Online Advice, Guidance and Counseling for Problem Gamblers

Online Advice, Guidance and Counseling for Problem Gamblers

Mark Griffiths (Nottingham Trent University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-670-4.ch053

Abstract

Clinicians cannot afford to ignore the Internet. Psychological advice, help and treatment for addicts are no exceptions with both counseling and psychotherapy entering the computer age. The chapter overviews the main issues in the area and approaches the discussion acknowledging that online therapy has to be incorporated within the overall framework of the need for clinical assistance. The chapter also provides brief overviews of some websites as illustrative examples of what types of online help and therapy are available. The chapter makes particular reference to online help for problem gamblers and overviews the only study to date that evaluates the effectiveness of an online help and guidance service for a particular type of addiction (i.e., problem gambling).
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Introduction

Most therapists remain suspect about the new and growing field of ‘behavioral telehealth’. For instance, some have claimed that Internet therapy is an oxymoron because psychotherapy is based upon both verbal and nonverbal communication (Segall, 2000). It could be argued that since online relationships are just as real and intense as those in the face-to-face world (Griffiths, 2001a), there is little surprise that clinicians are beginning to establish online therapeutic relationships. Others may argue that the time has come to embrace the new technology and to carry out research into this potentially innovative form of therapy.

To date there have been a growing number of non-empirical papers about various issues concerning online therapy including challenges and initiatives in this growing field (Griffiths, 2001a; Rochlen, Zack & Speyer, 2004; Carlbring & Andersson, 2006), ethical issues (Heinlen, Reynolds Welfel, Richmond & O'Donnell, 2003; Abbott, Klein & Ciechomski, 2008), and mediation of guidance and counseling using new technologies (Tait, 1999). There have also been a growing number of empirical reports utilising online therapy. These include its use in treating anxiety, panic disorders and social phobias (Klein, Richards & Austin, 2006; Botella, Quero, Banos, et al, 2008; Andersson, Carlbring, Holmström, et al, 2006; Pier, Austin, Klein, et al, 2008; Titov, Andrews & Schwencke, 2008), depression (Spek, Cuijpers, Nyklicek, et al, 2007; Mackinnon, Griffiths & Christensen, 2008), addiction (Carroll, Ball, Martino, et al, 2008), internet addiction (Kim, 2008), eating disorders (Tate, Wing & Winett, 2001; Zabinski, Pung, Wilfley, et al, 2001; Ljotsson, B., Lundin, C., Mitsell, et al, 2007), post-traumatic stress disorder (Lange, Van De Ven, Schrieken, et al, 2000; Wagner, Knaevelsrud & Maercker, 2008), and tinnitus (Kaldo, Levin, Widarsson, et al, 2008). Every one of these empirical studies showed improvements for those treated using online therapy.

Psychological advice, guidance, help and treatment for addicts are no exceptions. This chapter therefore (i) overviews some of the main issues in the area and (ii) provides brief overviews of some websites as illustrative examples of what types of online therapy are available. The chapter also makes particular reference to online help for problem gamblers and overviews a recent study by the author that evaluates the effectiveness of an online help and guidance service for problem gamblers. The evaluation utilised a mixed methods design in order to examine both primary and secondary data relating to the client experience. It was concluded that the service appears to be one of the few genuinely international guidance and “counselling” services available to problem gamblers, the utility of using online guidance and therapeutic services is discussed. The objectives of the chapter are to:

  • Discuss the importance of online guidance and counseling and the emerging technological developments in relation to those with addictive behaviors.

  • Introduce and discuss the challenges associated with online guidance and counseling developments, from different perspectives (social, organizational, technological, etc.).

  • Introduce recent technological developments in online guidance and counseling and associated human/social implications in relation to those with addictions.

  • Be of theoretical and practical interest to various audiences including academics (teachers, researchers, postgraduate studies), healthcare professionals (health specialists, psychologists, medics, etc.), and policy makers

Key Terms in this Chapter

Professionally Delivered Therapy Websites: These therapeutic websites are becoming more and more abundant and are typically run by professionally trained practitioners who have diversified their services to include an online adjunct to their offline services (e.g., counsellors, psychotherapists).

Behavioral Telehealth: Health services in which health-care professionals and their clients use interactive, real-time communication media (e.g., Internet) to connect therapeutically across distances.

Face-to-Face Therapy: Any therapy where practitioner and client meet in the same room at the same time in an offline situation.

GamAid: An online advisory, guidance and signposting service whereby problem gamblers can either browse the available links and information provided, or talk to an online advisor (via one-way webcam) or request information to be sent via email, mobile phone (SMS/texting), or post.

Addictive Behavior: Any behavior that takes over the life of an individual and compromises occupational and social activities, and personal relationships. The behavior is typically used to modify mood, causes withdrawal effects if unable to engage in the behavior, and other consequences (e.g., tolerance, relapse, cravings, etc.). The behavior may be chemical (e.g., alcohol addiction) or behavioural (e.g., gambling addiction).

Online Therapy: Computer-mediated therapy that can elicit emotionally rich, relationship-oriented verbal interaction between therapist and many different client groups.

Peer-Delivered Therapy Websites: These therapeutic websites are often set up by traditional helping agencies that have expanded their services to include an online option for clients (e.g., 12-Step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Gamblers Anonymous who meet online).

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