Thursday, 14 December 2017 06:32

Rural population can benefits of free addiction counselling

Written by  Demi Knight
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Dr. Darren Christensen, Alberta's Gambling Research Institute Chair in Gambling and assistant professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences and researcher of the current free online counselling study being conducted at the university of Lethbridge for Rural people afflicted with gambling problems. Dr. Darren Christensen, Alberta's Gambling Research Institute Chair in Gambling and assistant professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences and researcher of the current free online counselling study being conducted at the university of Lethbridge for Rural people afflicted with gambling problems. University of Lethbridge

With smaller populations and less on-site services, rural residents could find it harder to get the help necessary to overcome addictions.


However, a new study is being conducted within Alberta to help gamblers in rural communities get access to the help they need for free.
This twelve-week study hosted by the University of Lethbridge, which is being funded by the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM) and in cooperation with the Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN) is a program that offers three, free online counselling sessions per week for those struggling with gambling problems in rural areas.
“The study began this year,” explains the Alberta Gambling Research Institute Chair in Gambling and assistant professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Dr. Darren Christensen. “It began and was focused on rural and remote adults because typically rural people have less access to treatment and services of all kinds. With activities by AHS primarily being focused on training, they haven’t yet been able to provide this type of treatment to rural people.”
Dr. Darren Christensen, along with his research team began the study this year, with aims to include fifty-five adults from rural or remote areas with gambling problems. It gives them the opportunity to receive up to three online weekly counselling sessions provided by University of Lethbridge Master of Addictions Counselling students (who are under the supervision of University of Lethbridge faculty members) — for a total of twelve weeks.
“The program lasts twelve weeks, and we focus on behavioural therapy, so we investigate how participants think and feel, what triggers them or set them off and how they think and feel about their environments,” added Dr. Christensen of how the study works.
With the study working in one of two ways, participants will be randomly allocated to receive either regular counselling (by online video sessions) or regular counselling and small incentives, which in this case will be gift cards of a total of up to $450 which is part of their contingency management approach.
This specific approach will provide ‘instant healthy rewards’ for participants to mimic the experience of immediate gratification that is similarly obtained when the process of gambling is taking place. Through this form of counselling, Dr. Christensen says that the results have in the past proven to be effective in comparison to other methods that offer delayed or cumulative rewards.
“We are using this approach as an incentive to keep coming and remain abstinent. Because the benefit from counselling takes a while, but this method gives them something immediate and tangible for coming to a session, and therefor increases the likelihood that they come back next time.”
Although this study is unique by its goal to target rural people from the comfort of their own computer screens, it can also be challenging to offer the same highly effective services through this medium rather than in person.
However, through this online system Dr. Christensen says there are several added bonuses offered such as less travel and added anonymity, which can help save discomfort that the “gambling personas” can sometimes feel when seeking out help within a public facility.
“The obvious one is that there’s no travel required. Also, sometimes people find dealing with something face to face it can be challenging so doing it from home where you’re comfortable and talking to someone from a different place can be easier, they might feel less judged when it’s done this way.”
The study which currently has seventeen members, will continue until fifty-five participants have taken part, with the application process to become a part of the counselling service easy for anyone eligible to apply.
 Anyone wanting to be a part of the study and start their free journey to recovery can contact Dr. Christensen by telephone at 403-329-5124 or by e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Upon assessing eligibility, the participant will fill out a short assessment survey and consent form before beginning their twelve-week counselling sessions.

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