Concerned About Someone?

How to Help

Want to help someone with a gambling problem but not sure what to do? Find out more about the things you can do to help.

It can be hard trying to help someone who gambles, especially if they do not think they have a problem or do not want to stop. Discussing the issue directly can be confronting for both yourself and the person who gambles. There are many practical ways to help someone who has developed a problem with gambling.

When someone starts to change their gambling behaviour, there are often different stages that they move through. Click here to find out about these stages.

Understanding these stages of change can help you decide the best way to respond and the most appropriate type of support to provide.

In working out what stage of change someone is in, it is useful to consider the stage of change that you are in too.

For example, you may be in the determination phase, ready for your friend or family member to start making changes, while they may be in the contemplation phase, not ready or sure that they want to change at all.

Accepting and working within the stage of change that the other person is in is absolutely crucial to helping someone with a gambling problem. You should never push someone into a stage of change they are not ready for.


Strategies for helping someone who gambles

To help someone who gambles, it is important to use the right strategies for the persons current stage of change.  Find out about some useful strategies in the section below or speak to an online gambling counsellor to discuss what strategies you can put in place.

Understanding them (and yourself)

Trying to understand what a person is going through can help you to communicate with them more effectively.

If someone feels they are understood they are more likely to talk openly and honestly, which will allow you to develop and negotiate a plan together.

The person who gambles may experience:

As a result you may feel:

Shame, guilt and remorse, which can be compounded by an added sense of guilt caused by their behaviour's impact on others. Experiencing these emotions can be overwhelming, which may not allow them to think clearly about their actions.

Desperation to try and recoup money that was lost can lead the gambler to behave in ways that appear to be "out of character" (See 'Signs of a gambling problem' for more information) New behaviours can be a shock for family and friends.

Angry, hurt and betrayed. It can be difficult dealing with these emotions while trying to understand the person whose behaviour has contributed to you feeling this way.

It is normal to experience these emotions. By finding ways to help the problem gambler and to help yourself, you can minimise the impact that gambling has on you.

Talk with one of our online gambling counsellors for help in managing these feelings.

Before you raise your concerns, it is important to develop an action plan.  Knowing that it will be a potentially sensitive conversation that may escalate, and planning and putting boundaries in place can be very useful.

An action plan can also decrease the risk of misunderstandings and increase the likelihood that the discussion will stay on track.

It may be helpful to read the following strategies and then speak to an online gambling counsellor to develop a plan of action that suits your needs.

Connecting statements

A connecting statement can be a useful way to start a conversation. A connecting statement is a truthful statement about something positive between you and the other person that makes you both feel connected and positive about your relationship. For example, 'I really care about you and what happens to us and because of that I feel have to talk about what I've been noticing.'

Talk about their behaviour and how that makes you feel

Select an appropriate time and space to raise your concerns. Focus the conversation on your concerns and their gambling behaviour. Talk about what you are feeling; describe the behaviour that makes you feel this way and the reasons for this.

An example of a statement:

'I'm concerned about you coming home late at night and I don't know where you've been. I worry because anything could have happened to you, you might have been in an accident or you may have hurt yourself.'

Communication tips

Avoid 'you' statements, such as, 'you should…' or 'you must…'

This can sound accusatory and blameful, which can lead to defensiveness, creating a communication barrier between you and the other person.  

Ask for their feedback, for example, 'what are your thoughts?'

By asking the other person to contribute to the conversation and letting them discuss their perspective, you are demonstrating that you are caring and willing to listen.

Listen carefully and repeat back to them your understanding of what they said.  This can help the person to feel understood.

Avoid rewarding the gambling behaviour

Giving or loaning money to someone who gambles can be a difficult decision you may have to face.

Providing or loaning money may reinforce or reward gambling behaviour which may contribute to the gambling behaviour continuing.

Instead, consider setting up a system that rewards positive behaviour and deters negative behaviour. For example, you might consider not loaning money if they continue to gamble, however, if they cut back or stop gambling you might offer to conditionally pay off a bill.


Next steps

If you would like more information on how you can help a problem gambler, you can: