Lana Nelson, Northstar board member since 2006, could be straight out of central casting for a social worker. Her mother was a nurse, known for her caring ways and ability to listen carefully to someone’s concerns. Lana inherited many of the same traits. “I’ve always felt like a social worker to my core,” says Lana. “It’s a good fit for who I am.”

As a natural outgrowth of her concern for others, Lana desires to be an advocate and a voice for those in need. Her involvement on the board of Northstar gives her the opportunity to expand awareness about a cause she takes great interest in.

Lana’s initial involvement with addicted gamblers stems from when she co-created a problem gambling treatment program in 1999 at Recovery Plus, a behavioral health program at St. Cloud Hospital. She went on to earn her national gambling counselor certification and became a state-certified gambling provider in Minnesota. Lana’s credentials include MSW, LICSW and LADC.

Lana’s master’s thesis focused on the disease of pathological gambling and how it affects and impacts the lives of women who gamble. She explored some common underlying issues, including co-morbid issues (having multiple issues simultaneously) present for women with gambling problems.

In her current work as a psychotherapist with Centracare Health System in St. Cloud, Lana provides individual and group therapy for a variety of mental health patients. Approximately a quarter of her caseload consists of problem gamblers.

“In my experience with problem gamblers, they’re very willing to make changes,” says Lana. “I see them when they’re in the pain of their addiction and they tend to be highly motivated because they’re dealing with the consequences of their gambling. The challenge is to reach them before they reach such a crisis.”

Beyond that, Lana views her clients with gambling addiction in the same way she sees other clients with mental health problems. “My philosophy is that when you see someone who’s struggling, you want to help them and meet them where they are. As a person-centered, solution-based therapist, I look at the total person and seek to identify how gambling plays a role in their pain – whether as an escape, a form of self medication, etc.”

Lana’s connection with Northstar came through her involvement on the Minnesota Department of Human Services gambling advisory board. She worked with Lance Holthusen, former NPGA executive director, to produce workshops and annual events.

“I’ve always been impressed with the quality of the work that Northstar does and see great value in their mission,” says Lana. “I look forward to continuing to advocate on behalf of problem gamblers.”