Project GRASP Offers Help to Partners of Problem Gamblers

By Kathleen Weaver

Release Date: January 17, 2002

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Imagine your husband says he's going to the grocery store to pick up a few things and then doesn't return until the next day, having lost hundreds of dollars playing cards or betting on football games.

Or your wife has been taking cash advances on credit cards, losing money at the casino, lottery, or bingo, and then hiding the credit-card bills. You don't become aware of the unpaid bills until it's too late and your credit is in crisis.

Your partner has become so preoccupied with gambling that he or she increasingly devotes less and less time to you and your relationship, doesn't hold up his or her household responsibilities and, if there are children, is not caring for them adequately or leaving all of their care to you. You may have become isolated from family and friends because your partner has failed to pay back money borrowed from them to pay off gambling debts.

Your partner won't listen to you, won't recognize the problem, won't stop gambling or seek help. You are feeling increasingly helpless and hopeless. You lose sleep, are depressed, angry, and anxious about the future. It's even taking a toll on your physical health.

Help now is available for you through Project GRASP, a 10-week treatment and research program conducted by the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions.

GRASP stands for the Gambling Relationship and Stress Program and is being led by psychologists Robert G. Rychtarik, Ph.D., and Neil B. McGillicuddy, Ph.D. RIA research scientists, they have extensive experience with interventions for individuals with a family member with an addiction problem. Rychtarik also is a UB research associate professor of psychology and psychiatry.

"GRASP is designed to help people learn new ways of dealing with stressful issues and everyday problems that come up as a result of living with a problem gambler," Rychtarik explained.

"Life never prepares us for dealing with a partner impaired by problem gambling. Project GRASP uses the best expert knowledge available to teach alternative ways of dealing with the problem gambler and the stress brought on by his or her gambling," Rychtarik said.

"The primary focus of the program is to relieve the distress experienced by the partner of the problem gambler," he explained. "A secondary benefit is that, by changing how you deal with your partner and his or her problem, you may reduce or stop the gambling or encourage your partner to enter treatment."

Program sessions are conducted weekly over 10 weeks and are available during weekday evenings or Saturday daytime hours. They are held at RIA, 1021 Main St. There is no fee for participation. The confidential program employs professional counselors experienced in working with families with addiction-related problems. Project GRASP is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

For more information or help, call 716-887-2255 or toll free at 1-877-843-3328. The program is open to U.S. and Canadian residents.