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Developing and Testing a Brief Intervention for Problem Gambling in Credit Counseling

Problem gambling is a stigmatized problem that is often not adequately assessed and can contribute to significant financial distress and negative outcomes. Despite the potentially catastrophic financial consequences that gambling disorders may have on affected individuals, their families, and communities where they live, very little research has been conducted to identify feasible and effective methods for screening and intervening to prevent problem gambling in financial counseling settings.

Building on pilot research, this study implements a brief intervention with text messaging and tests its effectiveness in reducing gambling behavior and improving financial well-being among credit counseling clients of Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Maryland and Delaware. The setting of credit counseling provides a practical but unique community-based setting for gambling screening and brief intervention. The intervention is designed to reduce problem gambling that can otherwise lead to sometimes catastrophic outcomes, including bankruptcy and financial ruin, but also severe psychological problems, depression and, even suicide.

This is the first study of its kind to incorporate universal screening for problem gambling among credit counseling clients, coupled with a targeted brief intervention designed to reduce gambling behavior and ultimately support financial goals.


“As a social scientist focused on behavioral health and financial capability, it just made sense to incorporate screening and intervention for problem gambling into credit counseling programs. Waiting for someone to reach out for help with gambling is too late – we need to help people see how their problem gambling is affecting not only their financial wellbeing but also the overall quality of life for themselves and often their families. We can provide immediate access to resources that help to reduce gambling and help those who are struggling to get on a path to recovery.”

Dr. Jodi Jacobson Frey, Professor and Chair of the Financial Social Work Initiative at the University of Maryland Baltimore

This research study provides a significant opportunity for the brief intervention, which combines motivational interviewing techniques and text messaging for credit and housing counselors to use with clients who are battling not only with problem gambling but also financial distress. If researchers find that the brief intervention is effective and feasible, it can be implemented at credit counseling organizations nationwide.


Team Members

Principal Investigator and Associate Professor, Associate Dean for Research


Research Associate Professor

Amanda Mosby

Project Manager

Orrin Ware

Graduate Research Assistant

Rachel Imboden

Graduate Research Assistant

For more information:

Dr. Paul Sacco, Associate Dean for Research & Associate Professor

Phone: 410-706-8099


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