Research Therapies — 26 November 2012
CBT a short-term fix for problem gamblers

Cognitive behavioural therapy appears to reduce symptom severity for pathological and problem gamblers, at least in the short term, finds an Australian Cochrane review.

Examining data on seven randomised controlled trials (RCTs) including 402 participants, the authors from Monash University found that CBT had a “very large effect” on gambling symptom severity and a “medium” effect on financial loss up to three months after treatment.

“There is good evidence that cognitive behaviour therapies work and we have recommended that as an approach to pathological and problem gambling,” said Professor Shane Thomas who led the study.

“There is some evidence – but not strong evidence yet – that motivational enhancement therapies also show some promise,” he said.

But only one study looked at effects longer than three months after treatment and this failed to show significant effects at nine to 12 months.

“In terms of long term effects of the therapies we just don’t have the studies yet to do that.

It’s an issue in mental health more broadly – really you need studies for five or ten years,” Professor Thomas told Psychiatry Update.

“Problem and pathological gambling has been around for a long time and the credible therapeutic responses and treatment systems are relatively recent. I think governments have become aware of the scope of the problem and have now established a range of services to deal with it.”

We need to establish whether these new services are effective therapies, he said.

As first appeared in Psychiatry Update, 22 November 2012. Source: Cochrane library 2012; online

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