Paula grew up as a child of a compulsive gambler and has vivid recollections. “I remember we’d take trips from our home in Los Angeles to the Circus Circus casino in Las Vegas,” recalls Paula. The entire second floor was one big arcade area for children to roam. While playing, I would occasionally peer over the railing that overlooked the casino floor to see my father gambling. As a child, though, it didn’t seem that odd to me.”
However, Paula soon realized that her father’s gambling had a profound effect on the family. She endured many of the damages common to families with a compulsive gambler, including the loss of a home, the lack of her father’s attentive presence, and uncertainty regarding her opportunity to attend college.
Fortunately, Paula’s father found healing from his gambling addiction and became an ardent supporter and advocate for Gambler’s Anonymous. “Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I really grew up in the backroom of GA rooms,” says Paula. “It was normal for us to have people coming to the house late at night seeking support to fight their addiction, whether it be from gambling or alcohol.”
Paula has provided counseling for problem gamblers since 1995. She cites Roger Svendsen, former director of Northstar and long-time proponent of education and prevention in the addiction field in Minnesota, as a guiding influence in her decision to become a gambling treatment counselor. Paula also appreciated the opportunity to work with Linda Berman, MSW, LCSW, author of Behind the 8-Ball, as one of her trainers.
In addition to her specialty in problem gambling treatment, Paula is fluent in American Sign Language. This allows her to counsel deaf and hard-of-hearing clients, including those who couldn’t otherwise access GA groups.
Paula also works with affected others of compulsive gamblers. Some of the key messages she communicates to them are that there is hope, there is healing, and that they need to prioritize working on their own recovery. “They often come in wanting to know how to work on the problem gambler, but leave realizing the importance of self care,” says Paula.
Paula practices in both Burnsville and Northfield. She also works for the state of Minnesota as a behavioral mental health counselor for K-12. More information about Paula can be found here.