How Motivational Interviewing Helps Problem Gamblers During Therapy

Have you ever heard of motivational interviewing? Surprisingly, not many people are not aware of this mental health treatment strategy. Motivational interviewing (MI) is a type of talk therapy involving motivational questions to help people resolve internal conflicts and make important changes in their lives. It can be useful for people struggling with addictive behaviors — including problem gambling behavior. If you’ve never heard of MI but are looking for help with your gambling problem, read on to find out how motivational interviewing might provide the support you need to quit!

Provides a Safe & Supportive Space

One of the most important things that MI can provide for problem gamblers is a safe and supportive space to talk about anything on their minds. Even though you’ll eventually have to tell your loved ones about what’s going on, it can initially be difficult to speak to friends and family about a gambling problem because of the fear of judgment and anger. Beginning the journey towards this conversation with MI is a great first step.

Helps Create Structure

Many problem gamblers know they have issues but are unsure how to deal with them. MI can help you develop a real, actionable plan for quitting or reducing your problem gambling behaviors. Like a group leader or mentor in Gamblers Anonymous meetings, your therapist will follow up with you to ensure you’re following the plan.

Minimizes Conflict

Some forms of therapy (such as family therapy and anger management therapy) involve directly confronting conflict to work through it. But since gambling addiction can be a difficult and personal topic, therapy techniques involving direct confrontation are not always the best strategy. MI helps you understand the whys and hows of your behavior, so you can develop your own desire to quit rather than making you feel defensive or argumentative in the face of open discussion.

Reduces Ambivalence

Ambivalence is one of the most difficult things to overcome as a problem gambler. The only way to push through a sense of ambivalence is to develop a real motivation to change, which is one of the main goals of MI. Through motivational interviewing, people who engage in pathological gambling behaviors can begin to understand why they do it, how their behavior has affected others, and why they want to quit.

Encourages Responsibility

Even though MI isn’t focused on conflict or confrontation, that doesn’t mean therapists won’t hold you accountable for your behaviors. The questions your therapist asks you — and the brainstorming and thinking they’ll encourage you to do — will help you take responsibility for the consequences of your gambling problem, so you can move forward and repair your relationships with loved ones. 

Improves Decision-Making & Resolve

Having an actionable plan and a desire to change contributes to improved decision-making. The more someone participates in effective MI, the more potential they’ll have to develop their own sense of resolve and decision-making ability.

Gives Clients Positivity & Hope

Above all else, MI is a positive and optimistic form of therapy. Your therapist believes that YOU can change YOUR behaviors, no matter how long you’ve struggled with problem gambling. Having someone believe in you and support your efforts to change can make a huge difference in recovery.

Builds Self-Confidence & Self-Esteem

Working towards change is hard, but it’s also deeply rewarding. As you implement the changes you discuss with your therapist and celebrate your victories, you’ll build up confidence and self-esteem in new ways.

Increases Motivation to Quit

The more someone is willing to share and participate in MI, the more they improve their abilities to push through their feelings of anger, shame, and even gambling withdrawal. And with increased resolve and self-confidence, they’ll only feel more motivated to quit!

Creates Real Change!

While no form of therapy works for everyone, motivational interviewing can potentially encourage real change. If you enter MI with an open mind and are honest with your therapist, you’d be surprised what you can find out about your strength and abilities. Take things one step at a time, and you’ll be well on your way to changing your behaviors for the better.

Contact Our Helpline Anytime

If you or someone you love is dealing with a gambling problem, it’s time to get help. 800-GAMBLER can connect you with mental health professionals, Gamblers Anonymous meetings near you, and additional resources to help you leave your gambling problem in the past and move forward with your life. Contact our confidential, 24/7 hotline anytime at 800-GAMBLER or click here to access our online chat service. We hope you reach out to us soon!


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