People with gambling disorder and risky alcohol habits benefit more from motivational interviewing than from cognitive behavioral group therapy (Open Access)

Background. Effective psychological treatment, including cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing (MI), is available for people with problematic gambling behaviors. To advance the development of treatment for gambling disorder, it is critical to further investigate how comorbidity impacts different types of treatments. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether screening for risky alcohol habits can provide guidance on whether people with gambling disorder should be recommended cognitive behavioral group therapy (CBGT) or MI.

Methods. The present study is a secondary analysis of a previous randomized controlled trial that compared the effects of CBGT, MI and a waitlist control group in the treatment of disordered gambling. Assessment and treatment was conducted at an outpatient dependency clinic in Stockholm, Sweden, where 53 trial participants with gambling disorder began treatment. A modified version of the National Opinion Research Centre DSM-IV Screen for gambling problems was used to assess gambling disorder. The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) was used to screen for risky alcohol habits.

Results. The interaction between treatment and alcohol habits was significant and suggests that patients with gambling disorder and risky alcohol habits were better helped by MI, while those without risky alcohol habits were better helped by CBGT.

Conclusions. The results support a screening procedure including the AUDIT prior to starting treatment for gambling disorder because the result of the screening can provide guidance in the choice of treatment. Patients with gambling disorder and risky alcohol habits are likely to be best helped if they are referred to MI, while those without risky alcohol habits are likely to be best helped if they are referred to CBGT.

Josephson, H., Carlbring, P., Forsberg, L., & Rosendahl, I. (2016). People with gambling disorder and risky alcohol habits benefit more from motivational interviewing than from cognitive behavioral group therapy. PeerJ, 4, e1899. http://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1899

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