Today we sat down with Rod Correa, Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor specializing in gambling (CASAC-G) at the Lexington Center for Recovery in Westchester County, NY, for an interview about his experience as a counselor working with people with gambling addictions.
Hi Rod! Can you introduce yourself and your background?
Growing up in an environment where substance abuse was all around me, I lost a lot of good friends to addiction. I knew they could have been saved, and it motivated me to get credentialed and learn more about addiction. I started working on getting credentialed five years ago.
I started off as a substance abuse counselor doing individual and group sessions with people dealing with addictions to drugs and alcohol. Many of these people were referred to me from the court due to illegal issues.
Just last year, OASAS gave Lexington Center for Recovery the opportunity to start a problem gambling program.
Can you tell us about the first interaction you typically have with problem gamblers?
It usually starts with a phone call. There’s a problem, or the addiction has come to the point where there’s quite a bit of desperation. They’ve probably called because they heard me on the radio or seen me in the paper.
We speak on the phone, and then they come in to talk about what is going on. We assess them to see if they meet the criteria for treatments, and then we identify the type of program they need based on their circumstances.
What about demographics? Do all problem gamblers come from the same background?
Not at all. I’ve seen an equal amount of men and women, and I’ve spoken with teenagers, adults and seniors. They come from all economic levels. I had someone who came from a wealthy background who easily spent $30-$40k, and another woman distraught from losing $88.
Do you interact with family members and help them, too?
I’ve met many families, and most of these family members have the same question:
Why can’t they just stop?
I work with the families to help them understand the addiction isn’t just bad choices or lack of care for the family. It’s a brain disease, and they can’t help but continue gamble despite negative consequences.
How long do you work with people struggling with problem gambling?
Every treatment is different, and everyone comes in with his or her own set of problems. The minimum amount of time I see someone is three months – that’s when there is the greatest risk of relapse.
Do you recommend they work with other people, too?
If I see a patient once or twice a week, that’s only two hours. The week is long and gambling is on their mind quite a bit. I always encourage my patients to go to support groups and meetings such as those offered by Gambler’s Anonymous. Sponsors are available at any time of day – that additional support is critical.
Why is it important we raise awareness about gambling addiction?
Not many people know this, but gambling has the highest suicide rate of all addictions. We’re trying to save lives.
We need to make more help available – open more treatment centers, train more counselors and make sure people know we’re here to help them. We need to make sure people know what phone number to call to get help immediately.
For more insight from Rod Correa, look for his story in our upcoming e-book “The Faces of Problem Gambling”, which will be published online September 11, 2013 and can be found by visiting KnowTheOdds.org.
Counselors like Rod are available throughout New York State. To find a treatment provider in a county near you, visit our Gambling Support Directory.