The Bellevue University Lozier Professional Center in northwest Omaha is home to the behavioral sciences department.

The behavioral science department at Bellevue University is helping its students learn about gambling and how to treat those with gambling addictions.

Working with the Nebraska Council on Problem Gambling, the counseling program covers gambling topics from internet gambling, gambling in older adults and college students and excessive sports betting.

BU and the Nebraska Council on Problem Gambling teamed up around two-and-a-half years ago when they saw a need for out-of-town students to take courses online, rather than in-person.

In that time, classroom modules have been put together so students across the state can log into the course system to complete their training online, without purchasing any books.

David Hoppe, associate professor and program director for behavioral science, said the training for Nebraska is 19 weeks long.

“Five modules are three weeks, and two modules are two weeks and then they have their provisional gambling certification,” he said. “The modules follow what they would be hearing or watching or listening to face-to-face, except now they can do it around their own schedules, around their jobs, around their time without having to go and sit in a room for six or eight hours a day to get the same information.

Michelle Eppler, dean of the College of Continuing and Professional Education, said the curriculum designed by Hoppe isn’t simply reading and writing.

“There’s videos, there’s different simulations, there’s different learning objects in there so you’re not just looking and reading the whole time,” she said. “We really took advantage of what you can do with online learning and considered different types of learners because not everybody just learns from reading.”

Eppler said the program has benefited other states with their gambling counseling teaching, such as Iowa.

“We’ve been able to address any small tweaks they need,” she said.

The program has had around 50 students in almost three years.

“We have been able to get people provisionally licensed until they complete their hours under supervision, really in almost all of the mid-major or small cities and towns in Nebraska,” Hoppe said.

For curriculum, the main aspect the students focus on is working with gamblers on the financial side because “money is the drug,” Hoppe said.

“How can you help people budget, how can you help people not have access to excess money, how can you help family members?” Hoppe asked.

Eppler said the value of the program is also learning about the different ways to treat gambling addiction as opposed to other addictions.

“You can’t test for it, you can’t look into their eyes and see if they’re ‘doing gambling,’” she said. “The self-awareness and honesty levels at times ebb and flow.

“You have to be tuned into what to look for, what questions to ask and really practicing different approaches to figure out what motivates them and how to get them to make the difference in their behavior.”

Eppler said she hopes more support and awareness will come out of the program.

“We could help people before it gets to the extremes where they’re stealing from employers or putting our families into bankruptcy,” she said. “Sometimes I don’t think gambling as an addiction is taken as seriously as alcohol and drugs, but the financial impact it can make on a family, community, individual is massive.”

Eppler said the program adds another layer of skill to those studying behavioral sciences.

“The program helps us prepare the students going through the behavioral science program, Master of Clinical Counseling program to have another credential along with their degree to help them really apply that real learning for real life,” she said.

“They have one more opportunity to have a leg up in the marketplace, one more credential that they can use to help others.”

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