Cognitive restructuring is the best practice for treating gamblers’ erroneous thoughts, but some therapists lack knowledge about how to apply it.

In addition, gamblers who engage in games of skill (such as poker) have different game-related thoughts than the chance-based gamblers usually found in treatment.

The techniques used to identify and correct gamblers’ erroneous thoughts are rarely described.

The aim of this knowledge synthesis was to describe how cognitive restructuring is used with gamblers based on the information provided in treatment studies that included cognitive interventions for gambling. Of the 4,667 documents identified in the initial search, 41 articles were retained.  

The results showed that a number of techniques were used to identify and correct gamblers’ erroneous thoughts, but that these techniques were rarely described, making it difficult to apply cognitive restructuring simply by reading articles on the subject. Furthermore, no studies indicated how to adapt cognitive interventions to correct the thoughts of skill-based gamblers, despite the inclusion of these gamblers in the treatment studies.

The studies also used a variety of different terminologies to designate gambling-related thoughts (for example, erroneous thoughts, cognitive distortions, dysfunctional thoughts and irrational thoughts). The term most commonly used was erroneous thoughts. Because cognitive restructuring is such an effective intervention for treating gambling problems, researchers are encouraged to provide detailed descriptions of how they apply it in order to allow their studies to be replicated.

Main researcher

Isabelle Giroux, Université Laval


Research report

Call for proposals

Deposit of the research report: December 2015