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Building the workforce to address gambling

March 20, 2012
by Elizabeth M. George
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Institute and university initiate an online certificate program

People have been gambling since the dawn of civilization. Gambling was practiced among the Babylonians and ancient Chinese. The widespread popularity of a game similar to Keno helped raised funds to build the Great Wall of China. English monarchs gambled with cards and had problems with dice games. King Henry VIII once lost England’s largest and most famous set of church bells in a game of chance with one of his noblemen.

Today, while legal gambling flourishes worldwide, it continues to carry significant societal costs. These are often especially noticeable among vulnerable groups that include underage individuals (who have unrealistic expectations about luck and games of chance) and the elderly.

With the rise in the number of gambling-addicted individuals comes an escalating need for healthcare providers with specialized knowledge and skills in the assessment and treatment of gambling addiction. This is critical in part because many people with a gambling addiction also have co-occurring substance use or mental health issues. People with gambling addiction are at four times greater risk of abusing alcohol and six times greater risk of abusing drugs, according to research from University of Calgary psychologist David Hodgins, PhD.

Left untreated or misdiagnosed, an addiction to gambling is as destructive to an individual, family and community as an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Yet many concerned organizations report that a total workforce of fewer than 75 gambling addiction-specific providers is available for an entire state or province, with the scarcity compounded in rural areas.

To address the growing need for education and training specific to gambling addiction, the University of Minnesota-Duluth and the North American Training Institute (NATI) have formed a strategic alliance. We are offering an online Studies in Gambling Addiction Certificate program that will be beneficial to counselors, employee assistance professionals, substance abuse providers, nurses, clergy, human resources personnel and educators, among others.

While there are a significant number of university certificate programs on addictions, the Studies in Gambling Addiction Certificate is the only online certificate program in the United States that specializes in gambling addiction. 

Program objectives

The Studies in Gambling Addiction Certificate program provides the opportunity to develop advanced skills and specialized knowledge in the areas of diagnosis, referral, treatment planning and aftercare strategies for gambling-addicted clients. Some of the key learning objectives of the certificate program include:

  • Understanding the importance of the winning phase in the progression of a gambling addiction.
  • Identifying maladaptive behavior and thinking as it relates to the addiction process.
  • Differentiating between the motives for gambling among different gambling types.
  • Integrating the underlying personality dynamics in assessing gambling addiction.
  • Looking at the entire psychosocial environment during assessment.
  • Differentiating between a gambling addiction and other disorders.
  • Understanding the concept of substitute satisfaction and its role in the development of a gambling addiction.
  • Tracing the gambler’s cycle of rebellion, guilt/shame and conformity.
  • Understanding treatment interventions based on personal, interpersonal, vocational, financial and legal dimensions.
  • Recognizing aftercare issues related to recovery from a gambling addiction.

The certificate program’s educational design includes multifaceted ways of learning, addressing differences in learning styles. The certificate program is primarily audio-based, using professionally recorded lectures by Lynn John Rambeck, PsyD, CAS. Participants also download an 82-page training manual with copies of PowerPoint slides and other selected course materials; the manual serves as a repository for notes and an ongoing review of the material. 

Assessment of learning

The certificate program uses an array of methods to assess learning. Embedded within the program are nine quizzes of 10 questions each, designed to evaluate progress and ensure that the participant is integrating the concepts of the lectures and materials. Essay work includes a significant events analogy in which participants are asked to describe real-life situations that illustrate key concepts of the course within their realm of experience.

A case study assessment instrument utilizes a real-life situation that demonstrates participants’ critical thinking and analytic ability. Also, there is one written exam question after each 30-hour block of this program. And finally, at program completion, participants are asked to provide feedback on their perceptions, attitudes and levels of satisfaction with the course.

We anticipate that the Studies in Gambling Addiction Certificate will reinforce career opportunities in an addiction counseling field that is seen as having significant growth potential in the coming years.


Elizabeth M. George is CEO of the North American Training Institute (NATI), a Minnesota-based organization that has provided gambling addiction-specific training and educational services since 1990. Her e-mail address is bgeorge@nati.org.

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