Type of work: Service design / digital gambling treatment design
Date: April – June 2015
Extent of the project: 9 weeks, full-time
Problem gambling is the type of gambling that affects family life, relationships, personal finances, and sometimes even mental health, and for this project, we were working for and with the London-based National Problem Gambling Clinic (NPGC) on improving engagement from young people (18-24 year olds). Their problem is two-fold: Not only is the number of young people seeking help low, the highest rate of non-attendance at the clinic is also with this age group of young people.
Hap is a transformed CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) service delivered mostly through digital channels, specifically targeted at young problem gamblers. The service currently on offer is (in simplified terms) referral followed by assessment, followed by 8 weekly lessons of CBT. This inflexible treatment structure doesn't allow for feelings of 'ups and downs' which are a natural part of any type of addiction, and are found to be more prominent in young problem gamblers. By digitising the CBT, it allows you to follow treatment at your own pace, track your progress, and emphasises a feeling of 'self-help'. It also means that treatment can start right after assessment; eliminating waiting time, and responding to a much more “immediate culture”. Hap, meaning coming about by chance, takes the form of an app because this enables people to access the CBT exercises — a core part of the treatment — whenever needed the most.
It is worth mentioning that there currently is no gambling addiction service targeted at young people, and that a recent trial with app-based CBT for mental health problems was found to be very successful.
When dealing with such a vulnerable group of people, access is not straight-forward. Having not been able to talk directly with any of the clinic's patients, we have instead talked to staff, practitioners, experts and researchers in this or similar fields, whilst also spending time at the bookies, where we met a supposedly 19 year old professional gambler, and several young people.