SSW Prepares to Tackle Gaming Addiction

Issue Date: 
October 29, 2007

New program’s leaders include one of Pa.’s few nationally certified gambling counselors

As city planners, sports team representatives, and residents of Pittsburgh’s North Side wrangle over plans for a new slot-machine parlor, the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work (SSW) is preparing to train and certify counselors to handle one of the consequences it fears may be a result of the new casino—a spike in compulsive gambling.

Social workers have seen the scenario play out many times over.

“People may begin to spend part of their household budget on gambling,” says Jody Bechtold, an SSW field education coordinator at Pitt who recently received her national certification in compulsive gambling addiction counseling. “They’ll borrow from friends and family and be unable to pay it back, or they could do something illegal.”

The six-month Nationally Certified Gambling Counselor Program, which Bechtold will help administer, is expected to get under way on the Pitt campus in February 2008.

There are only a handful of professionals across the state with national certification in compulsive gambling addiction counseling, the credentials recommended by the Washington, D.C.-based National Council on Problem Gambling.

The Pitt program will be unique, Bechtold says, because it will offer “one-stop shopping” for participants, most of whom will be human service professionals who already work in the mental health or substance abuse fields.

Students will receive 30 hours of gambling-specific training and four hours of supervision under a national board-certified consultant while they accrue 100 hours of gambling-related counseling activities involving gamblers and their family members.

Previously, counselors seeking national certification in Pennsylvania had to overcome a number of obstacles.

“I had to travel throughout the state and out-of-state to get my training,” Bechtold says. “I went to Ohio for my supervision and had to wait for the test date, which only occurred three times a year.” Under the new Pitt program, participants will be trained in one six-month program, and they can be tested on the Pittsburgh campus.

Applicants to the program need a bachelor’s degree or higher to enroll. Pitt’s Nationally Certified Gambling Counselor Program will operate in compliance with guidelines from the National Council on Problem Gambling, and the certificate will be recognized in other states as well as Pennsylvania. For more information, call 412-624-4582.