For Lyndsie Murphy, MA, LPCC, MNCGC, working with compulsive gamblers and their families is most rewarding. “It’s very satisfying to hear family members say, ‘What have you done to my loved one?’ after they see the person apart from their addiction,” says Lyndsie.
Lyndsie worked on the compulsive gambling unit for two years at Project Turnabout before moving over to the mental health/family program last year. However, she continues to be involved with recovering gamblers by leading their family days and providing mental health services for them.
“My background in gambling helps me in my current position,” says Lyndsie. “For example, I know what questions to ask, what cross addictions to look for on the chemical dependency side, and whether gambling may be contributing to increased mental health symptoms.”
Lyndsie’s preferred therapeutic approach for problem gamblers is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). She also feels there’s significant value in mindfulness and meditation in helping to calm the chaos and ensure that clients are open to new ways of thinking. Depending on the needs of each client, Lyndsie provides the treatment that seems most appropriate for the individual.
In comparison to other addictions, Lyndsie sees similarities and differences with gambling. “I educate families that one addiction is no better than any other addiction,” says Lyndsie, but there’s more of a lack of education about gambling. “It’s not easy for families to understand that while a gambler is not putting anything into their body to alter their mind, the impact on the brain is the same as with other addictions.”
In addition to the need for additional education about problem gambling, Lyndsie sees a need for halfway houses for recovering gamblers, something that’s generally not covered by most insurance. “There’s not enough resources for after care for people recovering from gambling addiction.”
When first introduced to the field of compulsive gambling, several aspects struck Lyndsie. “I never realized the suicide rate was so high for compulsive gamblers or that it could destroy their lives the way it does,” says Lyndsie. “I also wasn’t aware of all the non-traditional forms of gambling that exist, such as auctioning, sports betting and the stock market.”
Given the scope of her work and experience, Lyndsie is particularly sympathetic to families and the “significant others” of problem gamblers. “Families can often sense that there’s something wrong, but they don’t always trust their instincts about what they’re seeing. “And, unlike patients, families don’t get 30 days in treatment to heal. They are left to pick up the pieces.”
Lyndsie thinks the state of treatment for gambling addiction is similar to where drug and alcohol treatment was 20 years ago. “We’re privileged in Minnesota to have grants pay for treatment, but there is still a ways to go.”