Abstract: A Photovoice Study on Problematic Gamblers' Recovery Journey in South Korea (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

456P A Photovoice Study on Problematic Gamblers' Recovery Journey in South Korea

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Min Ah Kim, PhD, Associate Professor, Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Korea, Republic of (South)
JongSerl Chun, Professor, Ewha Womans University
HaiSun Shim, Assistant Professor, Hs_Shim@Naver.Com
Background and Purpose: Illegal gambling often involves relapse and has significantly affected individuals’ lives, including social and psychological problems. However, experiences of adults in the recovery process from problematic gambling, including what problematic gamblers are concerned about and need for recovery, have not been understood from their perspective. This study explored the lived experiences during recovery among adults who engaged in problematic gambling in South Korea using the photovoice method.

Methods: Participants were seven problematic gamblers referred to a short-term residential rehabilitation program that provides psychosocial rehabilitation at the Korea Center on Gambling Problems. Their ages ranged from 21 to 41 years, and their gambling periods ranged between 1 and 6 years. All participants had engaged in online gambling, such as sports gambling, online casinos, and a lottery game known as ghost lag. Six sessions of photovoice were held in which participants determined four themes they would like to capture and then submitted photos that expressed their experiences related to the selected theme. Each session involved a 2-hour group discussion in which participants shared their lived narratives reflected in the pictures they took. Thematic analyses were conducted to identify salient subthemes in the participant-selected themes.

Results: Twelve subthemes related to problematic gamblers’ experiences during their recovery journey emerged within four main themes: (a) my life after gambling (I found myself completely changed, my life feels like hell after gambling); (b) what I have lost from gambling (financial well-being, health, trust in a relationship with people, my ordinary daily life, and purpose of my life); (c) what would help my recovery (escaping from the past, healthy life patterns and environments, my motivation to stop gambling); and (d) picturing myself recovered in the near future (becoming hardworking, having control over my life, enjoying a peaceful life). Participants’ lives had completely changed after they started gambling; particularly, their personality had been negatively affected and their life became filled with mental suffering. Their financial well-being was compromised, their health worsened, and they lost trust from people and a sense of purpose in their lives. Despite these challenges, they made tremendous efforts to recover from gambling and pictured a recovered future that included not only managing gambling urges, but also enjoying a flourishing life with their families and significant others and having control over their life.

Conclusion and Implications: Our study showed problematic gamblers’ long path to recovery involved a process of reshaping their identity and ordinary daily lives that were lost to gambling. The findings highlight the need to develop interventions that stimulate cognitive changes by identifying loss resulting from gambling behavior, which can help gamblers recognize their problem and initiate recovery. Practitioners should not only help clients suppress the urge to gamble and prevent relapse, but also enhance their motivation to change and build a long-term plan for their recovered life in the future.