Jason Shiers, UKAT – Progress on problem gambling requires a deeper consciousness

Jason Shiers – UKAT

Certified psychotherapist on addiction and mental health, Jason Shiers states that a change in the levels of consciousness is required to effectively tackle problem gambling as debate, discussion and research have been staggered by easy narratives.  


It is clear from the latest report from the House of Lords that a lot of time and effort has been spent considering and discussing addiction… But at what level?

It’s also clear that there has been a large focus on dealing with the symptom of problem gambling and trying to find ways to make that more manageable. Reducing gambling-related harms is helpful, but it is only firefighting. There is a distinct part missing from the understandings of addiction, beyond psychiatric condition or mental health issues, missing from the whole debate. We are therefore required to ask ourselves, where does this fire start?

You can spend your whole life ‘diving into the river’, trying to save the people that have fallen in, or you can go upstream, stopping them falling in to begin with.

When the Select Committee believes the problem is ‘psychiatric’, i.e. in that there is a real thing called ‘disordered gambling’ (DSM V) or ‘gambling disorder’ (ICD-11), it’s unlikely they will open their minds up to what’s actually beyond their current beliefs & systems.

Observers will always innocently continue to try to find solutions at that lower level of understanding, which isn’t complete. That said, what if they were just looking in the wrong place?

“I say with total clarity, that gambling addiction is a mental health issue” – Rt Hon Matt Hancock

When you have people in political power making blanket statements about what we are trying to deal with, coupled with the vast amounts of time, money and resources being put into the creation of these reports, all with the same level of consciousness; the problem will be destined to repeat itself because no one is exploring new, innovative ways to better understand or deal with treating addiction. It is clear that people want to help, but they don’t know where to look.

Thomas Insel, a leading psychiatrist and neuroscientist who was Head of the National Institute for Mental Health, recently said that “$20 billion had not moved the needle” and that “the mental health field has been ‘looking in all the wrong places’ for the answer”.

“I spent 13 years at NIMH really pushing on the neuroscience and genetics of mental disorders, and when I look back on that I realize that while I think I succeeded at getting lots of really cool papers published by cool scientists at fairly large costs—I think $20 billion—I don’t think we moved the needle in reducing suicide, reducing hospitalizations, improving recovery for the tens of millions of people who have mental illness.”

What is required is a new level of consciousness. We don’t know what we don’t know and that is the start of seeing something fresh about what we are dealing with. To allow for the paradigm shift in treating the problem we have to make space for a new understanding to come through and to give up on old failings of psychology and psychiatry. The failure is in continuing with a failing paradigm of understanding, while infinite ingenuity and creativity is on tap.

When we start saying ‘it’s a mental illness’, it sounds to many that it is a scary thing that no one understands, something that only the professionals can deal with; but that’s just not how it works. This actually perpetuates the problem. There is so much written about the stigma, the shame and guilt that surrounds addiction, it should be obvious that people just don’t want to come forward. This all makes it sounds like an inherent, inbuilt problem that can’t be recovered from either with or without medication, and it makes sense why.

There are many leaders in the field that have been able to see through the financial interests of big pharmaceutical companies, and the whole field of psychiatry, about how subjective diagnoses, from a list of traits, is not helpful to solving what they deem to be ‘mental illness’, so why is it that we continue to follow these beliefs and system and do not look for new solutions? Just because it appears that there’s no other way, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t out there! Millions of pounds put into RET donations yearly could fund this.

If we continue looking in the same direction for the next 10 years, without a change in levels of consciousness and seeing a fresh way to deal with this, then there is only one direction this can go. More money from operators to fund the same direction of ‘solutions’ that are still yet to be found in in the last 10’s of millions of pounds.

If we focus on a paradigm shift; changing how we understand the problem and start to look into new directions on how best we can improve treating the problem, its solutions, alongside reducing the ability for people to cause harms to themselves and others within the industry, then there is always hope.


Jason Shiers is a Certified Transformative Coach & Certified Psychotherapist @ UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT). Jason has been working with addictions and mental health for over 20 years in evolving ways until finding and experiencing the 3 Principles. Jason has been teaching and sharing the 3 principles in his work with addictions ever since.

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