Are you ready to have a conversation with someone about their gambling?
As a professional, you can play a key role in identifying people who are experiencing harm from gambling. Once you have identified a potential issue (see Identifying Gambling Harm), you can initiate a conversation with them about their gambling. However, people who are struggling with their gambling may feel ashamed or guilty, and may be hesitant to discuss it. It may be the first time they have acknowledged the extent of their losses or the degree to which they or other people have been harmed. There are some strategies you can use to help them feel more comfortable to open up.
How can you have the conversation?
People are more likely to open up about their gambling experiences in a safe and non-judgmental environment in which their confidentiality is protected. By providing a supportive and non-threatening space where they can feel heard and respected, people are more likely to share their thoughts, feelings and ideas, and develop solutions to their problems.
When you having a discussion with someone about their gambling, it’s important to separate the person from their behaviour, focus on their positive qualities, and offer hope for recovery. Try to listen carefully to what they have to say, use their language to show that you understand, and avoid interrupting them. Normalising and validating their experience can help them feel understood, while thanking them for their honesty can help build trust. You can recognise their achievement in sharing their experience and encourage them to help themselves or seek support. Working together and focusing on solutions rather than problems can be an effective way to help them take the next step.
The LUV technique is a helpful way to have a more effective conversation with someone about their gambling. It stands for Listen, Understand, and Validate.
- First, you should listen carefully to what they are saying without judging or interrupting them. You can repeat back what they say to show that you are paying attention.
- Next, try to understand their point of view by giving them time to explain their story by asking questions to clarify.
- Finally, validate their emotions by acknowledging how they feel, even if you don't necessarily agree with them. This can help them feel heard and understood which can lead to a more productive conversation.
Many people who experience gambling harm may feel embarrassed or ashamed to talk about their gambling. This is why it’s best to avoid blaming, lecturing, or criticising them because this can create resistance and defensiveness. When someone has hidden their gambling for a long time by keeping it secret and lying about it, it can feel strange and uncomfortable for them to start talking about it openly and honestly. Instead, it's better to create a safe and non-judgmental space for them to reflect on their gambling and how it may be impacting them and their loved ones.
When talking to someone about their gambling, it's important to avoid using words that might make them feel stigmatised or judged. For example, terms like "problem gambler" or "gambling addict" might be uncomfortable for some people. Instead, try to focus on the behaviour itself, rather than labelling the person. You could talk about someone's "struggles with gambling" or their "issues with gambling." It's also helpful to talk about how gambling might be "harming", "impacting", or “affecting” the person and those around them.
What if the person reacts negatively?
The person that you’re working with may feel better after talking to you about their gambling, but they may not want to talk about it or may become upset or angry. They may also try to downplay or make excuses for their gambling, or blame other people for their gambling.
It’s also normal for people to have mixed feelings about changing their gambling. They may not even realise that they experience any harm from it or may not be ready to change. They may also feel nervous about seeking help from another type of professional other than yourself. Check out our information on Stages of Change for more information about how people become ready to change and Seeking Support for more information about some of the barriers that some people experience in seeking help.
You can try:
- asking them to think about their gambling
- asking them if they will take a quiz to help them work out if their gambling is harmful
- continuing to engage with them about why they came to see you in the first place and look for opportunities to come back to talking about reducing gambling harm
- asking them what they think is the best way forward or how you could help them
- letting them know you are willing to talk when they are ready
- providing them with information about gambling to reflect on in their own time
- providing them with information about how to get help if or when they feel ready
The most important thing is to continue talking with them about their gambling and letting them know that you’re there to support them. If they don't want to talk about it right now or aren't ready to make changes, check in with them again later. This will let them know that they can come to you when they are ready.
While your support is valuable, try to remember that you can't force someone stop gambling, even if you think it’s for the best. Simply having an open and honest conversation with them can be a crucial step towards change, but ultimately they are responsible for taking the next steps. You can provide them with resources and support, but they need to be the ones to take action. It's possible that they may seek help right away, in the future, or not at all, but having a conversation with them is a positive first step.
How can we support you?
As a professional, you may not have the expertise or training to treat people who experience gambling harm, but you can still provide valuable support by helping them find appropriate resources and services. We understand that supporting someone who is experiencing gambling harm can be difficult. If you need more information to effectively support the person you’re working with, our counsellors can help. They are available to assist you with any questions you may have regarding gambling.
Across professions, people will have different levels of expertise or training in gambling harm. Even if you don’t feel well equipped to treat people experiencing gambling harm yourself, you can still provide valuable support by identifying people with gambling harm and helping them find appropriate resources and services – see Identifying Gambling Harm and Management and Referral. We understand that supporting someone who is experiencing gambling harm can be difficult. If you need more information to effectively support the person you’re working with, our counsellors can help. They are available to assist you with any questions you may have regarding gambling.
In your professional role, you may also come across the family members or friends of people experiencing gambling harm. These people often experience gambling-related harm and may also need help and support too, either in relation to supporting the person who gambles or to take care of themselves. Family members and friends may benefit from our information on Looking After Yourself and Seeking Support.
Do you want more help?
To find out more about have the conversation, you can start an online chat with us or call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858 – free, confidential, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These services are available to support anyone affected by gambling harm, including family members, friends, and professionals like you.
Do you want to know how professionals can support you with gambling harm?
This page is designed for professionals looking for information about how they can help clients, patients, or colleagues. If you'd like to learn more about professional services available to support you with gambling harm, have a look at these pages instead:
Series: Support and counselling options
- How Gambling Helpline can help
- How ongoing gambling counselling can help
- How gambling online chat can help
- How financial counselling can help
- How gambling email support can help
- How gambling SMS support can help
- How gambling online forums can help
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