Let’s understand the game…

Leliana Pârvulescu and Andrei Meszaros, Psychologists

The story behind the story…It is a permanent challenge to hear details of a story. Those details that the people only share at certain times. This is where the questions and answers come to life, for every case that I and my colleagues help with counseling, over the phone.

Several days ago, Andrei Meszaros was on duty. He heard the stories, shared them with me, and looked out together for the solutions.

I will let Andrei tell you the stories; he is the psychologist at the other end of the telephone line.

‘We always answer the calls on the special line, meant for the people addicted to gambling. It is about those players who feel bound by an invisible cord to the slot machine, roulette table, the board with the latest results they are betting on. More exactly, we are talking to the ones for whom gambling started as entertainment but turned into addiction.

Even though the reasons why some people reach a stage where gambling is not any longer responsible differ from one person to another, but they still share some common features: the player has a low self-confidence, a weak self-control. The consequences of an addictive behavior (the one specific to the addiction) are felt by the gambler and his family or close friends. It is the time when financial issues arise, following huge money loans, the job duties are done while thinking of the slot machine keys and the discussions at home are tensed, filled with blame and begging or even accusations or physical conflicts.
To be more precise, the addicted gambler is like a domino stone that also takes the others down in his fall – the family members. Attention has been drawn to, constraint methods are improvised, the emotional entourage is turned to and, finally, the call is made to the ‘Responsible Gaming’ Helpline.

In a guided dialogue, I find out from that person which is the frequency he visits the gaming room, the state of mind when he decides to try his luck a thousandth time, the period of time that he spends while feeling the pulse; then, we take the conversation to the personal background while I am taking notes about relevant events that could have brought a contribution to this addiction.
As a specialist, I call these collected data anamnesis – the caller thinks that my questions are rather invading his life, but they see is as a way to the solution, to that ‘Thank you, I am free now!’ But it is not that easy.
Even though the people calling me are looking forward to me telling them a few tips that they will implement in the next second and then call themselves ‘a former addicted gambler’ shortly after that. Things do not go at the same speed as the fruits on the slot machine screen.

After the conversation, the caller is given some instructions, we help him see his problem from a different angle, and he receives assignments, homework to do. And no, we do not have that wonder pill or shot that once given, the person will become completely new. There is a huge need for discussions, determination, decisions to make.

I would have loved to see the face of the person whom I told to talk to the slot machine and how he smiled after that role play where he was the leading actor.

It is quite interesting to see the relationship that a man can build with a cold but colorful machine, that electronic greengrocery’s.
And I am even more curious to see what words wrote that your man whom I told to send a letter to the roulette. Did the man who argued with his wife every single day and then walked to the gaming room really buy her a brassiere with the money he used to save for betting?

I truly believe that the man in Iasi has got a muscular body – I had suggested him to take a carpet from the house and beat it every time he felt he could not control his anger.

I would love to know whether those parents used the assertive communication on their 21-year old boy who had left with the money from the job to spend it in the gaming room.
A quite intriguing aspect of the discussions refers to the change in the voice tone when someone is asking for our help. While at the beginning, the voice is fading, words come out hard and sporadically, you can sense some happiness at the end. There are times when the questions I am asking myself receive answer from them, the same people who had reached that ‘I got it now!’ moment of understanding. They call me again after a while to tell me how far they are and most of the news is good.

I have mentioned above only a fraction of the cases in the pathological counseling. People should remember that there is a helpline they can call and reach experienced specialists who will find a solution for them, together. And this is a real blessing!’


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