University of Calgary

Online Intervention

UToday HomeDecember 19, 2012

By Heath McCoy

Department of Psychology head David Hodgins is recruiting test subjects for a study of online treatment programs for gambling additions. Photo by Riley BrandtDepartment of Psychology head David Hodgins is recruiting test subjects for a study of online treatment programs for gambling addictions. Photo by Riley BrandtIf the proliferation of online gambling sites is proving to be a breeding ground for gambling addictions, as studies have shown, than one might assume the best solution is to steer problem gamblers away from the Internet.

But what if treatment for gambling addictions was also a mere click away?

That’s an idea that David Hodgins, head of the Department of Psychology, is putting to the test as he seeks to recruit participants for a 12-month study of online treatment programs for gambling addictions.

“Today, anytime someone has any kind of health concern, they’ll Google it and look for information,” says Hodgins. “This is an extension of that.”

Indeed, gamblers are often drawn to gambling sites because they appreciate the ease and privacy that online gambling allows them. But those same enticements could also be applied to gambling treatments, Hodgins surmises. If online gamblers are comfortable on the Internet it stands to reason that an online intervention might provide them with an ideal lifeline as they’re spiraling out of control.

Problem gamblers who fit the criteria for the study will be provided with a link to a website for treating gambling addictions. The online intervention program will help gamblers reflect on the extent of their problem and provide a “menu of strategies which they might employ, based on what we’ve learned from others who have been successful,” says Hodgins.

As participants interact with the program, Hodgins and his research assistant will be able to monitor their progress and responses for the study.

“In no way will this replace formal treatment,” Hodgins stresses. “The question is, can an online treatment program supplement that and be really helpful to people?”

He adds that an online program could also act as a “jumping-off point” for some addicts who wouldn’t otherwise seek treatment. After experiencing results online, they might actively seek out more intensive, formal treatment.

Hodgins would like to see links to the program included on gambling websites if research shows that the online intervention program is effective.

“In Canada, online gambling sites that are available are offered by provincial governments,” Hodgins says. “Those governments have a mandate to not only generate revenue, but also to protect the public. This is consistent with providing a responsible gambling approach.”

To become a participant in the program, or for more information, contact Kristy Kowatch at 1-877-437-3777 or visit