Tag Archives: online gaming

The Forgotten Friends and Family

Many organisations that work with problem gamblers focus mainly on the problem gambler themselves however, the effects on those around them can be devastating. Just take a look at how people are affected by the problem gambling of someone close to them for an idea of how much of an impact problem gambling can have on families:

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The partner or husband/wife of a PG

  • My PG often causes rows to give him an excuse to go out and gamble
  • My wife is too busy gambling online to attend family functions
  • My boyfriend no longer showers or takes care of himself in the way that he used to
  • My fiancé is moody all the time and I don’t know what to say for the best
  • My husband is often withdrawn and won’t talk to me about what is bothering him
  • I worry about the emotional health and security of my children

The child of a PG

  • I worry about the constant fights my parents have
  • My dad isn’t getting any younger and I am concerned about the effect this might be having on his health
  • I never seem to be able to do anything right, all I get is criticism
  • My mom is embarrassing me in front of my friends with her appearance and behaviour
  • I never expect anything for my birthday anymore but it hurts me when my dad forgets about his grandchildren
  • We don’t spend time together anymore
  • I can’t get the uniform and other things I need for school and I am being made fun of because of it

The parent of a PG

  • My son is always lying to me and manipulating me so that he can get his own way
  • My daughter regularly takes money from my purse and has now been caught shop lifting
  • My daughter frightens me sometimes because she can become violent if I don’t give in to her
  • My son can take off for days at a time and I don’t know where he is
  • My son has lost his job and now I feel that I have to help him to provide for his family
  • My daughter tells me that this addiction is all my fault

The friend of a PG

  • My friend is always asking me for money
  • My friend often lets me down when we are supposed to be going out
  • My friend asks me to lie for him when anyone asks where he is or what he is doing
  • My friend has stolen from me

Counselling, or otherwise supporting, the friends and family of problem gamblers often feels harder to me that supporting the gambler themselves. Each time I speak to someone new to the online service I work for I feel the same sense of powerlessness being transmitted through the Wi-Fi. I hear the same woeful cries of “If I could stop gambling FOR them I would” and the question that pulls at my heartstrings the most… “Is it my fault?”

As practitioners we have to fight through the feeling of powerlessness, there ARE ways in which friends and family can protect themselves and there are ways in which we can support them. Sometimes the most liberating thing we can say to a friend or family member is “It can happen to anyone, at any time, from any background so no, this isn’t your fault”.

Our role is to provide a safe outlet for the confusing emotions pouring out of our clients and give them the information they need to make sense of their situation. Of course the more practical advice around separating finances etc. is important but it’s secondary to the most valuable tool in our toolkit, acceptance. That might sound pretty common sense but given that problem gambling is still not widely understood, or in some cases even accepted as an addiction, those that love a problem gambler might have a battle on their hands when it comes to getting the support they need outside of their relationship with us.

In my remote training course, Counselling Problem Gamblers Using Blended Technologies, I talk more about the specifics around supporting the friends and family of problem gamblers online. You can find more information about this training course via the following link:

http://www.kateanthony.net/cpdspecials/

Thanks for reading 🙂

Jane Fahy (RMBACP)

Turtor, Online Therapy Institute

Clinical Services Manager, Gambling Therapy

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Unleashing the Training Brain

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I was recently called upon, by Kate Anthony CEO of the Online Therapy Institute, to empty the contents of my brain, concerning working with problem gamblers, into a platform for remote training. It’s an odd sensation trying to pick over the knowledge and experiences you’ve accumulated over six years to try and determine what information might be interesting and useful and help others to support a client group you’ve developed quite a passion for. I think part of me was initially reluctant to share too much, what if everyone started supporting problem gamblers and I had no one left to work with?!? But then I thought about that, what if many more counsellors, social workers, support workers and addiction specialists started to support problem gamblers? Surely that would mean the client group I cared so deeply for, and frequently commented there wasn’t enough support globally for, DID get more support? That’s exactly what I want! 🙂

So here I am, after weeks of wondering… “Will they want to know about this” and hunting down other online resources each time asking myself…”Will they find that useful?” I’ve finally finished writing the course content! I’ve tried to cover as many of the aspects of working online, offline or both, with problem gamblers as I could fit into a ten hour course. I feel it will give anyone with an interest in working with problem gamblers by blending face to face and online support a robust grounding in the subject.

The areas covered are:

  • How do you know if someone has a gambling problem?
  • The theory of problem gambling
  • Working with problem gamblers
  • Working with friends and family
  • Online support for problem gamblers
  • Gaming and internet use for problem gamblers
  • Managing suicide and risk online
  • Using blended technology in a face to face and residential setting

If you’re interested in helping problem gamblers and you want to know more about the course please drop me a line at the following e-mail address, I’m eager to share my passion for working with this remarkable client group with others!

If you want to learn more about online therapy in general, the Online Therapy Institute have some amazing short courses that might be of interest to you 🙂

jane.fahy@hushmail.com

 

Merry Christmas?

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We’re coming up to a time of year that’s typically very tricky for problem gamblers and the people that love them. So I put together a Christmas recovery journey based on bits and pieces I’ve heard or read over the years, I hope you like it and take something from it.

Christmas Zero

Christmas creates panic….gut wrenching, soul destroying panic that steals the breath from your lungs and leaves you in a heap on the floor….paralysed. You’d managed to save a little, not a lot; to get the few things you wanted to get for the people that mattered most. You wanted to prove to them that you’re ok now and they can let you back into their lives……but the moneys gone. The urge was so strong you felt like your feet had a mind of their own and before you knew it you were stood outside the bookies with nothing……your Christmas hopes bob and weave on the back of the crumpled betting slip you threw into the flooded gutter.

You can’t believe it’s happened again, but you don’t know if you can change…you don’t know if it’s even possible. You switch your phone off and head back to your cold flat alone and on the walk you make a decision. Next year will be different.

There’s hope.

Christmas One

Christmas seems like a bloody big mountain to climb! It’s only been a matter of weeks since your last bet and although you’re feeling quietly confident you don’t relish the idea of being tested like this. “What if’s” buzz around in your mind seeking to derail you and erode your confidence and as you look down you notice your knuckles have turned white because you balled up your hands with the strain of it all.

You don’t trust yourself with money yet so you’re waiting for a friend to turn up with the money he’s holding for you so you can both crack on with a little Christmas shopping…the little you’ll be able to get this year still makes you feel a bit of pride when you think about it. But your mate’s late and the bus stop you’re waiting for him at is over the road from the arcade…sweat trickles down your neck as you pick up your phone and punch in his number.

“Where are ya mate?” you almost shout…as he hops off the bus right in front of you. You breathe a sigh of relief. You did it…you got through it….

There’s hope.

Christmas Two

Christmas means family but someone’s missing from yours. Your son hasn’t called for about three months now and you’re desperate to know where and how he is but when he called and asked for money you told him “No” and now you’re frightened you won’t see him again. You know you’re doing everything you’re “supposed” to do, what people told you to do…but it goes against every fibre of your being. As you lay the table with one less place setting than normal, you start to cry.

A few months ago he seemed better, he seemed to really be trying, but after he lost his job all the fight went out of him and he was back down the bookies as though nothing had changed. He said he didn’t know if he had the strength to get back on the wagon…you said you didn’t have the strength to be around him if he didn’t. Despite the ultimatums, tantrums and recriminations on both sides you really thought he’d be back on track by Christmas.

Your phone rings and you pick it up….there’s a moment of silence and then,”Hi mum, room for one more?”

There’s hope.

Christmas Three

Christmas seems like one big stress…got to get the kids the latest iPad…mum wants a nice perfume and HOW much is the works Christmas meal going to cost? You’re managing your debts and you’ve been paying them off for a while now but this kind of expense is really pushing you to your limits! You wonder to yourself if there will ever be a time when things are “normal”…sometimes it seems like you’ll never escape from the consequences of your gambling.

A single white envelope rattles through the letter box and plops on to the mat….you know that hand writing, and even if you didn’t the word “Daddy” is a big give away! It’s an uphill struggle, and there are days when you question whether it’s all really worth it, but looking at the card you know it is. Today it’s good to be in recovery.

There’s hope

Christmas Four

Christmas has a new meaning since you stopped gambling a few years ago and each time it comes around it reminds you of why did :). You look at those around you and the smiles on their faces when they open gifts you were able to buy for them and you’re momentarily transported back to a time when things were altogether different. You let the remembered sadness wash over you and then pass….and you’re relaxed, happy and stuffed to the gills with all kinds treats.

Christmas hasn’t been stress free…it rarely is….but it’s another year of being gambling free and when you reflect on that, you smile.

When you share the story of your recovery, you give others a lot of hope!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Gaming, Gambling…Gambling, Gaming…Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off!

gamgamb

If you search “Gaming” in Google the first listing is for a gambling website…and in my search for clarification over what is considered “gaming” and what’s considered “gambling” I stumbled across a number of terms:

  • Social Gaming
  • Real Money Gaming
  • Online Gambling
  • Online Gaming
  • Social Casinos
  • Closed Loop Gaming

And more…

I looked at a few different sources including recent articles in marketme and WhaTech to try and get to the bottom of what’s meant by all of these terms but struggled to find a definitive answer because sometimes the terms were used interchangeably to refer to the same activity. I also wanted to better understand the potential relationship between gaming and gambling and to think about where I stand on the issue of regulation.

So I’m going to start by looking at games played via social networking that bear no resemblance to well known gambling activities (“Social” or “Closed loop” gaming)…I’m referring to games like Candy Crush and Bubble Witch Saga which I’m sure many of you will have heard of.  You can choose to play these games without ever spending a penny or you can make in game purchases for different content or “lives” if you want to.  The games are colourful, lively and loud and usually repetitive in nature which can create a soothing effect potentially creating an almost hypnotic state over time.  Now, if a player chooses not to spend any money, the amount of time spent on a game is usually limited by the skill of the individual playing….for instance, if you fail to complete a level on Candy Crush, you lose a life and if you lose five lives you have to wait for a life to “refresh” or ask Facebook friends to send you a life before you can continue.  This forces individuals’ to take a break from the game…but you can buy more lives if you want to carry on.  I guess there could be an argument here that says if you are paying for lives you are already at risk of using the game excessively, so can we therefore develop algorithms that use payment amounts and frequency on these games as an indicator of potential problems as is already the case with online gambling?  Something to be considered by treatment providers and potential future regulators perhaps…

What about the games that DO mimic gambling activities but don’t require money to play (Social casinos) like roulette, slots and poker….what, if any, is the relationship between these games and gambling for money?  The sights and sounds are the same…in game money or “tokens” are accrued and lost.  Players may feel a buzz or experience a sense of winning and losing, as with gambling, although it could be argued that these feelings are less intense if no money is involved.  I have previously seen research, conducted by the BBC, which highlighted the differences in player style when playing for free and playing for money…it would seem to indicate that people take more risks when they’re not playing for money (which makes sense).  A change in playing style would potentially change the outcome of games leading the player to think they may win, or lose, more than they actually would if they switched from free play to real money gaming.  These kinds of inconsistencies have occasionally led to conflicts between players and gambling companies because players feel the odds have changed and the game is no longer fair.  In my opinion, more research needs to be conducted to review the number of players jumping from free play to real money gaming, paying particular attention to problem gamblers in order to ascertain when they began to develop a problem and what indicators may have existed in the early stages of the problem that could have been acted upon in some way.

As we can already see, there are many similarities between gaming and gambling both emotionally and visually and, certainly in the case of social gaming, the potential exists to lose/spend a lot of money, as well as time, while playing.  However, the potential also exists to engage in both recreationally and without incident.  Players can exist in any of the following states:

  • Playing for enjoyment – No problem
  • Playing excessively/compulsively – Problem with gaming
  • Switched to gambling for enjoyment – No problem
  • Switched to gambling excessively compulsively – Problem with gambling

So I guess the question is…would excessive gaming lead to excessive gambling if a player were to make the switch? And is a gamer who’s been playing responsibly likely to develop a gambling problem if they make the switch?  The two are so similar that my feeling would be similar behaviours would carry over.  Conversely, can a problem gambler make the switch to responsible gamer?  The problem gamblers I’ve worked with would give a definitive “NO” in answer to that question!

I don’t want anyone reading to think I’m anti gaming, or indeed anti gambling, because that’s certainly not the case.  I have been in the past, and still consider myself to be, a gamer…I’ve lost myself in Candy Crush from time to time and I’ve spent more than a few hours waging war on ogres in World of Warcraft  🙂   I’ve developed many friendships, experienced joy and excitement and fended off boredom by playing games responsibly and I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from doing the same thing.   I do however feel that the suppliers of any substance or activity that has the potential to become addictive have a responsibility to support treatment and education and adhere to some form of regulation.  Whether or not gaming leads to a switch to real money gaming, and in my opinion it’s a real possibility for some, gaming itself can create altered states, it can be used as a form of unhealthy escape and it can create emotional and financial hardship so for those reasons more research needs to be conducted on how to help excessive gamers.

If it’s found that social gaming does indeed lead to a net increase in the number of people gambling we have to consider that as the number of gamblers increases, so does the number of problem gamblers. So what is being put in place to cope with the influx of people into treatment?

Thanks for reading!  🙂