FairPlay - GA Effective?

GA has a list of twenty questions that can be used to self-diagnose compulsive gambling. The results from their instrument have correlated strongly with other tests that screen for compulsive gambling (e.g. the Total Sensation Seeking Scale, Boredom Susceptibility, Experience Seeking, South Oaks Gambling Screen, and Disinhibition subscales).

Some studies have shown that less than 8% of those who initially attended GA remained in the program and abstinent from gambling for over a year. These results improve somewhat if members are involved in additional therapy, or if one or more of their family members are involved in Gam-Anon or Gam-A-Teen (Twelve Step programs analogous to Al-Anon/Alateen).

Compared to problem gamblers who do not attend GA, GA members tend have more severe gambling problems, are older, have higher incomes, are less likely to be single, have more years of gambling problems, have larger debts, have more serious family conflicts, and less serious substance abuse problems. GA may not be as effective for those who have not had significant gambling problems. GA has been found to be helpful at preventing "relapses" (inability to remain abstinent from gambling), but not as helpful in dealing with them after they occur.

Gamblers who are able to moderate their activity are not likely to continue attending GA meetings. GA members who stopped attending meetings were more likely to consider the sharing at the meetings "meaningless" and were more critical of GA literature. Those who felt particularly elated at their first GA meetings were less likely to continue than those who had a more balanced first impression. GA, therefore, may be most suitable for severe problem gamblers who do not have compounding issues.

Although the likelihood of attending GA is the same for males and females, GA has been characterized as a predominately male fellowship, though the number of female members is increasing and there is an increasing sensitivity within GA to women's attitudes. Still, it has been argued that the atmosphere in GA meetings may not be hospitable enough for women.

GA's lack of appeal towards females has been attributed to GA's lack of focus on the principles of spirituality in other Twelve Step programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), though a casual link has not been shown. GA is often described as more secularized than AA. GA spends much of it's time and energy counseling members on how to deal with financial and legal problems. Additionally, GA supports "pressure groups" where members take each other to task and encourage them to "get honest" with people in their lives and get their affairs in order.

Among problem gamblers, it has been found that women are more focused on interpersonal issues, and that social issues were more likely to cause them to "relapse." Males more frequently discuss "external concerns" such as jobs and legal problems, and are more likely to relapse because of substance abuse. Therefore, it does seem plausible that GA's downplaying of spiritual, interpersonal, and psychemotional issues, inhibits it's effectiveness for women.