A study involving 50 gamblers undergoing treatment in three public addiction rehabilitation centres and 50 of their close contacts (CC) indicated that 8 people close to the gamblers were impacted by their gambling habits during the year preceding the start of treatment.
The 449 CC named by the gamblers included immediate family members (parents, siblings, grandparents) (48%), friends (23%), children (11%), spouses/ex-spouses (9%) and other types of CC (6%). Gamblers' CC indicated that they experienced negative relational, emotional, financial, social, health and work impacts as well as some positive impacts.
When faced with a problem gambling situation, CC adopted coping strategies aimed at preserving their well-being and helping the gambler as well as strategies regarding their relationship with the gambler.
Gambler interventions should be redesigned to include greater close contact involvement.
While several CC stated that they were not in need of personal help, they nevertheless indicated that individual support, phone consultations, specific support groups for each type of CC, meetings in preparation for the gambler's return following treatment, and greater involvement in the gambler's treatment could be beneficial to them. It should be noted that the study was able to identify impacts and strategies specific to spouses.
These results demonstrate the importance of updating already existing intervention practices for CC and of developing new ones given that there are several types of CC who do not necessarily experience the same impacts, and do not experience them in the same way. The CC closest to the gamblers (emotionally, physically or financially) seemed to experience these impacts over a long period of time before seeking help.
It is therefore important to find strategies to reach these CC earlier in the process, or even before the gambler seeks treatment. In addition, considering that CC and gamblers did not perceive the impacts in the same way and that CC expressed the desire to be involved in the gambler's treatment process, gambler interventions should be redesigned to include greater CC involvement.
The impacts and coping strategies documented in the project could serve as a basis for developing an assessment grid to provide better support and adapt interventions to the needs and experiences of different types of CC.
Francine Ferland, Centre de réadaptation en dépendance du CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale
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Deposit of the research report: November 2016