Gambling disorders and psychologists' in training and practice

Americo E. Mello (2003)

This study examines clinical psychologists' training and experience as well as their practice in problem gambling. These data are of vital importance given the prevalence of problem gambling in treatment populations (problem gambling 15.01% and pathological gambling 14.23%). Problem gambling coexists with other psychiatric and addictive disorders. Researchers have documented some of the behavioral progression and increased involvement of gambling activity. Gambling disorders affect personal, interpersonal, and social domains. It not only coexists with other disorders, it can lead to and interact with them. Despite the prevalence, comorbidity, course, and complications associated with excessive gambling, it remains an under recognized and under treated disorder. It was hypothesized that most psychologists have little or no training or experience with problem gamblers. A 35-item survey was distributed to 400 psychologists from the Veterans Healthcare Administration. Forty five percent of the clinical psychologists returned the survey. Descriptive statistics and t-tests were employed to examine their responses. Results indicated that most psychologists have little training or experience with problem gamblers. There was a small sub-group of psychologists (n = 19) who did have training and experience with problem gamblers. Psychologists with more training in problem gambling were significantly more likely to have seen problem gamblers in their current practice then those with less training. Fifty-five percent of psychologists were interested in and willing to receive additional training. The need for clinical psychologists to increase their screening, treatment, and referral of problem gamblers is discussed including recommendations for changing clinical performance.