This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.
One of the most important things you can do when you’re close to someone who is struggling with gambling is empower the person you care about to reach out for help.
However, what many people forget is that in order for someone to be able to ask for help, they need to first realise they have a problem. It is very difficult for anybody to realise this if the people around them either enable their problem or constantly point out their problems to them.
Out of love, guilt or fear of confrontation, many family and friends actually enable their loved one to continue gambling. For example, they might pay their bills or lend them money until the next payday. These actions prevent the gambler from being able to truly experience the negative consequences of their gambling, which in turn prevents them seeking help.
However, the goal is not to let loved ones hit rock bottom feeling unsupported. It is important to let them know that you care about them and communicate your reasons for acting the way that you are. If you continue to take responsibility for their problems you will prevent them from being able to take responsibility for their actions.
By taking a slight step back from the gambler and allowing them to discover the consequences of their gambling on their own, you will actually enable them to understand the need for help. It is only at this point the gambler will feel invested in addressing their problems and develop the motivation required to make a change.
Some strategies to help support gamblers to seek help include:
- Seeking professional support to help you develop a realistic plan to help your significant other.
- Remaining calm when speaking about gambling and its consequences. Emotional confrontation can lead to resistance and make it difficult for the gambler to think logically.
- Consider how you will handle requests for money.
- Continue to provide emotional support, particularly in relation to ongoing help-seeking behaviour.
- Acknowledge your impulse to cover up or help the gambler. While these strategies may seem helpful in the short term, in the long term they will prolong the gambling.
- Ask the gambler if there are any specific reasons why they do not want to seek help. Just by talking about help-seeking, you may help them overcome the shame or stigma associated with seeking help.
It is also important to respect the person’s decision not to seek help. Remind them you are there to support them when they are ready and seek your own professional support.
For free and confidential support from a specialist counsellor register online to start chatting or call 1800 858 858. Our counsellors will be able to provide you with the details of free counselling and financial counselling services in a location near you.