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

  • End date
    Feb 28, 2022
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    University of Maryland, Baltimore
Updated on 8 August 2021


This study will implement a brief intervention with text messaging and will test its effectiveness in reducing gambling behavior and improving financial well-being among credit counseling clients who seek services.

Financial counseling organizations provide a community-based environment for screening and brief intervention for gambling-related problems as gambling problems are fundamentally about financial losses. The study holds the promise of expanding brief interventions for gambling to individuals outside the health care system and in so doing, help those at-risk who do not present for formal treatment.


The randomized control trial is designed to test the effectiveness of a unique brief intervention for at-risk gambling within a national financial counseling organization. Individuals who call the program for credit counseling and financial support will be asked a brief screen for problem gambling by a trained financial advocate (i.e. credit counselor). Individuals who are eligible for the study will be provided with information about the study by their financial advocate and asked if they would be willing to have a researcher at University of Maryland School of Social Work (UMSSW) contact them to tell them more about information about the study and review informed consent.

If the person wants to learn more about the study, a member of the research team at UMSSW will contact the individual, who will review the informed consent with the individual and answer questions. After obtaining their consent, the researcher will randomize the individual to either Group 1 (control) or Group 2 (intervention). A randomization matrix will be prepopulated in advance so that the researcher will assign the individual based on the next group assignment. If the individual is randomly assigned to Group 1, the researcher will proceed by asking the baseline/Time 1 interview questions. They will not receive any additional intervention.

If the individual is randomly assigned to Group 2, the researcher will proceed by providing the brief intervention. The brief intervention includes providing feedback on the individual's gambling score; providing an educational fact about the relationship between problem gambling and financial well-being; talking with the individual about the 'pros' and 'cons' of gambling with suggested strategies that could potentially reduce their gambling behaviors; and concluding with an action oriented closing question. Following the intervention, the researcher will then administer the baseline/Time 1 structured interview questions.

For individuals who are assigned to the intervention group, they will also receive text messages. The researchers will send text messages via pre-programmed, automated mode to the client. Participants will receive up to five messages a week, and messages will be delivered at times when gambling may be higher, such as weekend afternoons and evenings. Text messages will be sent following baseline for one month, through the end of T2 (30-day post screening).

Individuals who agree to participate in the study and who are randomized to either group (control or intervention) will complete three phone interviews by phone that inquire about gambling behaviors, financial well-being, and mental health-seeking behavior. Phone interviews will be administered at baseline (Time 1), 30 days (Time 2), and 90 days (Time 3) following consent. The credit counseling program will also provide data from their initial evaluation and screening from their records on individuals who take part in the intervention (e.g., sociodemographic variables, financial information about assets and debt, and the results of the gambling screen).

Condition Gambling Problem
Treatment Text messages
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04064749
SponsorUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore
Last Modified on8 August 2021

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