Objectives: Features of gambling, particularly among young people have changed over the past decade and, while there are no data from Ireland, there are suggestions from those working in the field that pathological gambling is increasing among adolescents. Relatively little is known about the effective treatment of pathological gambling in adolescents. This paper aims to review research in cognitive behavioural treatments with a view to their application in adolescents. Research among adolescence is given prominence when this is available.
Methods: The methodology comprised a literature search of Medline, Psycinfo, and EMBASE databases, using the search terms: ‘cognitive behavioural therapy’; ‘gambling; ‘psychology’; ‘epidemiology’; ‘adolescent’; ‘motivation’; ‘effectiveness’; ‘outcome’; ‘relapse’; and ‘internet’. In addition, a hand search of Clinical Psychological Reviews, Journal of Gambling Studies, Addiction, Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, and International Gambling Studies (1997-2007) was performed.
Results: A total of 23 studies comprising various cognitive and behavioural approaches were identified, all but three of them confined to adult subjects. Study methodology and quality varied greatly, with many case studies or small case series, and only three randomised control trials. None used an intention-to-treat analysis, and there was little long-term follow-up. Almost ail indicated, with more or less evidence, that cognitive behavioural strategies might be beneficial.
Conclusions: Many varieties and modifications of cognitive behavioural therapy have been applied to pathological gambling, though there are few studies of any psychological treatments for adolescent gamblers. Methodological problems surround much of the research. Notwithstanding these reservations cognitive behavioural approaches seem to offer promise in managing this serious problem.