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The Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to problem gambling prevention.

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Discovery 2013 Takes on How to Promote Access to Treatment

Feb 15, 2013

Newscan (Vol. 15, Issue 6)

As anyone who watches a new year’s resolution dissolve in mid-February knows, a commitment to change one’s behaviour can be a far cry from actually changing it. And that, as mental health professionals know, is what treatment is meant to help with: providing the tools and support for people to implement positive change over the long term.

But, it’s the first step—getting to treatment—that can be the hardest one. A 2007 survey of adults in Ontario showed that only a third of people with severe gambling problems had sought treatment; that number drops to 15% of those with moderate gambling problems (Cunningham et al. 2008). Similar numbers have been reported in other jurisdictions, such as California (Volberg et al. 2009) and Australia (Slutske et al. 2009).

How to motivate people to seek help

Logically, several factors come into play—making sure people know it’s available, offering a range of options, reducing the stigma of mental health treatment, to name a few. And availability isn’t enough—motivation to seek help is essential. In the 2008 Ontario study, the two most frequently cited triggers that motivated gamblers to seek treatment were financial consequences and family or other relationship issues. But, the majority of respondents could see no reason they might need help. “In order to experience barriers to seeking treatment, gamblers first have to think of their activity as a problem,” the report authors state. “More than half of respondents who met clear criteria for problem gambling did not perceive their gambling to be even a moderate problem.”

Let’s ask the experts

At this year’s Discovery conference, we’ve decided to ask this very question in the focus group session. Gamblers who have experienced problems and got help will be invited to share their experiences. (Always a popular plenary session at Discovery, the focus group format allows attendees to listen and watch unfiltered firsthand accounts live from another room via closed-circuit cameras. Attendees are also invited to ask questions of the participants through a facilitator.)

“It’s easy to get locked into your own particular perspective,” Barry Koen-Butt, director of communications and awareness programs at RGC, says. “The focus group gives people a chance to listen, and react to, real stories from real people. It’s an inspiring and energizing experience for everyone.”

Then, let’s put our heads together

This year, we’re inviting attendees to roll up their sleeves and channel their inspiration in a facilitated workshop with an ambitious goal: designing concrete, practical ways of getting people who would benefit to seek treatment.

In the 90-minute session, participants ready to challenge the status quo will work in groups to brainstorm innovative ideas and choose the best ones. Following the Dragons’ Den model where entrepreneurs are invited to pitch their business idea to a panel of investors, participants will then present their idea to a panel of experts who will provide immediate feedback—and identify the best ideas from the group.

Glenn Pothier, an expert facilitator and award-winning communicator, will guide groups through the process, providing a framework to help them hone their ideas. “This fast-paced workshop is going to be an exciting opportunity for those ready to find innovative approaches that speak meaningfully to gamblers who are experiencing problems,” Glenn says. “The scrutiny of the panel is guaranteed to push people to come up with clear, strong and defensible ideas. I can’t wait.”

Called In the Bears’ Den, the interactive workshop will be held once on each day of the conference. Each instance will be limited to 25 participants. Conference registrants will be contacted just before the conference to sign up for the workshop, or, space permitting, at the registration desk on site. See the full conference agenda and register.