National Problem Gambling Clinic: Hap

Engaging young people in problem gambling treatment

About the project

Title: Hap
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 was created in collaboration with Kay Dale and Fang-Jui Chang.

The design

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.

Person opening Hap

Hap, meaning coming about by chance, takes the form of an app because it is convenient to have the treatment service ready at hand.

Hap treatment progress The tools of hap

The proposed future service looks like this. Here showing the unlocked tools or exercises that you can return to when needed.

What the current service looks like

The current service looks like this. You schedule sessions of talking therapy, and can work your way through the homework book in between sessions.

Current service overview

A simplified version of current service: Referral followed by assessment followed by 8 weekly sessions of CBT. The homework book sums up the treatment, and the 'clients' can engage with this in between sessions.


With Hap: Once you download the app, you can refer yourself to the clinic. This means that there will be an important touch-in and touch-out moment at the actual clinic’s premises, but in-between this, you will be following the CCBT at your own pace, from wherever you are.


Our research pointed towards three key insights. First, having enough information on what lies ahead is particularly important for young people; information about the treatment before signing up, but also knowing what the next steps in treatment are.


Secondly, feelings of addiction intensity fluctuates. Research has shown that this is particularly prevalent and important among young problem gamblers, most likely because of a more fluid lifestyle, and bigger life changes such as graduating from college, moving away from home etc.


And, finally, one thing that distinguishes this age group of problem gamblers from other age groups is a heightened belief in natural recovery, and a higher wish for autonomy. This points to ways of providing support to help yourself out of problem gambling as a particularly important factor for young people.

A glimpse of the process

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.

The National Problem Gambling Clinic's physical premises

The National Problem Gambling Clinic's physical premises in Fulham. Spending time here was a key part of the research.

At the bookies

Spending time at the bookies, talking to both staff, regular gamblers and occasional gamblers. It was here that we met Charlie, a supposedly 19 year old professional gambler.

Staff meetings at the NPGC

Attending weekly staff meetings gave us a good idea of what was going on at the clinic, as well as what types of people seek help, and what they are struggling with.

Experts and researchers

Talking to scholars and researchers from problem gambling circles and practitioners from similar services or other addiction services provided us with an understanding of the broader issues.

Quick prototype

Early prototype for use as a conversation starter.

CBT lessons overview

Overview and analysis of current CBT lessons, and how they could be rearranged to fit into a digital format.

NPGC 'pathways' blueprint

Blueprint of the various treatment 'pathways'. Courtesy of Harry Trimble.