughts that you had before, during, and after the gambling session


During this session, your therapist will ask you to imagine your last gambling experience and will ask you numerous questions about it. This exercise will help you to realize the errors in your thinking that led you to gamble at that time. Remember, one of the main goals of this program is to help you change your erroneous thoughts about gambling. In order to change your thoughts, you have to recognize them first.

Talk with your therapist about the context, the places, the people, the events, or any other element that has a close or more distant relationship to the gambling session you are discussing. Be specific and give as many details as possible about your decisions, actions, and any events that occurred while gambling. Talk about amounts wagered, and describe or explain changes in your betting style or strategy, the different choices made, and decisions taken regarding the game. Discuss your reactions following a win or a loss. Focus on what happened after the gambling session, and express what you felt at the end of the gambling session and in the hours that followed. Your therapist will guide you through this exercise.

✎ Continue applying strategies to avoid/manage high-risk situations.

✎ If needed, continue practicing problem-solving skills.

Continue to complete the Daily Self-Monitoring Diary.


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Chapter 6

Sessions 5–7


What Is Chance?

■ ■

To understand the concept of chance and the difference between games of chance and games of skill

To become aware of your inner dialogue regarding gambling

To explore the influence of this inner dialogue on your decisions to gamble

To review a range of gambling traps and learn to recognize erroneous thoughts

■ Chance means that the outcome of an event is impossible to predict.

■ Chance also means that it is impossible to control the outcome of

the event.

Because of these characteristics, there is no way of knowing when you will win, or if you will win, at a game of chance.

Games of Chance vs. Games of Skill

Games of chance are those in which mathematical calculation or the abil- ity of the player has no part in determining the outcome. Examples include /, Super , Bingo (including e-Bingo), instant lotteries (“scratch and win”), slot machines, and roulette.

Games of skill are those in which the player’s ability has, or is likely to have, some influence on the outcome. Examples include billiards, golf, archery, hockey, badminton, and tennis.


Two thoughts; two interpretations

1. I feel that she avoided me, that she pretended not to see me.

2. I feel that she is deep in thought about something. She’s probably distracted and didn’t see me.

The situation

Two reactions

I am walking down the street and I see someone I know well. She doesn’t wave or say hello.

Figure 6.1

Two interpretations of the same situation 􏰀 two different reactions

She is so impolite! This is no way to treat people…that’s the last time I talk to her!

I hope nothing serious has happened to her.

The Importance of Our Thoughts and Perceptions on How We React to Situations

Your Inner Dialogue

To understand how we interpret situations, see Figure ., which presents two different interpretations of the same situation. Once you understand this process, we will then introduce how the perception of a game may de- termine how we cope with this gambling activity.

Because it is not always possible to avoid high-risk situations, you must learn how to deal with situations that are unavoidable and unpredictable. Focusing on the thoughts or “inner dialogue” you have during high-risk situations is the first step in developing new skills needed to effectively manage them.

Your therapist will introduce the ABCD model to you. A completed ex- ample is shown in Figure .. A blank exercise is also included on page . You may photocopy the exercise from this book or download multiple copies at the TreatmentsThatWorkTM Web site at http://www.oup.com/us/ttw.



Automatic Thought That Leads to Gambling More Than I Planned

C Behavior

I tell myself I can gamble a small part of this money and come out ahead.

I gamble more and spend more than I planned to. I end up losing much more than I can afford.


High-Risk Situation

I get my paycheck

Figure 6.2

Example of completed ABCD Exercise

ABCD Model


I feel upset and guilty. I don’t have enough money and will have to do without for the rest of the week.

The Gambling Traps

The ABCD model works in the following way: (A) high-risk situations generate (B) thoughts that lay the foundations for (C) behavior in the form of gambling. This behavior, should it involve spending more time or money than planned, will result in one or more (D) consequences. Consequences can be either positive or negative, and you are trying to eliminate the neg- ative ones by stopping or cutting back on your gambling. Note also that some consequences are immediate and others are more long term. Positive consequences tend to be more immediate, while negative ones may appear immediately or after a while, and very often extend over the longer term.

At this stage, move your focus to the notion of choice. Through the ABCD Exercise included on page , you will recognize some of the thoughts that were behind your choice to gamble when you found yourself in a high-risk situation. It is these thoughts that led you to gamble. If these thoughts did not occur, or if they were intercepted, then gambling would not have followed.

In the heat of gambling, it is common to feel that your chances of winning are almost certain. You hope to beat the odds and hit the jackpot, and win- ning is all you are focused on. This is the precise point where emotion takes


ABCD Exercise—Your Turn


Automatic Thought That Leads to Gambling More Than I Planned

C Behavior

AD High-Risk Situation Consequence


What Is Chance?

over from reason and sells you on the idea that your turn to win is about to come. And once this idea takes hold, you continue to bet more and more.

This reading reviews some of the thoughts and ideas that lie behind such emotions. They are usually false and are known as “gambling traps” be- cause they cause you to lose much more than you planned to or can afford.

To begin with, it is important to understand the difference between emo- tions when you are not gambling as opposed to emotions when you are.

When you are not gambling, you are emotionally detached and in what is known as a “cold” situation. Your thoughts tend to be more realistic and more accurately reflect how luck or chance can work against you. But when the desire to gamble strikes, you become emotionally aroused and move into a “hot” situation. This is when you are likely to fall into emotional and mental traps, and when you most need to resist thoughts saying that you are likely to win.

By understanding the emotional and mental traps that are part of gambling, you will gain powerful tools to protect yourself from heavy losses.

The first step is to understand the true meaning of luck or “chance.” Chance is something that you cannot predict or control. This means that:

■ You cannot foresee the outcome, and

■ You cannot control or influence the outcome.

In games of skill (such as golf, darts, soccer, or hockey), the results depend very much on the amount of effort and perseverance you invest. And you can improve through practice: the more you practice, the better you be- come, very often making you better than someone who doesn’t practice.

In games of chance, it is impossible to develop or improve winning strate- gies or to influence outcomes. There simply are no skills involved, and so there is no way to improve your skills or make you better than anyone else. Whenever anyone does win, it is only as a result of chance.

Casinos and slots venues only offer games of chance (although they may be disguised as games of skill). For example, even though you are allowed to choose your number when playing roulette, it is impossible to control or


predict where the ball will stop. This same reality also applies to slot ma- chines: no “ability” is required other than putting in money and pressing the button. You have no control over the outcome, despite design features that give you “choices” and encourage you to believe otherwise.

Why You Can’t Improve in Games of Chance

There are two main reasons why gamblers think they can improve their chances of winning. First, they believe that outcomes (winning or losing) are somehow linked to previous results. Second, they believe there are things they can do to improve their odds. The following sections show why both beliefs are completely false and how they form the basis for gambling problems.

Rule 1: The Independence of Outcomes

All games of chance operate within an absolute law known as the “inde- pendence of outcomes.” This means that each play is a separate “event” and is in no way influenced by earlier plays or events—that is, it is independ- ent of all previous outcomes.

Our first inclination before engaging in any form of gambling is to watch and look for patterns. It is natural to assume that studying something will reveal strategies that can improve our chances of winning. The truth is, however, that observation only lets us see things that are not there; all strate- gies are completely useless. The reason why is illustrated by the “red marble experiment.”

A single red marble is set among a thousand white ones in a bin (much like those in lottery drawings that can be turned by a handle on the side). The task is to close your eyes, select a marble from the bin, and bet on your chances of selecting the red marble. If you select a white marble, you lose. You then have to put it back into the bin, which is well stirred by turning the handle a few times, and try again.

Imagine now that you have drawn  times in a row, and on each attempt you drew a white marble. After these  unsuccessful attempts, are you due (or more likely) to pick the red marble on the st draw? The answer, of course, is “no.”


This type of gambling is known as a replacement draw. Every white marble that is drawn is put back into the bucket. Before your first draw, your chances of picking the red marble were , to . When you put the first white marble you drew back in the bin (and stirred it well to mix them all up again), you reset the game to ,-to- odds again. You can see how you always have one chance in a thousand of winning. Even after betting , , or  times, you are no “closer” to selecting the red marble than you were the very first time. And, let’s face it, the chances of picking the red marble in ,-to- odds are pretty slim, as every gambling provider knows.

Applying the Facts

The hard facts are that the number of attempts and your history of losing in no way influence your chances of winning on any try. This is what “in- dependence of outcomes” means.

“What if I draw , times?” you might ask. “Am I likely to win?” Again, the answer is not what you would hope for. In a replacement draw, the odds are that you would have to draw many more than a thousand times before you are likely to get your first win. Try it with some friends: get a bag and place  white marbles and  red one in it. Let each person draw, and then put the selected marble back in the bag. Shake it and let someone draw again. Record how many draws are made versus the number of wins in this replacement draw with “fabulous” odds of only  to ! You will be dismayed to learn that -to- odds in no way means that someone wins every  draws.

Now let’s apply this information to the slots. As you know, players often vary how quickly they play, the amount they bet, the precise moment they push the button, and so on. The red marble experiment shows us that whether you make  draws quickly or slowly, vary the amount you bet on each draw, or close your eyes waiting for an inspired moment to make your draw in no way alters your chances of winning.

The “independence of outcomes” means:

■ It is impossible to predict (or correctly anticipate) any outcome.

■ Your chances of winning get no better as you increase your num- ber of bets.


■ Each play is a completely new game.

■ The probability of winning always remains the same. Bottom line: you never “get closer” to winning.

Recognizing Traps

Gambling venues only offer games of chance. In so doing, they ensure that the law of independence of outcomes always applies, and you can never improve your performance.

Gambling traps occur when people’s thoughts take over and tell them it is somehow possible to improve their chances. Very often, such thoughts lead to betting more money that was planned or could be afforded. They are the paths to impaired control and gambling problems.

Here are some direct quotes showing how gamblers overlook the inde- pendence of outcomes and fall into traps:

■ “At roulette, you are in a better position after three even num- bers come up in a row. This means that a series of odd numbers are due soon.”

■ “At roulette, I bet the same number all night long. I start by looking at the summary table and choose one that hasn’t come up in a long time. Then, I stick with it: each loss means the likelihood of it coming up gets nearer!”

■ “It is better to find out how a slot machine has done during the day. Playing a machine that hasn’t paid out all day is a smart strategy!”

■ “When the blackjack dealer has been lucky many times in a row, I increase the amount of my bet because he is due to lose.”

At the slots, many players believe it’s preferable to change machines after five or six plays if it doesn’t pay out. Thinking this way suggests two possi- bilities:

■ The machine keeps track of the bets and past payouts in order to “decide” it’s time for the next payout.


Rule 2: Illusions of Control

■ Wins are determined in advance and put on a “conveyor belt”— each losing play moves the next win one step closer, and winning is just a matter of persevering.

But as we now know, both “theories” are completely wrong and are traps. Think back to the red marble experiment. The marbles don’t keep track of your losses and “decide” they’ll push the red one into your hand (possibil- ity  above). Nor are slots like gumball machines, where the foil-wrapped winner gets closer to the delivery chute with each loss (possibility  above).

With replacement draws, each play is independent of all past ones, and winning is all about chance. Also, keep in mind that your chances in any game are so small that you can never count on them.

These facts mean that every dollar spent over your limit is almost a guar- anteed loss.

A second critical fact in regaining control over your gambling is to recog- nize that you have no control over chance, and nothing you do will increase your chances of winning. Believing you can influence a gambling outcome is known as an “illusion of control.” The following sections review com- mon illusions of control for different games.

Slot Machines Illusions

Slot machines are designed to create illusions of control. Although all have similar electronics on the inside, each presents a different “face” to the player. This is where subtle traps are put in to create illusions of control. The de- signer’s skill is reflected in how difficult it is to resist the illusion.

For each play, the slot machine simply draws a random number using an electronic generator, and the outcome is coded as either a win (large or small) or a loss. This means that a random outcome is selected every time you press the play button. By pressing the button, all you do is generate the random number and reveal the outcome.


The amount you wager can alter the size of the potential pot but has no impact on the probability of winning. When you choose to press the but- ton has no impact. Nor does it serve any purpose to vary the amount you bet, hoping this will influence the programming of the machine. Regardless of any actions you take, the probability of winning on any play is the same.

At the slots, it’s an illusion to think that you can increase your chances by:

■ Observing a machine’s cycles or patterns of winning or losing

■ Choosing a machine by the amount paid out that day, as if there

are “full” or “empty” machines

■ Choosing a slot machine that just took another player’s money

■ “Testing” the machine with small initial bets

■ Pressing the button at a specific moment or betting on a pre- ferred machine

■ Changing bets or machines if the machine doesn’t pay

■ Letting the machine “rest” by changing games

■ Pressing the start button in different ways (e.g., changing your level of force, hitting it repeatedly, or changing your speed of betting )

■ Cashing in (or not) and believing either action might affect fu- ture outcomes

■ Betting more heavily when the machine is “starting to pay out”

■ Returning to the same machine the next day, having lost the

night before

■ Calculating in your mind the number of bets made, the time, and so forth

■ Observing payouts at nearby machines in order to decide the amount you bet

■ Using any trick, strategy, or system


Lottery Illusions

Although relatively inoffensive, lotteries promote a range of illusions of con- trol. Common examples are to think you can increase your chances of win- ning by:

■ Choosing numbers such as birthdays

■ Keeping track of winning numbers from previous drawings

■ Keeping the same numbers from drawing to drawing

■ Betting on lucky numbers

■ Placing numbers evenly on the betting form

■ Varying where tickets are purchased

■ Studying winning patterns of sports teams

Bingo Illusions

At bingo, common illusions are to think you can increase your chances of winning by:

■ Choosing cards that have your favorite numbers on them

■ Marking numbers in a certain way

■ Choosing a table where nobody has won in a while

■ Choosing a table where several people have won recently

■ Not playing cards with certain numbers on them

■ Going to play with someone you consider to be lucky Blackjack Illusions

At blackjack, there is no better strategy than to follow the basic rules known to all players. Any other strategy puts you at a disadvantage in the long run. With this in mind, you really have no decisions to make, and it is an illu- sion to think you can increase your chances of winning by:

■ Trying to memorize or count cards

■ Taking the time to choose a particular table, seat, or dealer


■ Observing the cards dealt to other players in order to decide whether to draw another of your own

■ Observing the style of other players before starting to play

■ Slowing or speeding up the pace of the game

■ Placing very high bets

Roulette Illusions

The arrangement of the numbers inside the roulette wheel can inspire thoughts about control, and introducing the croupier into the equation al- lows for even more. The rolling of the ball encourages you to observe the croupier’s technique in hopes of better predicting the outcome.

At roulette, it is an illusion to think you can increase your chances of win- ning by:

■ Observing the croupier’s rolling technique (e.g., rhythm, regular- ity, continuity)

■ Choosing a particular table, seat, or croupier

■ Watching previous rolls and keeping count of outcomes

■ Betting on “lucky” numbers

■ Watching a player who is winning and placing similar bets

■ Increasing the size of your bet if the ball stops close to your pre- ferred numbers

Horse Racing Illusions

Research has shown that experienced horse gamblers (“handicappers”) achieve the same level of payout as rookies. The bottom line is that despite studying an impressive amount of statistical information, they lose just as much as someone who selects horses on a random basis. Yet, they are con- sidered “specialists,” even though their financial situations often turn out to be disastrous.


Horse betters embrace a range of illusions, each implying that chance is a predictable and logical “science.” They are convinced that their skills im- prove with time and study and that experience plays in their favor. Many such “experts” dream of earning a living within their chosen “science.”

When betting on the horses, it is an illusion to think you can increase your chances of winning by:

■ Studying statistics from previous races

■ Calculating future race times from a horse’s previous times

■ Playing the “rebound”—a horse that paid out terribly will do better in the next

■ Assessing the race distance, the track condition, or type of sur- face (grass or dirt)

■ Analyzing the physical attributes of the horse (e.g., muscularity, way of standing)


Superstitions are ritualistic, magical, or “sacred” thoughts and actions be- lieved to have the power to overcome chance. They tap into gamblers’ strong desires to win and mark a transition into mysticism in the effort to predict wins.

Here are quotes for common gambling-related superstitions:

■ “The st of the month is lucky, as it is made up of three times the number seven.”

■ “I start to win immediately after eating a cheese sandwich. I know it sounds odd, but it works all the time!”

■ “When I don’t try to win, I do. Wanting to win undermines my luck and makes me lose. I need to pull back on desire and get into the zone.”



My Own Traps


At this point, you can appreciate that if you do not counter erroneous thoughts, particularly when you are emotionally aroused by the desire to gamble (i.e., in a “hot” situation), you are more likely to incur substantial losses.

Failing to control these thoughts allows you to develop a false feeling of personal effectiveness, and to believe that all the time and money invested in gambling is bound to be rewarded one day. By maintaining these false beliefs, you lay the foundations for impaired control, problem gambling, and harm to your health, social, and financial well-being.

Based on the reading you have just completed, describe on pages ‒ the traps you have already fallen into.

✎ Review the concept of chance and the differences between games of chance and games of skill.

✎ Review the section on the importance of our thoughts and perceptions.

✎ Complete the ABCD Exercise.

✎ Read “The Gambling Traps.”

✎ Complete My Own Traps exercise.

✎ Continue applying strategies to avoid/manage high-risk situations.

✎ If needed, continue practicing problem-solving skills.

Continue to complete the Daily Self-Monitoring Diary.


My Traps: Slot Machines

Trap :

Trap :

Trap :

Trap :

Trap :

Trap :


My Traps: Bingo

Trap :

Trap :

Trap :

Trap :

Trap :

Trap :


My Traps: Horse Racing

Trap :

Trap :

Trap :

Trap :

Trap :

Trap :


My Traps: Lottery Tickets

Trap :

Trap :

Trap :

Trap :

Trap :

Trap :


Chapter 7

Sessions 8–10


Challenging Your Erroneous Thoughts

■ ■

To recognize the erroneous cognitions that affect your gambling

To develop skills for challenging and casting doubt on the erroneous

thoughts that lead to excessive gambling

To understand and realize that you have the power to decide to gamble or not

It’s My Call

Challenging erroneous thoughts is the essence of the entire therapeutic process. In these next few sessions, you will work at modifying sponta- neous thoughts that cause you to gamble or that encourage you to continue gambling. The practical exercises you will complete at this point in the pro- gram allow you to organize your thoughts and to act upon them. The more you complete these exercises, the more you become capable of resisting your desire to gamble. You will learn to no longer let yourself be trapped by risky situations and by the erroneous ideas they provoke.

At the beginning of each of these sessions, you will relate the occasions where you managed to abstain from gambling despite a strong impulse otherwise. Little by little you will realize that you have the power to rebel against your desire to gamble.

The It’s My Call exercise on page  promotes recognition and integration of the relationship between thoughts and the decision whether to gamble


Automatic Thoughts That Lead to Gambling More Than Planned

New Thoughts That Let Me Control My Gambling

Behavior: The Course of Action I Choose

I could go for a few minutes and try a $20 bet just to check if I’m lucky today.

Let’s be honest. I know that if I gamble $20 and I lose it right away, I will continue to put money in the machine, to chase my money back. And if I gamble $20 and win, I will gamble it all.

I’ll take advantage of my husband being out to rent a “chick flick.” He hates romantic comedies.

High-Risk Situation

I’m at home. I’m alone. My husband is working. I know he won’t be back until late.


I’m so happy with myself. It has been a while since I’ve done something that enjoyable. I’m glad I decided not to surrender to my initial thought.

Figure 7.1

Example of completed It’s My Call exercise

or not. The objective of the exercise is to discover and modify your sponta- neous thoughts, which form the basis of the decision to gamble.

Complete the exercise based on a recent relapse episode or from one of your high-risk situations. Take each of your erroneous thoughts and re- place them with more accurate ones that reflect the realities of gambling and that are in line with your goal to stop gambling. Write down the new ideas in the column representing thoughts that give you control over your desire to gamble.

Over the next few sessions your therapist will review your completed exer- cises with you. You will complete as many exercises as there are times when you have felt the urge to gamble or have faced a risky situation. You may photocopy the exercise from this book or download multiple copies from the TreatmentsThatWorkTM Web site at http://www.oup.com/us/ttw.

A completed example of the exercise is shown in Figure ..


It’s My Call Exercise

Automatic Thoughts That Lead to Gambling More Than Planned

New Thoughts That Let Me Control My Gambling

Behavior: The Course of Action I Choose

High-Risk Situation Outcome



✎ Complete an It’s My Call exercise every time you experience the urge to gamble or face a risky situation.

✎ Continue applying strategies to avoid/manage high-risk situations.

✎ If needed, continue practicing problem-solving skills.

Continue to complete the Daily Self-Monitoring Diary.


Chapter 8

Sessions 11 &12


Understanding Relapse

■ ■ ■ ■

To understand relapse as a normal process

To realize the possibility of a slip or relapse

To develop strategies that will help to prevent slips or a relapse

To establish what to do in case of a slip or relapse and discuss emer- gency measures to take

Relapse can be defined a number of ways. For some, a relapse means a re- turn to old gambling habits. For others, gambling only once in a while cor- responds to relapse. According to us, relapse is a return to a gambling cycle or a loss of control in a gambling situation. Keep in mind that relapse is an integral part of a normal recovery process. Relapse is not an automatic sen- tence to a lifetime of problem gambling, and although relapse is common with addiction, it is preventable.

Throughout this program, you have worked long and hard to develop effec- tive coping responses to deal with high-risk situations. Having this skill de- creases the probability of relapse significantly. Each time you are able to deal effectively with a high-risk situation, you will feel more confident in your ability to abstain from gambling. You will experience a sense of in- creased control over your gambling behavior. As time goes on, you will find it easier and easier to resist the urge to gamble.

Relapse Prevention: Sophie’s Relapse

Sophie has been on a diet for the past  months and has lost  pounds. To achieve this goal, she had to modify her eating habits and start exercising


regularly. These  months have not always been easy and have required many sacrifices, but Sophie is proud of the results. She feels she has made some real progress: she feels better about herself, she can wear clothes that hadn’t fit for years, and people regularly compliment her appearance.

One Tuesday night, when alone in front of the television, Sophie had an irresistible urge for cheesecake. Once the idea had taken hold, she couldn’t erase it from her mind, and the thought became unbearable. Her diet al- lowed for dessert only once a week, and she had already eaten her quota. She tried not to think about it, but the idea of a nice piece of cheesecake (with raspberry topping) haunted her, and she wanted nothing more than to go to a restaurant, sit down, and ask for some.

. At this point, what steps could Sophie take to avoid a relapse?

. What might she say to herself to help avoid a relapse?

Unfortunately, while Sophie was trying to resist the urge for cheesecake, she saw a Sara Lee commercial. The timing was too much: she got up and headed to the nearest grocery store. On the way, she felt guilty, but put such thoughts out of mind. Once there, she decided to buy a family-size New York-style cheesecake along with two pints of milk, and she returned



quickly home to devour it all. After she finished eating, Sophie felt sick and guilty. She was despondent and regretted giving in to her urge.

. If you were in Sophie’s place after exceeding your limit, what would you do?

a) I would tell myself that all my efforts so far have been useless and that I’m a failure. I would head to the store to buy chocolate (since I am relapsing, what’s the difference?).

b) I would tell myself that a single slip does not erase all my efforts to date. I would try to figure out why I failed to resist this one urge, and plan how to deal with similar ones in the future. Then, I would continue with my eating limits and exercises the next day.

From this story, what do you think is the best way to react should you ex- ceed your limits?

) ) ) )

If you find yourself breaking your gambling limits on a particular occasion, try viewing it as a slip rather than a relapse. People often experience slips when trying to change well-established habits. The trick to managing them is:

■ First, define them as slips (not full-blown relapses).

■ Second, shift your thinking to what you might do differently if

similar circumstances occur in the future.

. If you were to experience a relapse or a slip, what do you imagine it would look like?


Relapse Warning Signs

. Have you experienced a relapse/slip in the past? YES NO

If YES, briefly describe one and how you dealt with it (include a descrip-

tion of the high-risk situation and the thoughts that led to it).

. What do you think would most likely cause you to relapse over the next  months?

. List some steps you might take to help avoid experiencing a relapse. a)

b) c) d) e) f)

As indicated, it is common for people to slip when they are trying to change well-established habits. Occasionally exceeding your limits is known as a slip; going back to your original patterns of gambling is a relapse. Being aware of when you are more likely to slip or relapse is a key to pre- vention. The following signs often indicate that you are in danger of a slip or relapse:


. I am starting to react too much to stress.

. My friends and/or family are irritating me.

. I am distancing myself from my spouse, my family, my friends, my work, and so forth.

. Iamfeelingoverwhelmedbyloneliness,frustration,anger,andstress. . I get angry too easily.

. I am starting to cut myself off from others.

. I feel depressed a lot of the time.

. I’m no longer able to get myself interested in anything. . I find myself living mostly in the past or in the future.

. I daydream about how good things were in the past.

. I am going through periods of confusion, not knowing what to do or


. Ifindmyselfblamingotherpeopleandcircumstancesformyproblems. . Ifindmyselfcomplainingaboutmyfate,andfeellikeI’mavictimofit.

. My daily habits are deteriorating: irregular sleep (too much/not enough), work (overwhelming/not engaging), and difficulty getting up for my usual activities.

. Iamresistinggoingforhelpandtalkingaboutdealingwithmyproblems. . I sometimes wonder if returning to heavy gambling would be so bad,

because things are already unbearable.

. I am starting to consciously lie to people.

. I am starting to use more medication, alcohol, or drugs than usual.

. I am starting to spend time with friends who encourage heavy gambling.

. I am starting to tell myself that I am cured and am above my prob- lems of the past.

. I have instigated/am going through major change (e.g., loss, decep- tion, grief, job).

. I am becoming overly confident and losing sight of what I have learned in therapy.


If you are experiencing one or more of these signs, take preventive action. Take time to analyze what is happening and how it can lead to heavy gambling and problems. Try to apply your two key strategies:

■ Avoid high-risk situations.

■ Identify and correct your erroneous thoughts regarding gambling. If these strategies don’t seem to work, contact your therapist.

Emergency Measures Part I: Preventing a Slip Stay Calm!

Often, the first reaction to an urge or temptation to gamble heavily is to doubt whether you can resist it. This is normal and is not dangerous unless you allow yourself to follow through and give up control. The key is to keep control by regaining your calm and focus. Here are some steps to follow.

Step 1

Give yourself time: allow the temptation or urge to fully “arrive” and then “depart.”

Picture it as a wave on the ocean: it builds, reaches its peak, breaks, and subsides. This is exactly what happens to urges and temptations: if you do not respond, chances are they will disappear after a while.

Step 2

Describe the urges or temptations you are feeling; put them into words in your mind. Consider them as “wild horses” that want you to charge into old habits.

Step 3

Ask yourself, “What’s my bottom line?” How important is it to get your gambling under control? Recall that you are the one who chooses where to go. Make your choice.


Step 4

Go over the emergency card provided on page .

When experiencing these urges and temptations, it is always more difficult to keep your head “cold.” By definition, they move you into a “hot” state of mind. Giving yourself breathing space helps cool things down and al- lows you to refocus on your goals and why you adopted them in the first place.

Key Insight

Each time you resist an urge or temptation to gamble too much, you weaken its power. This is why it is hardest to do the first time you try. But once you succeed the first time, the second will be a little less difficult, and the third less difficult again. Over time, resisting the urges and temptations to exceed your limits becomes your new pattern of behavior and your key resource for success.

Emergency Measures Part 2: Managing a Slip The Myth of Instant Perfection

People who are trying to cut back on their gambling often find themselves in situations where they have exceeded their limits, either by playing too long or spending too much. Often, their first reaction is to feel guilty and blame themselves for giving in to the heat of the moment. Some go further and interpret the event as a sign of failure: they are tempted to abandon their efforts at control and to return to heavy gambling.

These are normal reactions and are not dangerous unless you allow your- self to follow through and let go of all control. It takes skill to deal with such thoughts and get back on track for your goal of controlled, problem- free gambling. This reading outlines some of the skills you can use to “man- age” experiences where you exceed your limits. There are two principal types of skill:

■ New ways of thinking about the experience so that it becomes a part of your learning process


■ New ways of acting as a result of the experience so that it is less likely to occur again in the future

The following key skills can help you better understand your slips and pre- pare yourself for managing them in the future.

1. Avoid Labeling Yourself as a Failure

A single episode of exceeding your limits cannot be considered a failure. It does not mean that you have no willpower, that you are failing, or that your situation is hopeless. It is about a single event that you can avoid in the future. The most constructive interpretation is to see it as an opportu- nity to learn from a mistake.

2. Reinforce Your Commitment

Recognize that maintaining your motivation is the priority. You may feel like abandoning everything in the belief that you have ruined it all. Again, this is a normal reaction. To counter these feelings, try the following:

■ Recall your bottom line: Go over your reasons for cutting back on gambling, the exercise on the advantages and disadvantages of gambling and cutting back, and the long-term benefits of such a change. Ask yourself: Are these worth abandoning be- cause you run into difficulty?

■ Have a discussion with yourself: Recognize the one part of you that wants to cut back on gambling and the other that wants to “lay down and surrender.” Remember that you are changing your habits first and foremost for yourself, and ask which part will prevail. This is a way of taking care of yourself and your life.

■ Review your efforts so far: Recognize the progress you have made to date. Think about the times when you had the urge to exceed your limits and successfully resisted. Ask yourself what helped you most on those occasions.

■ Reframe the event: People who succeed see setbacks as “slips” on the path to their goal. A slip is part of any difficult change process. Resolve to learn what you can from it and get back on course.


3. Analyze Your Slip

Rather than giving in to feeling guilty for what has happened, choose a course that makes it easier to react effectively.

■ Review the slip:

Where were you?

What was happening? What was the time of day? Who was with you?

What was your mood?

What were you doing when the urge to gamble intensified?

Which thoughts started and fed your urge to gamble?

Which thoughts “gave you permission” to exceed your limits?

Were there warning signs before the slip? If so, what were they?

Each of these questions gives you important information about the thoughts, feelings, and circumstances that got you into trouble. You will need to react differently to them in the future.

■ Review your efforts to control the slip:

A. If you attempted to do something before the slip:

Which strategy did you use to counter the urge to gamble?

Why didn’t it work?


4. Ask for Help

B. If you didn’t try anything before the slip: Why not?

Has your motivation diminished? If so, why?

■ Plan for the future:

Imagine that the same circumstances that resulted in your slip are repeated. Imagine also that you are stronger and more capable of managing it effectively.

What could you do the next time to be more effective?

New ways of thinking:

New ways of acting:

If you feel you have done all you can and still are unable to pinpoint what caused the slip, ask for help. Whether it is with a friend, a support agency, or a therapist, take steps to engage someone else. A second set of “inter- ested eyes” can help you assess what happened and identify a broader set of options to consider.

The driver who has a flat tire and can’t repair it does not hesitate to flag down a vehicle or call a mechanic for help. Do like this driver, and give yourself permission to ask for help.



Photocopy this page and keep it in your wallet or purse for easy access in case of emergency. You may also download a copy from the Treat- mentsThatWorkTM Web site at http://www.oup.com/us/ttw.

(To be done between sessions  and ) ✎ Review the following workbook materials:

Relapse Prevention: Sophie’s Relapse

Relapse Warning Signs

Emergency Measures Part : Preventing a Slip

When facing overwhelming urges or a slip:

. I

. I

stay calm; I distance myself and reflect on what just happened. identify the thoughts that tell me to exceed my limits.

recall the principles of chance:

. I . I . I

remember all the effort I have invested so far.

remember all the advantages of controlling my gambling. ask for help from others if all of the above fail.


. I

• It gives a false impression about the likelihood of winning.

• Results are unpredictable.

• Each play is independent.

• No strategy works; there is no way to control the outcome.

• Negative expected winnings 􏰀 more to lose than to win


Emergency Measures Part : Managing a Slip

Memory Aid

✎ Continue applying strategies to avoid/manage high-risk situations. ✎ If needed, continue practicing problem-solving skills.

✎ Continue to complete the Daily Self-Monitoring Diary.


Chapter 9

Posttreatment Assessment


Posttreatment Assessment

To complete assessment questionnaires on pages  and .

Now that you have finished the program, your therapist will work with you to complete the questionnaires that were introduced during your pretreat- ment assessment (see Chapter ).

Diagnostic Interview for Pathological Gambling

Once again your therapist will begin your assessment by asking you a num- ber of questions from the Diagnostic Interview for Pathological Gambling (DIPG).


Gambling-Related Questions

For questions  and , circle the number that corresponds to the way that you have felt over the past week. Perceived Control

. To what extent do you feel that your gambling problem is resolved or under control?

 —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —– %

Not at all A little Moderately A lot Totally resolved resolved

Urge to Gamble

. To what extent have you felt the urge to gamble in the past week?

 —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —– %

Not at all A little Moderately A lot Totally

Gambling Frequency

. How many times have you gambled in the past week?

. How much time (hours and minutes) have you spent gambling during the past week? . How much money have you wagered during the past week?


Perceived Self-Efficacy Questionnaire

Please describe your high-risk situations for gambling excessively (for example: “when I am bored and have nothing to do” or “when I just had an argument with my boss”). Then, indicate on a scale of  to  your level of confi- dence in controlling your gambling habits if you faced these situations at the present time.

Situation 1

If you had to face this situation at the present time, to what extent would you have confidence in controlling your gambling habits?

 ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  Not at all A little Moderately A lot Totally

Situation 2

If you had to face this situation at the present time, to what extent would you have confidence in controlling your gambling habits?

 ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  Not at all A little Moderately A lot Totally

Situation 3

If you had to face this situation at the present time, to what extent would you have confidence in controlling your gambling habits?

 ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  Not at all A little Moderately A lot Totally



The measures included in this chapter will help you and your therapist de- termine whether or not a behavioral change has occurred as a result of treatment. Have you reduced or altogether stopped your gambling behav- iors? If so, has this change led to a reduction or fading of the negative con- sequences associated with your gambling? Your therapist will discuss the results of your posttreatment assessment with you.


Chapter 10

Follow-Up Assessment


■ ■

To attend follow-up sessions with your therapist over the next several months to make sure you’re still “on track”

To complete assessments to measure progress that was made during treatment

Diagnostic Interview for Pathological Gambling

Your therapist will administer the Diagnostic Interview for Pathological Gambling (DIPG) one final time. You will also complete the Gambling- Related Questions and Perceived Self-Efficacy questionnaires (on pages  and ) again.


Gambling-Related Questions

For questions  and , circle the number that corresponds to the way that you have felt over the past week. Perceived Control

. To what extent do you feel that your gambling problem is resolved or under control?

 —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —– %

Not at all A little Moderately A lot Totally resolved resolved

Urge to Gamble

. To what extent have you felt the urge to gamble in the past week?

 —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —– %

Not at all A little Moderately A lot Totally

Gambling Frequency

. How many times have you gambled in the past week?

. How much time (hours and minutes) have you spent gambling during the past week? . How much money have you wagered during the past week?


Perceived Self-Efficacy Questionnaire

Please describe your high-risk situations for gambling excessively (for example: “when I am bored and have nothing to do” or “when I just had an argument with my boss”). Then, indicate on a scale of  to  your level of confi- dence in controlling your gambling habits if you faced these situations at the present time.

Situation 1

If you had to face this situation at the present time, to what extent would you have confidence in controlling your gambling habits?

 ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  Not at all A little Moderately A lot Totally

Situation 2

If you had to face this situation at the present time, to what extent would you have confidence in controlling your gambling habits?

 ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  Not at all A little Moderately A lot Totally

Situation 3

If you had to face this situation at the present time, to what extent would you have confidence in controlling your gambling habits?

 ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  ——-  Not at all A little Moderately A lot Totally



Congratulations! You are well on your way to overcoming your gambling problem. With patience and continued effort, you will be able to maintain your progress and make even more gains. Keep in mind that you have vul- nerabilities that led to your gambling in the first place. These emotional and behavioral habits are part of you, but like most people, you can over- come them so you have control over your behavior.



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About the Authors

Robert Ladouceur is full professor in psychology at Laval University, Que- bec, Canada, and a licensed clinical psychologist in the Province of Que- bec. He is also the director of the Centre d’excellence pour la prevention et le traitement du jeu, a group of  researchers and clinicians working on different issues related to gambling (epidemiology, prevention, treatment, and the fundamental aspects of gambling behavior). He has published over  articles and chapters in the areas of gambling. His work on gambling is internationally known. He was invited twice to present his work at the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, the U.S. Presidential Commission on Gambling. In , he received the Research Award from the National Council on Problem Gambling, recognizing the high quality of his work. In , he received the Senior Research Award from the Na- tional Center for Responsible Gaming, Harvard University.

He has presented his work in many Canadian provinces, American states, and European and Asian countries. His cognitive treatment for pathologi- cal gamblers developed at Laval University is widely used. He recently pub- lished a paper on responsible gambling called the Reno Model with Alex Blaszczynski from the University of Sydney, Australia, and Howard Shaffer from Harvard University.

Stella Lachance is a psychologist who has worked at the Center of Excel- lence for the Prevention and Treatment of Problem Gambling at Laval University since . As a clinician-researcher, she has been extensively in- volved in the development and delivery of treatment for pathological gam- bling and has provided therapy to many gamblers over the years. In addi- tion, she contributed to the development of a step-by-step treatment guide for problem gamblers, which has been endorsed by the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services and is used by most treatment centers in the Province of Quebec. Since , she has conducted many workshops, pre- sented at conferences, and provided numerous training sessions on the treatment of problem gambling.


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