Our guest on this episode of the Addicted Mind podcast is Colleen Koncilja, a counselor based in the Chicago area who specializes in gambling addictions. Shortly after a casino riverboat became a permanent fixture just blocks away from her practice’s office in Elgin, Illinois, the town recognized that compulsive gambling would become an increasing problem and they gave Colleen’s team funding to assist the population who would suffer from this behavioral addiction.

Problematic gambling, also referred to as compulsive or pathologic gambling, can begin when there is a progression in the amount and/or frequency of the gambling, gambling becomes consuming of other aspects of life, the individual does not do it for recreation anymore but to fulfill a need, and the individual has to start lying about where they have been and what they have been doing.  Action gamblers become addicted to the euphoria or high that they feel when they are performing well and other people at the casino are recognizing their success, while escape gamblers are seeking to numb or escape anxiety, depression, grief, or loss by disconnecting with the real world.  Much like substance use disorder and sex addictions, problematic gambling provides a behavior for the individual to process their emotional traumas or anxieties.

Though most insurance companies do not recognize gambling addictions as something that their plans should cover, a significant portion of gambling addicts reach out for professional help at the urging of their family members, the criminal justice system, or out of sheer desperation. During this process, the counselor can help the individual process what benefits they feel that they gain from gambling and determine alternate ways to achieve these goals, such as coping skills, accountability relationships, or other resources available.

As Colleen mentioned, March is National Gambling Awareness Month, and the resources that she mentioned were www.gam-anon.org and www.ncpgambling.org, in addition to the gambling resources specific to your state.

Contact Information:

Colleen Koncilja LCSW, CADC, ICGC-II, BACC

Health and Healing Therapy





Renz Addiction Counseling Center



847-742-3545 Ex. 234

Resources and Links:

For those who struggle with a gambling disorder


National Problem Gambling Hotline: 1-888-522-4700

Directory of Certified Gambling Counselors: https://www.ncpgambling.org/help-treatment/counselor-directory-agreement/

Support Meetings

Gambler’s Anonymous: http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/

Gambler’s Anonymous Hotlines (listed by state): http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/hotlines

SMART Recovery (Self Management And Recovery Training): https://www.smartrecovery.org

Check out Episode 23 with Pete Finger on Smart Recovery: theaddictedmind.com/23

Refuge Recovery: https://www.refugerecovery.org

For family and friends of those who struggle with problem gambling

Directory of Certified Gambling Counselors: https://www.ncpgambling.org/help-treatment/counselor-directory-agreement/

Gam-Anon: https://www.gam-anon.org

SMART Recovery for families: https://www.smartrecovery.org/family/