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Imaginal Desensitization Helps Pathological Gamblers

21 Aug

Researchers from the University of Minnesota School of Medicine’s Dept of Psychiatry sought to examine whether the gains found in a recent study of treatment of pathological gamblers with 6 sessions of imaginal desensitization plus motivational interviewing (IDMI) held up at 6-months post-treatment.

Sixty-eight individuals who met DSM-IV criteria for pathological gambling were randomly assigned to 6 sessions of IDMI or a Gamblers Anonymous (GA) referral over an 8-week period.  Participants who failed to respond to GA were offered IDMI after the 8-week acute treatment period. All individuals who responded to IDMI were contacted after 6 months and assessed with measures of gambling severity and psychosocial functioning.

Forty-four participants completed 6 sessions of IDMI (25 initially assigned to IDMI and 19 to GA). Thirty-five of the 44 (79.5%) responded during acute treatment, and all 35 were available for a 6-month evaluation.

All gambling severity scales maintained statistically significant gains from baseline, although some measures showed significant worsening compared with post-IDMI treatment.

The investigators conclude that 6 sessions of IDMI resulted in statistically significant reductions in PG urges and behavior, which were largely maintained for 6 months.

Citation:  Grant JE, Donahue CB, Odlaug BL, Kim SW. A 6-month follow-up of imaginal desensitization plus motivational interviewing in the treatment of pathological gambling. Annals of Clinical Psychiatry. 2011 Feb; 23 (1): pages 3-10. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award