It’s not unusual for us at Gambling Help Online to hear from people who are ambivalent or nervous about seeing a face-to-face counsellor for the first time. It’s actually something we hear all the time — from a little apprehension to full-on freaking out.
People are often in two minds about seeing a face-to-face counsellor to help them change their gambling. They want to and they don’t want to. ‘Maybe it will help,’ they think, ‘but I’d rather manage this on my own.’
The thing is, though, most people have already been struggling ‘on their own’ for years. It’s lonely and difficult — and unnecessary. Like a lot of tasks and responsibilities, managing your gambling can be easier if you’ve got someone to help you out.
Feelings of nervousness and uncertainty are totally normal and natural, but it’s self-sabotage to let them stop you from getting help to take control of your gambling.
So how can you overcome the nerves?
1. Remind yourself: The counsellor is there to help you.
Gambling Help counsellors have all kinds of backgrounds and are all kinds of people, but if there’s one constant, it’s that they want to help.
The counsellor isn’t judging you. They chose this job. They think it’s so important for people to have help to manage their problems that they went to university and studied so they could help out. They would never judge somebody for having the courage and good judgment to accept help.
2. Remind yourself: You’re not alone.
Gambling Help counsellors spend most of their time talking to people who are dealing with problems related to gambling. Whatever you tell them, they’re unlikely to find it shocking, because there are people all over Australia experiencing difficult times just like you are. The counsellors are not scandalised or disapproving. They just want to help you find solutions.
Think about it — you wouldn’t expect a doctor to be astonished if someone came in with help for a chronic stomach ache, in fact it would be a pretty regular part of the Doc’s day. It’s the same for Gambling Help counsellors. Helping people with problems related to Gambling is what they do all day.
3. Write down a plan.
Think about what you want to achieve in the session and write it down. It doesn’t have to be a detailed outline of your future steps — set some simple, achievable goals so you have the satisfaction of ticking something off your to do list. For example:
- Ask the counsellor about ways to set limits to my gambling.
- Tell the counsellor about my debts.
- Figure out how to avoid going to the club this week.
It’s good to have a plan to centre yourself going into the session, even if you don’t stick completely to the plan.
4. Give yourself time to prepare and reflect.
Block out some time before and after the session so you arrive in a calm state and can have some thinking time afterwards. For a lot of people, it can feel like the first session flies by, so you might want to bring some paper and a pen to write down what happened to help you remember — it’s great to do this right away, even if your thoughts come out completely jumbled.
5. Be ready to talk about yourself.
The counsellor will want to get to know you, so they’ll usually have some of their own questions — what’s going on in your life, how you’ve managed other issues, even things like your family history. There are no ‘right answers’ to these questions. They just want to get as much information as possible so they can understand your position.
6. Manage your expectations.
You’re not going to go to a single session and find yourself completely ‘fixed’. Nobody is expecting you to have a magical breakthrough and feel completely capable of not gambling after a single session, especially not the counsellor. They’re prepared to work on this journey with you over time, and you should be prepared for that too.
7. Counsellors are different — find one that suits you.
Counsellors have different styles of working. This counsellor might not be the right fit for you, and that’s totally fine. If you see a counsellor a few times and l don’t feel you are making progress, talk it over with them if you are able, and if necessary move to a new counsellor.
8. It bears repeating: The counsellor is there to help you.
If you ever feel your confidence start to waver, remember: the counsellor is there to help you. They’re not judging you. They want to work with you on the good days and the bad days.
9. Gambling Help Online will still be here for you.
Seeing a face-to-face counsellor doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to Gambling Help Online anymore. Between sessions or if you ever need to talk to somebody right away, we’re still here for you — chat to us online or call 1800 858 858. We’re here to help you surf an urge, let you vent on a bad day, or celebrate a good day.
10. Remember: Research (and experience) shows that you can do this.
Research shows that difficulties with gambling are not permanent — and your chances of overcoming the problem improve if you seek professional help to take steps to recover. Counsellors can take many roles — teacher, mentor, trusted confidante — to help you reach your goal. We know that you can do this because we’ve seen it. We want you to know it too.
If you’re getting ready to see a counsellor for the first time, good luck! Let us know how it goes.