Gambling addiction rehab
Treatment Programmes & Recovery options

Gambling, with its heavy focus on excitement and rewards, is well understood to have addictive qualities. Overcoming this addiction can be a challenge, though gambling rehab aims to bring addicts back to a state of inner peace and self-control.

A popular misconception is that addictive behaviour always involves drugs. This view is based on the assumption that only drugs can have the kind of special chemical hooks needed to affect human physiology and cause dependence. While various drugs do have such chemical properties, the addictive effects actually stem from the brain’s own reward system.

Any behaviour that can sufficiently manipulate that system, whether or not narcotics are involved, can create physical changes in both the structure and function of the brain – ultimately leading to addiction. 

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What is a gambling addiction?

Gambling addiction, also known as pathological or compulsive gambling, is a process addiction that is characterised by the continuous urge to gamble despite the detrimental effects it can have on your life. The condition was referred to as “pathological gambling” in the DSM-4 (which is the handbook used by health care professionals to diagnose and classify mental disorders), but has since been renamed “gambling disorder” and grouped in the same category as addiction in the DSM-5.

The downward spiral towards addiction begins when a casual gambling habit turns into problem gambling, which is harder to control. Problem gambling is any gambling behaviour that disrupts your life, whereas gambling addiction (or ‘Gambling Disorder’) is a more advanced issue that can be just as harmful and difficult to manage as any substance addiction. Just like users of substances like drugs or alcohol, problem gamblers are on the path to developing a genuine addiction if such behaviour continues.

When do you need rehab for gambling

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), if a person meets four of the following criteria during the past 12 months, they are considered to have Gambling Disorder, for which professional rehab for gambling may be necessary:
  • The need to borrow money for gambling from friends and family 
  • Inability to hold down jobs or maintain healthy relationships with loved ones
  • Lying about gambling to your loved ones
  • Chasing the ‘rush’ of winning even when you’re losing
  • Using gambling as a way to escape from unpleasant feelings
  • Feeling of restlessness when trying to cut down on gambling
  • Trying to stop gambling but being unable to quit
  • Needing to gamble more over time
  • Spending large amounts of time at the casino or online using gambling websites

Gambling rehabilitation: outpatient vs inpatient treatment

As with other programmes of addiction treatment, rehab for gambling may be attended on either an inpatient or outpatient basis. In both cases, positive outcomes are made significantly more likely with an increased duration (and quality) of therapy. Selecting the right treatment approach will likely depend on your own personal circumstances, as each is well suited to particular types of situations.

Outpatient rehab

Outpatient gambling rehab provides elements of counselling and therapy, which are typically delivered through evidence-based therapeutic approaches according to a regular weekly schedule with a professional counsellor. Outside those hours, outpatient rehab provides few or no services, leaving it up to each client to ensure that they resist temptation while they are otherwise out in society.
For this reason, outpatient gambling rehabilitation is mainly intended for people who have only a milder form of addiction, along with no other addictions or mental health issues. If you fit this description, and if you also have a supportive home environment and other social, familial, or work-related obligations to attend to while you recover, then outpatient rehab may be a convenient alternative to a residential treatment arrangement.
Game, unlucky and fail concept. Losing man playing cards with friends

Inpatient rehab

By contrast, inpatient care can handle even the more severe or complicated cases. Properly equipped and staffed gambling rehabilitation centres may have their own detox facilities on site in case of co-occurring substance abuse, as well as therapists to handle the complexities of gambling addiction alongside other mental health issues.
Clients at inpatient gambling rehabs are much more closely monitored during their stay, and are kept physically separate from any opportunity to fall back into their addictive patterns while they are there. By providing a much more immersive overall experience than outpatient rehab can offer, inpatient rehab can deliver comprehensive care for even the most difficult cases.

Is gambling addiction linked to mental health problems?

More than any other addiction, co-occurring substance use disorders and psychiatric conditions are common among pathological gamblers. It is estimated that 95% of individuals with Gambling Disorder will develop a co-occurring disorder in their lifetimes. Many gambling addicts are often depressed, helpless, or lonely, and they see gambling as a means to cope with depression, anxiety, or trauma.
A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry also revealed that among treatment-seeking pathological gamblers, 62% suffered from a co-occurring psychiatric disorder, 42% met the diagnostic criteria for a personality disorder, and up to 33% reported alcohol abuse or dependence.
Another study reported high rates of suicidality among pathological gamblers with psychiatric symptoms, compared to non-suicidal gamblers. It is reported that up to 50% of gamblers have suicide ideation, and 17% have attempted suicide.

These types of co-occurring disorders can pose a serious challenge to professionals, requiring accurate assessment and diagnosis of each individual cases, so as to treat them properly. The course of therapy is also markedly different in situations involving dual diagnosis rehab programmes, making specialised gambling rehabilitation centres especially valuable to the recovery process.

What happens in gambling addiction rehab

Traditional gambling rehab centres focus exclusively on treatment for gambling addiction itself, but we now know that a large percentage of people who are pathological gamblers also suffer from mental health and substance abuse issues. If you or a loved one suffer from dual diagnosis, an effective rehab programme should begin with a comprehensive assessment to determine whether any other issues might be contributing to your gambling addiction, so that an integrated treatment plan can be created for you.
If drugs and alcohol are identified as additional issues, your gambling rehabilitation will start with a detox phase in order to clear your body of any harmful substances. You’ll then undergo a schedule of treatments that will most likely include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), individual counselling, group counselling, medication for underlying conditions, and other types of alternative therapies designed to promote recovery along with your overall well-being.
When you reach the end of your treatment programme, your rehab of choice may also help you schedule follow-up appointments with therapists in your area – or arrange for other types of assistance to help you settle back into a normal daily routine once more.
Empty chairs prepared for group psychotherapy session indoors

How gambling rehab works

Gambling rehabilitation can take many different forms. An effective gambling rehabilitation centre will integrate some or all of the following modalities, as part of a comprehensive recovery programme to provide you with the best chance for long-lasting recovery.

Behavioural therapy is at the heart of most evidence-based methods used by gambling rehab centres. From CBT to other techniques such as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), both one-on-one and group sessions can be effective at counteracting the common tendency toward negative thoughts and emotions, while replacing them with a better focussed and/or more empowering mindset.​

For those suffering from more than one condition requiring attention, a carefully implemented and multi-pronged approach will provide the best likelihood of recovery. People suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction in addition to a mental health disorder, for example, need very specialised professional care in order to receive a correct diagnosis and treatment for each of their conditions; failure to address all related issues can lead to serious problems in the recovery effort.​

Many rehab centres use the 12-step method popularised by Alcoholics Anonymous as the foundation for their treatment model, even when drug or alcohol abuse is not part of the diagnosis. 12-step programmes are often helpful because they impose an effective frame on the recovery process, while also opening the door to the type of peer support that group meetings can provide. Many rehabs will arrange entry to meetings offsite to encourage their clients to participate in these programmes, as this is often an essential component of ongoing recovery after the primary treatment period is completed.​

Gambling addiction can be very stressful on family relationships. Family therapy aims to bring affected families back together, to help educate addicts and their family members together on the challenges they are likely to face, as well as the best ways to overcome these challenges. Through family therapy, those closest to the addicted person will learn how to help a gambling addict and maintain a healthy and positive relationship with their loved one, without enabling their harmful behaviour.

Many gambling rehabilitation centres take an additional role in the well-being of their clients, offering relapse prevention programmes to help with their successful re-integration into society. These programmes may include follow-up schedule or continued counselling sessions, which are designed to assist clients with the challenges they encounter when back in society after their primary treatment has ended.​

How long is rehab for gambling?

Research shows that staying in rehab for a longer period of time decreases the chance of relapse. The average inpatient gambling rehab programme is 30 days, although 60-day and 90-day treatment programmes are recommended for gamblers who have multiple addictions or a history of mental illness. The average outpatient programme lasts from 3 to 6 months.

When selecting a programme of treatment, it is worth remembering that addiction is a complex disorder, and recovery is an ongoing process. Whether you or your loved one chooses inpatient or outpatient care, long-term rehab is recommended to increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.

How much does gambling rehab cost?

For a 30-day programme in a country such as Australia, the USA or the UK, the cost of a rehab programme ranges from $10,000 at a standard facility, to $100,000 at a luxury facility. Typical prices are as follows:

  • Intensive outpatient programmes (IOPs): $3,000 – $7,000 per week
  • Standard inpatient rehab: $10,000 – $30,000 for 30 days (private and shared option)
  • Luxury inpatient rehab: $40,000 – $100,000 for 30 days
Tropical beach, traditional long tail boats, famous Maya Bay, Thailand

Gambling Addiction rehab in Thailand

A popular destination for travel and medical tourism alike, Thailand also offers exceptional value as a country for addiction recovery. It has a variety of rehab facilities, from affordable to luxury options, with each of these categories comparable in every way with their Western counterparts – except for price. High-quality gambling rehab in Thailand, providing experienced Western counsellors, is provided at far better rates than a facility of similar quality in the US, UK, or Australia.
Moreover, the destination itself has much to recommend it. Thailand’s rehab centres can be found all around the country, from the warm and tropical beachside regions, to the more temperate setting of hilly Chiang Mai province in the north. The country itself is visually striking, while visitors often have a particular appreciation for its flavourful fresh fruit, and its mouthwatering cuisine.
If you are worried about yourself or a loved one, contact us to discuss how we can help. Our clinical counsellor can give you advice on the different treatment options, and how residential rehab for gambling can be an effective solution.
Cameron Brown
  1. “What Is Gambling Disorder?” Reviewed by Philip Wang, What Is Gambling Disorder?, The American Psychiatric Association (APA) , Aug. 2018, 
  2. Rennert, Lior et al. “DSM-5 gambling disorder: prevalence and characteristics in a substance use disorder sample.” Experimental and clinical psychopharmacology vol. 22,1 (2014): 50-6. doi:10.1037/a0034518
  3. Lister, Jamey, et al. “Shedding Light on Gambling Disorder as an Addiction: A Guide for Practitioners.” Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) Network, Rutgers University School of Social Work,
  4. Ibáñez, A, et al. “Psychiatric Comorbidity in Pathological Gamblers Seeking Treatment.” The American Journal of Psychiatry, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2001,
  5. Petry, Nancy M, and Brian D Kiluk. “Suicidal Ideation and Suicide Attempts in Treatment-Seeking Pathological Gamblers.” The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2002,
  6. NIDA. “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 17 Jan. 2018, 

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