Research Shows Hope of Recovery for Compulsive Gamblers
Is there help? If Edelgard Wulfert’s work with nine pathological gamblers over the past year is any indication, the answer would appear to be a resounding “yes” - at least for those who have a strong desire to turn their lives around. Early in 2000, at the invitation of the Center for Problem Gamblers in Albany, the 12-year Department of Psychology faculty member provided therapy, through the University’s Center for Stress and Anxiety Disorders, to nine individuals who had allowed gambling to take over their lives.
The desire to give up gambling entirely is an essential element in ensuring successful therapy, according to Wulfert, whose previous experience includes treating substance abusers. “Compulsive gamblers rarely seek help on their own,” she said. “They live in a fantasy world, dreaming that they are just one bet away from the big win that will solve all their problems. In most cases, the contact with the therapist is prompted by external factors: a spouse’s ultimatum, legal pressures, or insurmountable financial concerns.”
There may also be “obstacles to treatment,” including “the gambler’s ambivalence about getting help. Previous attempts at counseling or visits to Gamblers Anonymous may have been unsuccessful, and the gambler fears yet another failure. Conversely, the gambler may fear that treatment will be successful. Giving up gambling means relinquishing an activity that has brought the greatest excitement, pleasure, and comfort into his or her life. Together, these reasons explain the enormous degree of motivational ambivalence and the oscillation between repeated cycles of gambling and abstinence,” noted Wulfert.
For the nine gamblers Wulfert worked with last year, treatment consisted of “a hybrid intervention integrating motivational enhancement and cognitive therapy” that combined “personalized feedback about the effects of gambling on the client’s life with an empathic, non-confrontational therapeutic style.” She helped her clients to recognize specific “trigger situations, such as interpersonal problems, an upcoming big race, or feeling bored or lonely, and cognitive errors that fuel the gambling compulsion: ‘I can feel it: This is my lucky day!’” Wulfert also assisted them in “identifying false beliefs and replacing those beliefs with rational statements that accurately describe what drives the outcome in games of chance - namely, chance factors that cannot be predicted.”
Another thing she encouraged was “a significant lifestyle change,” which might involve “going back to school or changing careers,” thereby focusing the energies formerly invested in gambling on “more constructive areas.” Of the group Wulfert treated, “two focused on educational pursuits, with one preparing for a college degree and the other studying toward an associate’s degree while holding down a regular job. Two clients changed jobs and removed themselves from an environment that fostered their gambling addiction. Three others made significant relationship changes: two separated or divorced their spouses because their relationships were beyond repair, and one married after a year of abstinence from gambling, when his long-term fiancée was finally able to trust him.”
As a result, those seven clients successfully conquered their propensity to gamble. The remaining two, however, had a harder time. One, who “wanted to ‘control’ his habit,” has made “no change whatsoever and continues with the same lifestyle. It was apparent to me right from the start that he was firmly entrenched in his beliefs and was not ready to change,” said Wulfert, who will continue to follow up with her clients for up to one year beyond treatment.
“Most interestingly,” she observed, “the individual with the most serious gambling addiction - the one who relapsed repeatedly - really seems to be turning his life around. He separated from his wife, has new vocational pursuits, and has not gambled compulsively in three months. I spoke with him recently, and he is quite upbeat about his future.”
For aftercare, three of the nine joined Gamblers Anonymous, where “they are finding comfort and support for their new lifestyle.”
Wulfert recently submitted to the National Institutes of Health an application for a grant to support her work with pathological gamblers. If the funding is received, “we will conduct a larger-scale study in collaboration with the Albany Center for Problem Gambling,” she explained.
Statistics from a paper she has written, and which is now under review, underscore the importance of her work. “The United States is currently in an era of widespread legalized gambling, which has resulted in a burgeoning industry,” Wulfert quoted from the paper. “With the proliferation of lotteries, casinos, off-track betting locations, and other gaming opportunities, Americans wager increasing sums of money every year.” According to figures from the National Research Council, for example, the amount of money spent on gambling in the U.S. between 1974 and 1992 increased from $17 billion to about $330 billion. The latest figures available indicate that Americans now gamble away more than $551 billion a year.
“Although most people gamble for social or recreational reasons and wager only small amounts,” Wulfert wrote, “the increased availability of gambling opportunities may have led to a rise in pathological gambling.” The prevalence rates of compulsive gambling are currently estimated to be between 1 and 2 percent in the United States, Canada, and Europe, respectively. That level, Wulfert noted, “exceeds the prevalence of schizophrenia” as documented by Wolkowitz, Roy & Doran (1985). As a result, “concerns have been raised that pathological gambling is developing into a serious public health problem.”
The work of John Logan, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and director of the Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research, was featured recently in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and the Las Vegas Review Journal.
The Mumford Center, which is interpreting segregation patterns from the 2000 Census, has found that segregation is persisting despite increases in the black middle class over the last decade.
Joseph E. Bowman, Jr., an assistant professor in the School of Education and an expert on the use of technology in the classroom, was named in The New York Times on March 14, after he was elected to the State Board of Regents. He replaces Eleanor Bartlett, who resigned to run the New Covenant Charter School in Albany. Bowman, who was once an Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) student at UAlbany, earned a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees here before completing a Doctor of Education at Teachers’ College of Columbia University.
Frank R. Vellutino, a professor in the psychology department, was quoted in an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on March 4. Titled “Budget Aims at Reading Problems,” the article focused on students with reading problems who are often classified as learning disabled and sent to special education classes.
The Feb. 21 edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune featured University sociologist Thor Bjarnason in an article on teen drug use. Bjarnason was quoted and also listed as a co-author of the report, the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Drugs.
The Buffalo News reported in its Feb. 21 edition that Lillian Williams, a professor of women’s studies, was a speaker in a discussion and reading of “William Wells Brown and His Living Legacy.” The article also mentioned that she is the author of A History of Black Buffalo.
Gordon Gallup, a professor in the psychology department, was mentioned in the Feb. 24 edition of the Montreal Gazette. Titled “Examples of Mental Capacities,” the article included mention of his research on self-awareness and how apes can be trained to recognize themselves in a mirror.
The March 7 issue of the Los Angeles Times quoted Terence Thornberry, professor in the School of Criminal Justice. The article, “Santee School Shootings,” focused on the elusiveness of violence triggers.
Meghan Dougherty has joined the Office of Advancement Research as a development researcher. Dougherty comes to the Division of University Advancement from Falls Church, Va.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology from Auburn University in Alabama. During her years at Auburn she was on the women’s soccer team and was named to the scholar athlete honor roll. After graduation she returned to Falls Church, where she worked as a financial crime researcher for the Department of the Treasury. As a researcher she gathered commercial, financial, and law enforcement information on people being investigated by federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Dougherty’s long-range plans are to go to graduate school for a Ph.D. in sociology.
Christy DeLaMater has joined the Office of Advancement Events as academic events coordinator. She is assisting Linda Wheeler with all preparations for commencement and academic related events. Prior to joining UAlbany, she was with Fair Point Communications, where she was manager of corporate communications.
Linda Goodwin has recently joined the advancement division as the keyboard specialist for development services. Prior to working for UAlbany, Goodwin was a staff reporter and photographer for various upstate newspapers, including The Leader-Herald in Gloversville and the CooperstownTown Crier.
Professor Lecture Honors Richard Alba and John Logan April 6
The title of Alba’s lecture is “Assimilation: Remaking the American Mainstream.” Logan’s talk is titled “Generations of Immigrants.” After the lectures, there will be a reception in Agnes E. Futterer Memorial Lounge.
Alba’s major scholarly contribution has been in the study of ethnic and race relations in the United States. In five books and numerous publications in leading professional journals, he has demonstrated, both theoretically and empirically, the magnitude of assimilatory change. The pioneering contributions in these and other works are now centrally featured in textbook accounts of ethnicity in the U.S. and in other cultures. Alba’s research has attracted external funds from federal agencies and private foundations. He has also received two Fulbright Fellowships, a Russell Sage Foundation Visiting Scholar Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellow-ship. Alba has served in leadership assignments at the University, on the editorial boards of major professional journals, and in major leadership roles in the profession, including election as Vice President of the American Sociological Association and as President of the Eastern Sociological Association.
Logan has published more than 100 professional articles and book chapters and five books, including the prize-winning Urban Fortunes, which is central to the field’s current understanding of the political economy of cities, urban development, suburbanization, and residential segregation, and the prize-winning Family Ties, which extends this research into family relations. In his current projects, Logan is advancing knowledge still further on both fronts through the Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research, which he directs. Much of the work has been supported by federal agencies and other public and private sources. Logan has also served in leadership assignments at all levels of the University, on the editorial boards of eight major professional journals, and in major leadership roles in professional associations.
To R.S.V.P. for the April 6 event, call (518) 442-5373 by March 30 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Janet H. Marler is a new assistant professor teaching courses in human resource management, HRIS, and compensation to MBA students in the School of Business’ Department of Management.
Department chair Cecilia Falbe says, “Janet has a keen interest in technology and a specialization in compensation which will strengthen our programs. We also expect Janet to contribute to the University and School of Business’ research reputation. In addition, Janet is chairing the School of Business Research Committee. We find this to be outstanding service for a new faculty member.”
UAlbany and the Towers Perrin consulting firm recently awarded Marler a competitive grant. After she submitted her proposal to study e-HR (Electronic Human Resources) - a study of how businesses integrate human resources and technology - Marler was awarded the First Annual Management Faculty Research Grant.
Last January, Marler received her Ph.D. from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations in human resource studies and labor economics. She was a doctoral fellow at Cornell’s Employment and Families Career Institute, where she studied dual earning couples’ career and family strategies; she is currently collaborating on a book about this research. From 1990-1993 she taught graduate, undergraduate, and executive education courses in finance and management at Cornell. Prior to earning her Ph.D., Marler was an executive and consultant in the financial services industry. Marler is also a certified public accountant. Her teaching and research interests include strategic human resources, managing employee compensation, alternative employment relationships, and performance pay, particularly stock options.
Marler is currently working on her research for the Towers Perrin e-HR manuscript, which she plans to submit to the Academy of Management Journal. She is also engaged in conducting research on compensation strategies in the high-technology industry.
Mark Muraven teaches an undergraduate course, Introduction to Social Psychology, and a graduate seminar on Motivation and Self-Regulation in the Department of Psychology.
“His research interests fit very nicely with those of a number of faculty in our department who are interested in addiction processes. Furthermore, his expertise and focus on social psychological issues strengthen and nicely complement those of a number of faculty outside our social psychology Ph.D. program,” said Robert Rosellini, department chair.
Muraven comes to UAlbany after spending two years as a post-doctoral research associate at the Research Institute on Addictions of SUNY Buffalo. He earned his Ph.D. in experimental social psychology from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. His dissertation was titled: Mechanisms of Self-Control Failure: Motivation and Limited Resources. His primary research interests lie in the role of self-control in promoting healthy behaviors, such as overcoming addictions, treating mental illnesses, and adherence to life-style changes like dieting and excercising. His research interests also include motivation and goal setting, theories of emotions, and intimate relationships. Muraven was a recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, as well as several student awards from the American Psychological Association and Society for Personality and Social Psychology.
“He already has a solid record of scholarship including two book chapters and eight journal articles,” said Rosellini. Muraven’s articles have been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Bulletin, and Psychological Inquiry. He also has a grant under submission to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction. More recently, he has been conducting research for papers that examine the role of self-control in prejudice, which he presented to the Society of Personality and Social Psychology in Nashville, Tenn., last February. Last month, he presented his current work, an examination of self-control factors related to underaged drinking, to the same conference.
Assistant Professor Cherie Strachan has added a unique dimension to politics in UAlbany’s communication department. In the words of Robert E. Sanders, chair of the Department of Communication: “Professor Strachan introduces studies of contemporary campaign issues to our program in political communication. Her interest is in the growing use in local elections of broadcast media and new information technologies to bring the campaign to voters. This imports campaign practices from national and statewide elections, and is bound to make a difference at the local level in the kind of information voters have and their personal contact with elected officials.”
Strachan received her Ph.D. in political science from UAlbany last May while teaching at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She has taught several courses, including Political Campaign Communication, Women in American Politics, and American Political Parties. She is currently teaching Communication Research Methods. In addition to her teaching experience, Strachan was senior research assistant to the State Capacity Project at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany.
Development Program Maintains Highly Skilled Workforce
“President Hitchcock is emphatic about public engagement,” said Monaco, “and we are an embodiment of that in the extended learning environment. Our programs are specifically designed for working professionals and provide them with what they need to better serve their clients.”
Established in 1976 and headquartered on the downtown campus, PDP provides needs assessment, curriculum design, program evaluation, project management, and training courses to professionals in public management, social work, gerontology, nursing, engineering, and a host of other fields. With “the half-life of knowledge decreasing,” said Monaco, “we help to maintain competency, in a dynamic environment, for an already highly skilled professional workforce, so PDP is well positioned to respond to the needs of the state’s workforce.”
PDP keeps professionals abreast of policy and legislative changes, and makes new knowledge available to them in a number of ways, some of which carry academic credit. Approaches range from “customized traditional and innovative training methods that include small group structured activities, case studies, role playing, and lectures, to institutes and courses that are residential in nature, to statewide teleconferences,” Monaco said.
But satellite teleconferences and traditional classroom sessions are just two of the ways PDP disseminates knowledge: The program has pioneered the field of e-learning at UAlbany. “We’re very big on using technology. We’ve been on the cutting edge of using Web- and computer-based instruction, CD-ROMs, and fiber-optic connections,” said Monaco.
Each year, PDP institutes, lectures, distance learning sessions, and other services reach about 10,000 participants across the state. Monaco estimates that, since the program’s inception 25 years ago, approximately 400,000 New Yorkers have taken advantage of its offerings.
The response from those who update their skills through PDP programs has been positive. A letter from Carol Hulley, assistant social work training director at the Suffolk County Department of Social Services, praises a recent Specialized Budgeting Training presentation given at the county offices. “. . .We are very appreciative of your efforts, both at the institutes and at on-site training in our agency,” Hulley wrote. Mary Ellen Clerkin of the New York State Department of Education e-mailed PDP to acknowledge “the excellent ‘government lawyer’ programs” offered last November and December. “Not only were the programs of very high quality, but they were completely relevant to what I do as an attorney in an agency counsel’s office. There were several points raised in various presentations that I could actually use on projects I had before me at the very moment.”
According to Monaco, who has directed PDP for several years, the program “is funded 100 percent through contracts and grants.” Program support - which amounts to nearly $22.5 million for 2001 - comes from “just about every state agency,” including the departments of Family Assistance, Labor, and Health; the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations through the state’s collective bargaining agreement with the Public Employees Federation (AFL-CIO); and the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
In addition to serving professionals’ educational needs, PDP has another function, Monaco pointed out. “We serve as a ‘feeder’ for the University. Most of our participants are mid-career professionals who haven’t been in a higher education environment for a long time. We help them get their sea legs by answering their questions about how to get a transcript and otherwise acclimating them to being in a learning environment again. It is a particular kind of customer service - we help them through a lot of issues and build their confidence. Extended learning requires extended services.”
In addition, PDP staff participate in “future activities,” which Monaco described as “engaging practitioners and scholars in identifying and exploring issues, events, and trends. We ask: ‘What educational implications will these have for working professionals?’ ‘What is the performance gap?’ ‘What do practitioners need to stay current in a dynamic environment?’ Just about everything we do is based on individual and workplace performance.”
Monaco added that PDP has “done a lot of leading-edge work. As a result of our ongoing scanning and focus group activities, the need for training related to the emerging AIDS crisis was identified in the 1980s. I think we did the very first AIDS training in New York.”
At that time, noted Monaco, “there was a lot of fear. People didn’t understand AIDS, so we provided a broad initiative for basic education about the disease. We did that for eight or 10 years; in that time, the professional workforce became sufficiently educated about AIDS and how to deal with it.” Now, those organizations have the capacity to deal with AIDS education and awareness on their own.
He concluded, “President Hitchcock is committed to the University’s public service mission. We have few peers in terms of our track record in connecting higher education resources and the needs of professionals. We have been acting on that commitment for 25 years.”
Memorial Service for Rodney Hart
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