Targeting Problem Gambling Relapse Risk Factors: Lack of Social Connectedness and Leisure Substitution

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Byrne, Gabriele (2019) Targeting Problem Gambling Relapse Risk Factors: Lack of Social Connectedness and Leisure Substitution. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


This research added an innovative, critical component to the current problem gambling treatment approaches available in Australia. It targeted a susceptible and significant group of people who experience gambling-related harm but find it difficult to stop gambling and not to start again. Relapse in problem gambling and treatment dropout is common, with a rate of up to 70% being generally accepted. To date, gambling interventions specifically targeting risk factors for relapse have not been the focus of many studies. The author of this thesis, who has lived experience with problem gambling, designed a structured group program targeting two identified risk factors for gambling relapse: 1) lack of social connectedness, and 2) lack of leisure substitution. Between 2009 and 2016, four versions of this program were trialled. All program participants were supported by a group of volunteers, most of whom had lived experience with problem gambling and were participants in previous program versions. Four versions of the program were evaluated using a multi-method approach. Quantitative data were collected using validated psychosocial measures. Journaled observation by the author, anecdotal evidence and journaled participants quotes were documented by the author in various project reports and are used in this thesis to support the qualitative findings. The results of the quantitative data revealed significant improvement for participants in the areas of social connectedness, self-efficacy, and mental health. Importantly, the results also indicated that the program supported the goals of either abstinence from, or control over, gambling behaviour for program completers. It is concluded that this innovative program helped to reconnect people to activities other than gambling and to a supportive community and, in so doing, effectively achieved the research objectives. An extra qualitative study ‘Volunteer study’ was conducted to explore if the aspect of ‘volunteering’ made a positive contribution to sustain behavioural changes that were achieved by previous program participation. This exploratory study utilised 14 in-depth semi-structured interviews with current volunteers of the trialled relapse-focused programs from studies 1-4. This part of the research indicated that volunteering for any of the peer support relapse focused programs provided significant benefits to an individual’s recovery from problem gambling. The sample was a small convenience sample, so it is not possible to generalise the findings but offers an opportunity to further explore the importance of volunteering in recovery.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1117 Public Health and Health Services
Historical > FOR Classification > 1701 Psychology
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > College of Business
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities
Keywords gambling; treatment; Australia; relapse; social connections; leisure; self-efficacy; mental health; peer support program; volunteering; Victoria; intervention
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