Scheftsik, M., University of Sydney, Australia
Following the opening of Star City Casino in Sydney in 1996 and the establishment of the Casino Community Benefit Fund (CCBF), there has been a proliferation of services for problem gamblers, which is in line with the New South Wales government policy of harm minimisation. Many of these services have been abstinence based programs drawing on models that evolved from alcohol and other drug addiction treatments. The Gambling Treatment Clinic(GTC) has developed a treatment program based on a social cognition theory of problem gambling by Dr. Michael Walker, clinic director and a senior lecturer at the university. As the central idea of this theory is that problem gambling arises from the erroneous and irrational beliefs a gambler holds about winning and loosing money, the corresponding treatment is cognitive therapy. The clinical picture is not clouded by ideas of pathology, compulsion or addiction. The progression of treatment is a straightforward identification and restructuring of the beliefs that maintain problem gambling, requiring between 10 to 15 sessions. Supportive counselling is also offered to the gambler and anyone affected by gambling as both an educative process and assistance in the rebuilding of relationships. Problems of co-mordibity are dealt with by way of early referral to appropriate services and practitioners. The Gambling Treatment Clinic approach capitalises on the client's motivation to change, includes affected others and optimises treatment outcomes. A one year post- treatment follow-up conducted in late 2001 validates the GTC approach as 88% of clients are still maintaining their treatment outcomes at that point in time.