Connecting with an online counsellor – a great first step

23 May 17
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Online CounsellorIt can be hard taking a step forward and chatting to a counsellor for the first time, you are not alone if you are feeling this way.

If you have been exploring the different options on our site you may notice we often encourage people to link to one of our counsellors.

Why try online counselling?

Online counselling is an ideal option for people taking the first step as its completely anonymous and confidential, also you can access it anywhere and anytime all you need is an internet enabled device.

We know this is a big step and often takes a lot of courage. Being here and reading this article on our site shows you are contemplating making a change, which is a step in the right direction so well done!

Who will I be chatting to?

Our trained counsellors are here to help you. They have a range of qualifications in health sciences, including Psychology, Social Work, Nursing, Psychiatric Nursing and Welfare Studies. They are never judgemental, they work through where you are at and help you to find the best way forward.

Where do I begin?

Sometimes people tell our counsellors that not knowing what to say or how to say made it difficult to begin the conversation. That it took them some time to work up to it, but once they were there they were glad they had.

Even if you have some reservations once you are chatting to them it becomes surprisingly easy to say what is troubling you, potentially gaining insight into is going on and what to do next.

Get Started

So why not get started and chat to one of our counsellors today.

Not sure if you are ready still? Read a bit more about the advantages and disadvantage of online counselling.

The Conversation - Talking to a family member or significant other who is gambling

16 May 17
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This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.

Bridge

Partners, family members and friends often ring the Gambling Helpline (1800 858 858) wanting advice about how to talk to their loved ones about their gambling. Many times they want to talk about how to begin the conversation.

Other times the family member or significant other admits gambling has been an ongoing discussion topic that, from the caller’s point of view, goes nowhere.

Some of the common issues for the callers who have had several attempts at a conversation are:

  • The person who is gambling blocks the conversation:

‘As soon as I start talking about his gambling, he shuts down and won’t talk to me. I never get anywhere’.

  • The person who is the gambler gets angry:

‘We are all too scared to talk to her about her gambling because she goes ballistic whenever we mention it. We’ve learned just to accept it and not say anything’.

There may be good reasons for this kind of reaction, and it is all about the feelings that come up for a person who is having a gambling problem. Often when they are approached about gambling, they will have intense feelings of shame, embarrassment and frustration, which then cause them to either internalise (shut down and refuse to talk about it) or externalise (start becoming angry and aggressive).

Both of these communication styles are understandable ways of responding to something which is the source of such strong emotions, especially if they result in people leaving them alone afterwards and not raising the issue again. However, they also result in the issue not getting discussed. The person is often so overwhelmed with these emotions that they never have a conversation about their gambling, and nothing changes. As a loved one, you may not want to upset them further and may even be afraid about getting the same response next time.

When a person with gambling problems has a realisation about the magnitude of the impacts of their gambling on themselves and those around them they can become distressed. This distress is often fuelled by shame, guilt and frustration at not being able to stop gambling.

People are much less likely to have an open conversation when they are feeling cornered and ashamed – they will be overwhelmed and likely not be able to take anything in and think clearly about their need to begin to acknowledge their gambling problems.

One way of managing this issue is to try and engage with the person in a way that helps them feel calm and understood.

Here are a few tips about starting the conversation with a loved one who you are concerned about:

Write down some points that you want to discuss beforehand.  That way if you become upset or emotional you can refer back to them to make sure you are getting your point across.

Choose a quiet environment to talk to them about their gambling – somewhere you are unlikely to be disturbed and where they feel comfortable.

Instead of telling them what you think, ask a lot of questions about their gambling. Try to get a sense of what it is like for them and what it is they are getting from gambling.

Acknowledge this conversation may be emotional for both of you.

 Avoid criticisms or accusations – your aim is to get your loved one to talk about their gambling and figure out themselves what needs to change.

If you have any questions about this approach or if you would like some further advice or support from a gambling counsellor, please give us a call on 1800 858 858.

Is online gambling affecting you? Help is available!

9 May 17
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Increasingly people are reaching out for help because online gambling is adversely affecting their lives. Here are some of the reasons for this and what you can do to try and reduce or stop gambling online.

If you feel that online gambling is affecting your life, you are not alone. Need a hand straight away? You can start chatting to a counsellor right away.

Online Gambling

Why are more people gambling online?

Smartphones and other portable internet-enabled devices, plus the proliferation of online gambling websites are making really easy to gamble no matter where you are, and without some of the checks and balances that have existed with traditional gambling outlets.

The companies that set up online gambling sites rely on the fact that they are so easy to access day and night. They use science to make them as addictive as possible, enacting parts of the brain that release feel-good chemicals like dopamine every time you “win’ or have a “near win’, this coupled with the ease of access even when trying to abstain can make it difficult to move away from the temptation.

Debts can easily spiral because of the distance between money and reality, once you have put in your card details it may not feel like you have spent a lot of money until they realise when they look at their bank account. At times the money doesn’t feel real, more like the money in a board game than something they have hard to earn through hard work.

Need a helping hand?

Mike* called for help after a recent relapse triggered by an online advertisement.

I thought it was ok if I gambled with free credits, as I wasn’t really spending anything. I started to win big playing free online casino games and convinced myself that spending a few of my own dollars would be ok!

I soon got hooked back into gambling but this time it was online. I had avoided the hotels for several months and was so pleased with myself. It’s so hard to resist the temptation to gamble when it's on my phone and computer at work and home.

Even though he was already in recovery, he found that reaching out and admitting his relapse was p[particularly difficult as he felt ashamed that he had been drawn back into gambling. But said that once he chatted to one of our counsellors he felt immediate relief.

The counsellor provided him with a few simple steps to reduce his gambling and an appointment to see a free counsellor who specialises in gambling-related issues.

How can I change?

If you are struggling with online gambling here are a few things you can try to curb or stop your online gambling:

  • Self Exclusion – check out some of the options for excluding online
  • Keep your money safe – limit your access to cards that could be linked to online gambling sites
  • Opt out, unsubscribe or block email addresses that will send you
  • Avoid the temptation, limit your access to the internet until you feel you can manage
  • Put your phone away or downgrade your phone to one that doesn’t have the internet
  • Find other activities that stimulate and engage you – exercise, sports, craft, socialising, cooking etc. 

Need a hand with making a change to your gambling? You can chat to one of our counsellors anytime - get started.

How managing your stress can reduce your gambling

2 May 17
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This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.

relax

In our lives we are often very busy trying to balance different commitments which often leaves little time out for ourselves. Whether you are a parent, working full time, dealing with family, relationships, or financial issues, chances are you have experienced stress in the past week.

Stress is the feeling we have when under pressure and can affect us not just mentally but physically as well. There are many different signs of stress such as headaches, low energy, sleeplessness and feeling irritable.

In general, a bit of stress is not bad. It makes us think faster, puts us under pressure to perform. However, evidence shows that chronic exposure to stress can lead to us developing psychological problems like depression and anxiety. Our bodies aren’t meant to withstand long-term stress.

Gambling is often a coping mechanism for stress or low mood. If you think of your own gambling, perhaps you are more likely to gamble when you’re feeling stressed out.

Gambling provides a temporary escape from those uncomfortable feelings of tension, anxiety and irritation. The addictive nature of gambling also means that what starts to temporarily relieve stress, quickly becomes a source of even more stress!

For some people with gambling problems there is a very clear link between stress in their lives and problem gambling.

For example, some people we talk to admitted stress was a trigger for their gambling:

This caller described feeling stressed with her mother unwell in hospital so gambling was a quick fix for her:

‘I dropped my mum back at the hospital and went straight to the pokies’

Another person we spoke to described how an argument would send her to the pokies:

‘I had a fight with my partner and gambled’

This male caller gambled after work to deal with his days stress:

 ‘I go to the club after work, especially if it has been a bad day’.

Unfortunately, when people experience stress they are more vulnerable to gamble.

Stress can make people feel overwhelmed where they can’t think clearly. This means a quicksolution to stress such as the excitement of gambling becomes difficult to resist.

Therefore, if you manage your stress effectively you will be less likely to choose a solution that provides only temporary relief, such as gambling.

So how can we manage our stress better? A lot of the gambling research indicates that reducing stress is a big part of  managing gambling. Here are some tips:

  1. Self-care – whether this is a 20-minute walk in the morning or a dinner with friends to unwind. Most people have strategies they know can reduce their stress and help them feel more relaxed.
  2. Support – research has shown that one of the best things a person can do when they are going through a difficult time, is to access support. This could be friends, neighbours, family members or colleagues. If we have at least one person to talk to about an event or ongoing situation, we fare much better psychologically.
  3. Counselling – Perhaps the stress in your life is from a difficult relationship or the financial consequences of gambling. Trained counsellors can quickly help you to identify sources of stress and help you developing strategies to recover. You can contact the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858 to arrange a free and confidential appointment with a trained gambling counsellor or financial counsellor.

Creative activities can help you keep on track

11 Apr 17
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Finding creative activities that you enjoy can be an excellent way of keeping on track when you are making a change to your gambling. This is Audrey’s* story, whose renewed love of making things has helped get her back on track.

Garden SculptureGarden sculpture 2

Some of the creative pieces Audrey has made: Source - Supplied

Background

Audrey had been gambling for just over 15 years on the pokies, and came to see that it was impacting on not only her finances, but her relationship with her family, and also caused her anxiety.

The financial impact of her gambling started to become apparent, a lot of her and her husbands savings had been spent on the on pokies after work.

“Over a period of time it had become a routine to go and gamble after work, on top of the financial impact it had also pulled me away from spending quality time with my son, and hobbies that I used to love.”  says Audrey

Making a change

Once Audrey realised the impact gambling was having on her she sought help. Slowly but surely, Audrey and her counsellor worked at identifying what triggered to gamble, her motivations and how to break the cycle.

One thing that really helped Audrey is her willingness to try and incorporate new activities, and restart old ones that provided a sense of fulfilment that gambling wasn’t giving her.

Reupholstery 1Reupholstery 2

Furniture that Audrey reupholstered to brighten up the garden: Source - Supplied

Audrey rediscovered her passion in making things, and joined a glass making group and refurbishing furniture.

Within two months of working with a counsellor Audrey has ceased gambling, and has remained abstinent. She says “I feel more in control, and am spending more time with family and friends.”

Interested in finding an creative alternative to gambling? Speak to one of our counselors today.

*name changed

Gambling and Self-Esteem

29 Mar 17
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It’s normal for people to feel down about themselves from time to time. When these feelings became part of a person’s daily routine it can be an indication of low self-esteem.  People with low self-esteem are often critical and focus on their negatives and disregard any positives or accomplishments.  Comparing yourself to others also affects self-esteem potentially causing depression. 

But remember you can build on your self esteem - here is an example of someone who has struggled with their self esteem while struggling with their gambling and how they built it back up!

Building Self Esteem

Those with gambling problems can have low self-esteem, when they act out of character to obtain money or waste money in the quest of an unattainable financial dream.

Initially gambling can feel like it eases the burden of low self-esteem, allowing people to engage in a fantasy world of imagined wins, financial success and social acceptance. But once the money is gone the persons self-esteem takes a tumble and they feel more ashamed.

Sam* described how disappointed he felt with himself and his ongoing gambling:

I just could not stop gambling it was a really strong compulsion. I really believed I would win big one day and fix all the problems and debts I had caused my family. I just had to keep trying I did this for years but it was terrible with ups and downs constantly draining me of all my energy.

Eventually I let go of this hope.  I finally realised gambling was not the answer but it took a long time. Letting go of this dream meant I had no way of getting out of my troubles. I thought I was a bad person, these thoughts caused me much shame and my self-esteem was minimal. I could not imagine I could ever get my life back and provide for my family like my friends.

Sam admits this was a very dark time in his life. However, when he sought help from a gambling counsellor, he started to challenge his negative thinking and realised he was not a bad man. He could see he just wanted to provide a good life for his family.

Eventually he found that the pokies no longer had a hold on him. He began to feel pride when he walked past his old gambling venue and did not gamble. With help from his financial counsellor, his money began to have value again, he started to pay off his bills and his savings eventually grew.

With support Sam worked hard and eventually got his life back. He is glad he challenged the voice inside him that said “you will never get on top of this problem”

Imagine if you could walk past your gambling venue and keep walking without gambling. Each time your self-esteem increases and your determination becomes stronger. People would be proud of you, and you will be proud of yourself.

With work this can be a reality – why not chat with one of our counsellors on how to do this – you can get started here.

Addressing your self-esteem is just one component of effective long-term recovery – but it’s a very important one.  Continually build on our small successes increase our self-esteem in the process.

Here are some tips and strategies to try:

  • Connect with people who give you a sense of acceptance, don’t associate with people who make you feel bad about yourself.
  • Beware of negative thoughts and challenge them. If you keep telling yourself that you’re no good, you might just start to believe it even though it’s not true.
  • Don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake, be kind to yourself and learn from it .
  • Focus on the things you can change ……why not ask for help?
  • Start exercising it helps to improve your mood.
  • Everyone is great at something - what are your strengths?
  • Schedule some fun time every day,  you could do a puzzle or watch a TV show you enjoy.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people who don’t gamble.
  • It’s a good idea to talk to someone you trust, like a friend or family member.

Developing your self-esteem can be the foundation for your recovery. Chat to one of our Gambling counsellors today it’s easy to get started.

How to Deal with Peer Pressure

18 Feb 17
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Peer pressure can come in many forms and may cause you to engage in behaviour that goes against your wishes, best judgement or plans. For example when a friend, colleague or family member who encourages you to gamble when you have made a promise to yourself that you will not.  

Peer pressure can be subtle or not so subtle. It can be a constant niggle “come on, one more bet won’t break the bank” to words that can feel more threatening to your sense of self or to your membership of a group.

Giving in to peer pressure can initially relieve the immediate discomfort of feeling pressured but cause you further problems which are even harder to overcome.

What does it feel like?

Many people call us describing having given in to peer pressure and gambled against their better judgement. One of our counsellors recounted the following experience:

One caller was dismayed that after 10 months of being strong and not gambling he succumbed to peer pressure when he joined his colleagues for a get together after work, which turned into a session of gambling on the races. 

This lapse unfortunately resulted in a period of continued gambling, plus financial and relationship problems. Trying to regain control by himself proved difficult, especially because he wanted to continue to be able to have drink with work colleagues. So he sought help from one of the counsellors at the helpline and he got the help he needed to get back on track.

How to manage

Managing peer pressure can be difficult and it is important to have some strategies to help you not be tempted.  These strategies also let the “urgers” know want to maintain your resolutions – to not gamble for instance.

Some strategies you could try: 

  • Recognising it can be difficult to say no to peer pressure especially when in a social situation. If you start to find the pressure to gamble difficult to resist, it may be better to excuse yourself and leave.
  • Learn how to say no, have a plan about how you will respond if people encouraging you to gamble. Responses like “Nah it’s a waste of money” “Not tonight I am a bit short” “Promised the wife/husband I wouldn’t”.  Are some good examples.  For some more inspiration check out this article.
  • Be firm and clear about your decision not to gamble and explain your reasons if you feel able and if this helps support your decision. Most people just want to fit in. Sometimes people put pressure on themselves to fit into their social group. Don’t feel like you must change your mind or feel guilty about doing what is best for you. 
  • Consider if putting yourself in a certain situation is the right thing to do at the moment. If you are constantly feel pressured, maybe you need to consider a new social network with people who have similar values and interests as you if the pressure to gamble does not cease
  • Reading about other peoples experiences and sharing your own experience can really help. You could join an in-person support group or an online community and see how others have managed peer pressure. Why not join our forum find out more here.
  • Chat or talk to a counsellor, you can chat to one of our counsellors online by signing up here or you can speak to someone on the Helpline 1800 858 858

Have you heard about our SMS support program?

6 Feb 17
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Lots of people are joining free service and enjoying the daily support.

Each SMS is a micro intervention that aims to give you strategies to help you with the process of change. 

Lot’s of people have already signed up and have been telling us that they find them helpful.

“Having a message sent to me every day every feels personal I really like it and look forward to it every morning. I don’t feel so alone!!” said one anonymous subscriber.

What will the messages be like?

Each message is crafted to be a small motivating sentence sent to your mobile each day to help provide you with a little extra support. The messages are written by people who understand how hard it can be struggling with a gambling addiction every day. 

How does it work?

SMS SubscriptionYou can easily sign up for the messages here all you need to do is select which program you would like to sign up to and whether you would prefer to receive them in the morning or afternoon.

From here you will start receiving messages from the next scheduled time for that program. They come from an automated system which is completely confidential. 

If you aren’t finding it helpful, or would like to sign up to a different program, you can easily opt out at any time here 

Each program runs on a cycle of 28 days at the end of the 28 days you will start to see repeating messages, at this point it may be a good idea to change to a different program. If you subscribe to more than one program at a time you will receive multiple messages each day. 

We are developing different themed messages and special messages to help you when we know it may be difficult. For example, over the festive season we sent people lots of supportive messages so they did not feel alone.

We will be launching new programs soon including Maintaining Change and Urge Surfing. Why not sign up here today.

Money tips for the holiday season

20 Dec 16
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We often hear from clients that the most stressful part of Christmas is how to manage their money during this potentially expensive time of year. However there are some ways that you can look after yourself, so that you don’t get caught up in the spending cycle during the holidays.

Christmas Bag

Being prepared and limiting your access to money may help you keep control of any temptation to gamble and reduces the likelihood of gambling at the spur of the moment.

Try and follow some of these simple tricks to keep you on track these holidays:

  • Track Your spending by creating a budget and revisit it often, to make sure you’re spending within your means over the holidays
  • Think about what you need and what you can afford
  • Make a little extra room for things that may come out of the blue, hold some money in an emergency fund.
  • Make sure you pay all your bills and necessities before you spend extra money on the festive season, this will help you make sure you haven’t overstretched.
  • Before you buy the little treat or “extra” for yourself, be sure it’s really worth the price.  Be careful of holiday sales this can be an opportunity to save money on something you really need, but would you have bought it in the first place? Be a bit careful.

The use of gift vouchers can help provide some independence for you so you go shopping and buy the necessities without the risk of having access to your money and gambling. Sometimes you can even get gift vouchers with a percentage off which gives you a small saving before you have even started your shopping.

If you are concerned about your willpower, you may ask someone you can trust to look after your cash or credit card. Especially if you know you’re going into a high risk situation over the festive season such as Christmas lunch in a gambling venue.

Remember is not about what you spend, but the time you spend together. If you need a hand we are here 24/7, 365 days a year!

Do I have a problem?

3 Dec 16
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People who gamble regularly rarely take the time to stop and consider whether they have a problem. To a point where it can become a normal part of their routine. 

By reading this blog you may have already identified that you need to consider whether your gambling, or the gambling of someone close to you, is a problem.

Browsing the web

The best thing to do is take a moment and think about where you are at.

Some indicators could be:  
  • Has gambling become a routine and not just a social outing for fun?  
  • Are you spending more money or time than you plan gambling?
  • Could I stop gambling today? 
  • Can I stay away this pay day? 
  • How do these questions make me feel?  

If these thoughts make you feel anxious, distressed or give you an overwhelming feeling that you need to gamble, then it may be time to consider some options.

You could speak to one of our Counsellors straight away – by signing up here.

Defining moments you may identify with

As gambling increases money can begin to lose its value and the amount you regularly spend can slowly increase without realising.

A bank statement or declined card may flag that something isn’t right and suddenly you realise the reality of your gambling. This can be a difficult moment in your journey but, can be an important turning point in your recovery.

Understanding that your gambling may be getting out of control and making a conscious decision to make a change is key.

Don* described how he was shocked when he sat down and looked at his monthly bank statement and realised how much he had gambled over the week.

“Gambling was fun and I enjoyed it, I had no idea my gambling was getting out of hand.
My wife showed me the monthly bank statement and I was shocked.  Each pay day there were up to 10 transactions where I took out money to gamble. Over a month that added up.”

It’s normal to feel surprised and upset when you realise that gambling is beginning to take over your life. 

Next Steps

Still not sure whether you could do with a hand?  Why not take a Self-Assessment which will give you an indication of where you are at and some strategies to help.

If you have decided you would like to make some changes – check out our Making A Change section for some tips and strategies to get you started. 

If you are concerned about someone else you can get some help in our Helping Others section.

Keep in mind - Life without gambling is possible and there is free and confidential support available to help you begin the process of recovery. 

*Name Changed

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