Pacific Professor Aims to Create Wearable App to Intervene for Problem Gamblers

BobadillaSpanish-speaking people who have a problem curbing their impulses to gamble may soon benefit from a more culturally customized app being developed by Leo Bobadilla, a professor in Pacific University’s Graduate School of Psychology. Bobadilla was awarded a $16,600 grant by the Oregon Council for Problem Gambling to study development of the app.

While gambling treatment providers exist in Oregon, few employ bilingual, bicultural therapists, and few are in rural areas where many Hispanic Oregonians live, Bobadilla noted in his grant application. His study “aims at developing scalable technology to fill this gap by developing a culturally appropriate, empirically-based, mobile app assistant and wearable technology adjutant to in-person treatment for Latino Oregonians,” he wrote.

Bobadilla said the study will aim to develop an app in Spanish that provides therapy, similar to such therapy-bot apps as Woebot Health. “The innovative aspect is that the app will be able to interact with the wearable technology that is very much like a Fitbit, to recognize when the individual is having increased physiological stress symptoms that may lead them to have a higher craving for gambling,” he said. Then the app would interrupt the wearers to cue them to undertake exercises intended to deflect and diminish the craving.

“In short it may help them deal with the desire to gamble without the intervention of an actual therapist,” Bobadilla said. “In time, the app would increase a sense of self-efficacy for the individual by helping them recognize triggers and engage in self therapy by themselves.”

In addition to teaching graduate psychology students at Pacific, Bobadilla is a private practitioner who specializes in assessing the risk of sexual violence mostly with Spanish-only speaking clients. He also supervises a team of advanced students who are bilingual and bicultural at the Pacific Psychology and Comprehensive Health Clinic.

The major sponsors for the Oregon Council for Problem Gambling include The Oregon Lottery, the Oregon Health Authority and Aristocrat Gaming.


Friday, April 14, 2023