From addict to academic

Since overcoming a gambling addiction, Gabi Byrne has devoted her life to helping others do the same. She’s developed the ‘Free Yourself’ program, and is a recent winner of VU’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition.

“I came to Australia after Chernobyl and started a passionate love affair with poker machines. It took four years to overcome my addiction, cycling through an emotional rollercoaster of therapy-relapse-therapy-relapse. In 1996, I kissed my love affair goodbye. Since then I’ve devoted my life to helping people addicted to gambling. 

Social isolation, lack of funds, no support, and no motivation to do other things are the reasons 75% of people relapse, even after years of counselling. I became particularly interested in this area and developed a program designed to prevent relapse called ‘Free Yourself’, which combines social events, activities, and education. 

Dr James Doughney saw the importance of my work, and encouraged me to study at VU. Before that, I hadn’t intended to write up my research as a thesis. He helped me see that this knowledge needs to be shared to improve service provision for problem gamblers. Dr James Doughney is my supervisor and supports me through all stages of my work. He offers moral support and constructive feedback, and has helped me become a better independent researcher. 

Currently I’m full-time CEO of Chrysalis Insight Inc, and part-time PhD student. I speak at conferences and run social and educational events for people suffering from gambling addiction. I hope to complete my thesis next year, publish my work, and share my findings at national and international conferences. I thank VU for giving me this opportunity.”

Courses studied

Doctor of Philosophy