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National Recovery Month: The research and stats on recovery

September’s National Recovery Month is heading towards a conclusion, making this an opportune time to reflect on some of the academic research that has been undertaken around recovery from gambling-related harm.

As those with lived experience of the situation from within our team will attest, during the initial stages of recovery, there is no substitute for specialist services offering adequate emotional and psychological support or treatment, as well as the backing of family and close friends.

However, there are also statistical and anecdotal findings into the issue of recovery from problem gambling, as our research manager Anca-Maria Gherghel and research associate Anneke Stols have uncovered…

We have had a look at different papers covering the subject of recovery, and it is interesting that as yet, there doesn’t appear to be much data in the public domain (especially via research papers) to quantify the rates for successful continued recovery versus those who have ended up falling into relapse with gambling addiction.

We did, however, find this article on BMA, in which Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones speaks about how it is hard to have an exact figure on how many people may return to problem gambling, though she believes it is around 20%-25%. We quote from that feature:

“Professor Bowden-Jones says 70 to 75% of people ‘do very well’ in treatment, which means they are not gambling at all. ‘The only way forward with gambling is abstinence,’ she adds. ‘There is no way someone with a gambling disorder can return to a healthy relationship with gambling. They will always relapse.’

“She says 20 to 25% return but notes they could be being treated elsewhere, which isn’t yet measured routinely.”

Elsewhere, in a recent qualitative study conducted in the UK, researchers engaged with participants (who have sought and received help for gambling-related problems) through interviews. During these interviews, participants shared how they experienced problem gambling interventions (including reasons for use, benefits and concerns). Participants used different approaches to interventions.

Themes that emerged from the interviews provided some insights regarding aspects of interventions that were helpful, but also included warnings and things to look out for.

One of the most important aspects of problem gambling interventions was called personalisation. A lack of personalisation during such a crucial intervention led to feelings that own personal needs were not considered during the intervention, which increased feelings of loneliness and not being understood. Examples of how personalisation could be included the ability to tailor content or receive help with creating personalised reminders or notifications in online interventions.

Therefore, consider interventions that can consider your journey.

The extension of support groups into WhatsApp or other social media groups were considered a very important source of support (or even a ‘safety net’) during recovery for some. However, a warning that it could impact physical attendance of meetings should be kept in mind and be mitigated.

So, don’t forget about the possible power of social media (e.g., WhatsApp) support groups.

Especially during the beginning stages of recovery, an important strategy was to create barriers to gambling. This is often done with software that blocks complete access to gambling websites or to give others control over personal finances. However, software blocks can often be bypassed and further assistance from gambling operators are requested to address this crucial area of intervention.

It is important to find gambling blockers that will work for you.

Over and above the aspects to consider during interventions the following point emerged throughout; Participants emphasised the importance of engaging with others with shared experiences and through emotional and physical human connection that helped create personal feelings of ‘being invested in’ during intervention. In fact, one of the most important aspects of interventions for participants was to receive help from others with lived experiences in gambling.

Thus, seek support from other gamblers in recovery.

Full reference: Katy. L. Penfold & Jane Ogden (2022) Exploring gamblers’ experiences of problem gambling interventions: A qualitative study, Cogent Psychology, 9:1, 2138805, DOI: 10.1080/23311908.2022.2138805

In-text reference: Penfold & Ogden (2022) or (Penford & Ogden, 2022)

Anca-Maria Gherghel & Anneke Stols

For more insight into National Recovery Month, please click here to see video testimonials from our lived experience facilitators into the support that helped them to find and sustain their recovery from gambling-related harm.

Our official foundation, EPIC Restart Foundation, is also worth investigating if you or someone close to you currently needs additional support in recovery from gambling-related harm.

The UK-based charity provides programmes intended to restore confidence and self-belief, empowering you to take the next steps in your journey of recovery.

Their programmes help to overcome the isolation felt after gambling addiction and provide practical tools to develop coping strategies to support recovery, with a sense of purposeful direction and the skills needed to rebuild relationships, improve employability, and rebuild a positive and fulfilling life after gambling harm.

Click here to discover more about EPIC Restart Foundation and how it could potentially be a huge recovery aid for you or anyone you know who has taken the first steps towards recovery following problem gambling.

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