Article role of professionals 0
Series: How professionals can help

Management and referral

7 min read

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Do you want to help someone manage their gambling?

People who are experiencing negative consequences due to their gambling may seek help from professionals for other problems, such as depression, anxiety, money troubles, and legal issues. As a professional, you can help identify and assist people experiencing gambling harm. Once you have identified the harm (see Identifying Gambling Harm) and started talking with them (Having the Conversation), you can offer them education, encourage self-help activities, and connect them to gambling support services. If you feel comfortable to do so, you might also provide a brief or early intervention to help them address their gambling.

How can you provide psychoeducation?

When someone tells you that they are experiencing negative effects from gambling, it can be helpful to provide them with information about the issue and the harm it can cause. Our website has resources that can be used to educate them about gambling harm. You can choose the most relevant topics and provide information about them, or they can explore the information on their own time.

Our website contains information about gambling. Topics that might be helpful include:

If the person you’re working with has already made a start in changing their gambling but is now facing some challenges in their recovery, our website also has information that can help them understand this stage of recovery. Helpful topics may include:

How can you encourage people to help themselves?

As a professional, you can offer a less intimidating way for people to begin addressing their gambling harm. You can assist people in breaking the cycle of gambling and reducing the negative impact of gambling by introducing them to the self-help activities available on our website. For example, some activities that might be helpful include:

We also have a series of self-help modules that can help people manage their own gambling.

How can you provide brief or early interventions?

Sometimes people are unsure about whether they want to change their gambling or seek help. This is normal and our website has information to help you understand this better – see Stages of Change. Some professionals may use a technique called motivational interviewing to help people experiencing gambling harm. This technique involves building a supportive relationship with the person and respecting their independence. The focus is on helping the person find their own motivation to change. As a professional, you will act as a guide rather than an expert in the process.

The basic skills of motivational interviewing are represented by the acronym OARS:

O: Ask Open-ended questions.

Let the person do most of the talking and learn more about what they care about. Example: “I understand you have some concerns about your gambling. Can you tell me about them?

A: Make Affirmations.

Make statements of appreciation and understanding to build rapport and validate and support the person during the process of change. This is most effective when the person’s strengths and efforts for change are noticed and affirmed. For example: “I appreciate that it took a lot of courage for you to discuss your gambling with me today”.

R: Use Reflections.

Rephrase a statement to capture the implicit meaning and feelings of the person’s statement to encourage continual personal exploration and helps them understand their motivations more fully. This can be used to reinforce a desire for change. For example: “You enjoy gambling in terms of how it helps you unwind after a stressful day at work. But you’re beginning to worry about the financial impact gambling is having on you and your family.”

S: Use Summarising.

Use summarising to link discussions and ‘check in’ with the person to ensure you have a mutual understanding of the discussion so far. Your summaries can point out discrepancies between the person’s current situation and their future goals. They also demonstrate that you are listening and understand the person’s perspective. For example: “If it’s OK with you, just let me check that I understand everything that we’ve been discussing so far. You’ve been worried about how much you’ve spent gambling because you recognise that it’s causing some financial problems for you and your family. But the few times you’ve tried to stop gambling haven’t been easy and you’re worried that you can’t stop.”

The next step is to strengthen the person’s commitment to change. This involves setting goals and negotiating a ‘change plan of action’. The goal here is to employ strategies to elicit ‘change talk’. The most simple and direct way of drawing out ‘change talk’ is to use an ‘importance ruler’. This technique is great if you don’t have much time. It identifies the discrepancy for a patient between their current situation and where they would like to be. For example: “If you can think of a scale from 0 to 10 of how important it is for you to stop gambling. On this scale, 0 is not important at all and 10 is extremely important. Where would you be on this scale? Why are you at ___ and not 0? What would it take for you to go from ___ to (a higher number)? “This can be followed by asking the person to elaborate further on this discrepancy and then succinctly summarising this discrepancy and reflecting it back to the person. 

The next step is to build the person’s confidence in their ability to change. This involves focusing on the person’s strengths and past experiences of success. Again, you can use a ‘confidence ruler’. For example: “If you can think of a scale from 0 to 10 of how confident you are that you can cut back the amount that you gamble. On this scale, 0 is not confident at all and 10 is extremely confident. Where would you be on this scale? Why are you at ___ and not 0? What would it take for you to go from ___ to (a higher number)?”

Finally, you can work together to develop a ‘change plan’. This involves standard goal setting techniques but trying to elicit from the person what they might plan to do rather than you instructing or advising. Examples of some key questions to build a ‘change plan’ include:

  • It sounds like things can’t stay the same as they are. What do you think you could do?
  • What changes are you thinking about making?
  • Where do we go from here?
  • What do you want to do at this point?
  • How would you like things to turn out?
  • After discussing all of this, what’s the next step for you?

It’s common for people to want answers or ‘quick fixes’ at this point. It’s useful to remind them of their autonomy. For example: “You are the expert on you so I’m not sure I’m the best person to judge what will work for you. But I can give you an idea of what the evidence shows us and what other people have done in your situation”.

How can you connect people to gambling support services?

When someone tells you that they're experiencing gambling harm, you may like to encourage them to seek help beyond what you can provide. You can connect them with a gambling support service where they can get professional help. If they're hesitant to reach out, you can offer to contact the service with them. There are many options available, including online chat, helpline support, ongoing counselling (including telehealth), email and SMS support, and financial counselling. They can also benefit online forums or banning themselves from gambling venues and websites. You can reassure the person you’re working with that these services can help them take control of their gambling and that these services are free and confidential.

For more information about the different types of support and counselling options that are available, see our section on Seeking Support. For more information on bans from gambling venues or websites, see our section on Gambling Self-Exclusion

How can we support you?

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 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.

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 how to help someone to manage their gambling, 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

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