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Q&A with a gambling counsellor: What's getting in your way of accessing professional support?

Posted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 2:34 pm
by BrittV (facilitator)
A special event: Q&A with Judy, a gambling counsellor, about barriers to accessing and navigating support.


For many, seeking formal support for gambling can be a difficult step, but also a life-changing one.
An Australian Gambling Inquiry found that only 8–17% of people with gambling problems seek professional help. While there are a lot of great options available, it can be difficult to know what to expect, what’s appropriate and how to access support.

Judy, an experienced gambling counsellor, is joining us for a special Q&A to help us navigate the confusion that may prevent us from seeking help.
Judy has worked with Gambler’s Help services for a long time. She’s here to answer any questions you might have about seeking support. She hopes to help you to overcome any barriers that are getting in the way of you getting the help you need, or that someone close to you needs.

We know that gambling problems affect people of all ages, cultures, locations and careers. Everyone has different experiences, but barriers, concerns and queries are often very similar. Take advantage of the ability to anonymously let us know any little thing that might be stopping you, and let us help you move past it!

This thread will be open September 6–16 for you to ask Judy anything. Simply press ‘Post Reply’ below while signed in. After this, Judy will work to answer as many of these as possible. What’s getting in your way today?

Re: ON NOW - Q&A with a gambling counsellor: What's getting in your way of accessing professional support?

Posted: Wed Sep 11, 2019 3:21 pm
by sherpa09 (facilitator)
Hi everyone and welcome :)

I am a counsellor and moderator at Gamblers Help. In terms of the phone calls we receive each day, they can vary greatly. This could range from a complex situation including family members to people who are simply wanting to look at gaining more control around their gambling.

People are often afraid of getting support due to judgement or stigma of problem gambling. At Gamblers help, we understand that reaching out can be difficult, where we provide a safe and confidential environment for people seeking support.

I look forward to hearing everyone's responses to barriers in accessing professional support and please let us know how we can help.


Re: ON NOW - Q&A with a gambling counsellor: What's getting in your way of accessing professional support?

Posted: Wed Sep 11, 2019 8:43 pm
by Markee
Hi All,

I've been struggling with Gambling Addiction, and bad anxiety for many years now. I've had every possible scenario with gambling from losing money until I was homeless to winning 40k in 20 mins on the tables. Recently I had a serious incident where I was so down and despondent from gambling losses that I tried to jump from a bridge in Brisbane, but the water police came while I was there and I got spooked and went away. Next day I went to the GP and was referred to private hospital with psychiatrists and the like for 3 weeks as an inpatient.

I got no help there at all for my gambling, in fact everyone I saw there said they knew a lot about alcohol and drug addictions but not about gambling. They tried to lump the three together but they are very very different. That was really disappointing and since I've been out again I've found it almost impossible to get any help. It's like gambling is a very poorly understood addiction.

In previous years I've been to GA but I found that again, it's poorly structured and depends a lot on the texts from AA and is like a poor cousin. Also you couldn't talk about venues you gambled in or specific amounts, it was like talking in code and it just wasn't for me at all. I did get some years off at a time there but when I did have a slip I received no support and more "tough love" than anything which just doesn't work for me.

I've losing thousands every day now, and it's all off the credit card, as I've already lost my savings, house deposit and hundreds of thousands. I just don't know what's ahead for me. I'm in so much pain and barely existing but I don't have the energy or ability to help myself, I feel like I really need a support worker or carer almost, but I don't even know if there are such things for people like me who work full time and have an illusion at least of living a normal life.

I'm of the belief by now having tried so many things over the years that there really isn't help for gamblers. If I was a drug addict or alcoholic people would move heaven and earth to help me but for whatever reason, gambling is something people are a bit condescending about helping with, like you did it to yourself. Asking questions like; "What's the triggers?" - it's like, why ask such a naive question, 'The trigger is, I'm an addict and think about gambling morning, noon and night...that's the only trigger you need, waking up! There are no reasons anymore, who needs reasons when you have pokies to numb everything'. You end up wishing you never asked for help at all. I've almost given up but I'm reaching out in the hope that someone somewhere can help me.


Re: ON NOW - Q&A with a gambling counsellor: What's getting in your way of accessing professional support?

Posted: Thu Sep 12, 2019 11:45 am
by Calvin (facilitator)
Hi @Markee

I'm Calvin, one of the facilitators.

Thanks for sharing your experiences, I understand that its been quite a tough time for you having to deal with the gambling issue. It can be quite a journey. You've shown alot of strength just by reaching out despite how difficult it has been.
I fully understand your frustration around how society may view gambling issues compared with alcohol/drug issues. They are similar but different. Gambling can be quite insidious, it is seen as a form of 'entertainment' but can result in something quite toxic along the way.
When people ask what the triggers/urges are, it sometimes takes some thought to properly identify it. Some people say they're trigger is stress, feeling depressed, feelings of anxiety, loneliness, needing to socialise, thinking of money that is spent and trying to chase those losses. There's a variety of reasons, recognizing these can be helpful.
GA isn't for everyone and sometimes speaking to a general psychologist/counsellor isn't helpful to some people. We can get you in touch with gambling and financial counsellors, because they are gambling specific counsellors it can be really helpful to breaking the toxic cycle of gambling. You can call our 24/7 helpline on 1800 858 858 or get in touch via webchat as well if you feel more comfortable that way, Happy to have a chat and provide you with a referral.

I have sent you a private message which can be found on the top right hand side of the screen.

Again, good on you for reaching out.
Kind regards,


Re: ON NOW - Q&A with a gambling counsellor: What's getting in your way of accessing professional support?

Posted: Thu Sep 12, 2019 3:09 pm
by BrittV (facilitator)
Welcome @Markee. I second @Calvin (facilitator) - it takes a lot of courage to share such a story. The service options he recommended sound great, and I really help you find them, as well as this community, valuable.

I wonder if others have barriers to accessing support or things they find get in their way?

Re: ON NOW - Q&A with a gambling counsellor: What's getting in your way of accessing professional support?

Posted: Mon Sep 16, 2019 10:36 am
by Markee
Hi All,

Thanks for all the advice, I'm going to continue to follow up with any support structures I have. I agree that people are well meaning and there are some further places I can look. I think I am just frustrated with myself because of all the gambling at the moment. It's a difficult thing to keep working on. I had from 2014 to 2017 gambling free and somehow I went back to it and that's just something I find as difficult to accept as anything. I'll call those helplines guys and keep working on it.



Re: ON NOW - Q&A with a gambling counsellor: What's getting in your way of accessing professional support?

Posted: Wed Sep 18, 2019 10:47 am
by Calvin (facilitator)
Acceptance can be a difficult thing to do and it does take some time. Be patient with yourself.

The fact that you went 3 years without gambling is a massive accomplishment in itself. Have a look at what brought you back to gambling that way you can better prevent it in the future.

Despite having experiencing a relapse (which is normal) the fact that you are still pushing through and looking at different avenues to help yourself speaks volumes.

So well done, Keep pushing through.

Kind regards,


Re: ON NOW - Q&A with a gambling counsellor: What's getting in your way of accessing professional support?

Posted: Thu Sep 19, 2019 2:13 pm
by BrittV (facilitator)
Judy's answers are in!
Dear community members,

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about the barriers to getting support that people experience when they begin to question whether or not they have a gambling problem and to think about what help they need to overcome it.

Mark’s post certainly points to many of the barriers he has experienced. (Thanks for your post @Markee, it was remarkable). Undoubtedly other readers will identify with the barriers he has talked about and will have experienced different barriers. Some of these barriers include
  • the sector’s general lack of understanding of the problem,
  • a lack of specific inpatient treatment,
  • the experience of only being allowed to talk about his gambling in specific ways, and
  • meeting different ideas on how gambling should be treated.
Barriers are not only different for everyone, but they’re also fluid. As journeys change, so to can barriers. Again, the barriers mentioned by community members are common, including
  • a sense of hopelessness brought about by lapse,
  • a felt sense of inability to trust that we know what to do,
  • a general tiredness brought on by worries and
  • the inability to find the right service to support us at this particular time.

Recognising a problem
One of the major barriers that services are aware of that prevents people accessing services is recognising a problem. People are often unwilling to admit they have an issue and therefore will not seek help. The people around them may know there is an issue but the person themselves will not admit to it and in fact may get angry or defensive if it is suggested that gambling is an issue. To overcome this barrier if someone close to you suggests you might be spending too much or says they think you have a gambling problem, perhaps it is time to stop and think about what you are doing.

The earlier you initiate seeking support the better. In an ideal world gambling services and gambling counsellors would prefer to talk to people who gamble before they have experienced the distress that comes with large losses of money. Unfortunately, for many people it is only when things have reached a crisis point of some sort that finally leads them to ring a Gambler’s Help Service.

People usually attempt many strategies to help themselves before approaching professional services and for many, self-help strategies can be enough to prevent a serious crisis. Because the help services recognise people feel uncomfortable or don’t want to see a face to face counsellor they have developed this Gambling Help Online website with counsellors available online as well as on the Gamblers Helpline 1800 858 858. These services are available 24 hours for a chat to help work out the next steps.

Attempting to do it alone
The biggest barrier to seeking professional assistance therefore can be a desire to solve the problem using strategies they have picked up or developed. People talk about combining these strategies with their own will power. Of course will power will be needed to overcome a gambling problem but if one’s will power is tested too much (returning to a venue, watching ads, listening to friends talk, being able to access money and so on) like any muscle that is used too much, it will become exhausted and not able to function when needed.

Embarrassment and stigma
The second biggest barrier to seeking professional help can be that people who develop a problem are ashamed and embarrassed of the position they find themselves in. For many people, while gambling begins as a social activity, it develops into something they feel a lot of shame about and they try to deal with the problems that inevitably occur by hiding that they are gambling and attempting to win back their spending by chasing their losses. And unlike a drinking or alcohol problem, a gambling problem can be hidden for some time.

The messages that come from both industry and government advertising that gambling is a form entertainment that needs to be done responsibly can reinforce a person’s shame and embarrassment. The take home message from these messages that are attached to every gambling advertisement, can be that if I develop a problem it is because I have not been responsible. The research shows that being responsible around current forms of gambling is almost impossible but unfortunately community thinking around gambling does see it erroneously and tends to blame the victim rather than the provider of gambling products. It is helpful to remind yourself of all the areas in your life which demonstrate you take responsibilities seriously and to educate yourself about the insidious nature of modern gambling products.

Lapses impacting hope
Giving up gambling can be hard and counsellors know that lapses are to be expected and should be prepared for. Unfortunately community thinking has not kept up with professional knowledge and a lot of blame can be laid at a person’s door when a lapse happens. One of the aims of any treatment plan with a face to face counsellor would be to prevent a lapse if possible but to use a lapse, if one occurs, as a way of providing further insight. If the possibility of lapses is discussed both with the person who has the problem and with the family, a lapse is more likely to be treated as a learning opportunity rather than a sign of lack of commitment to stopping. One of the advantages of overcoming the barriers to see a professional counsellor is that the counsellor can act as a coach or tutor around issues that are likely to arise.

Unsatisfying support experience
Another barrier to accessing services may be that the person has attempted to get professional assistance and has found the experience unsatisfactory and is therefore reluctant to try again although their own attempts are failing and leading to increasing upset. As a counsellor I would ask that you persist if you meet such barriers as being unable to get through to a service. Services have limited resources and often the counsellor is the only person to answer calls which of course they cannot do if they are in a counselling session with someone. Do leave a message for the service to ring you.

Sometimes the therapist does not feel like a good fit for you. If possible talk to the therapist about this but in the end remember that, just like dating, there may be some false starts before finding a therapist that feels right for you. We know that the connection and rapport you share with the counsellor counts for more than the therapist’s years of practice, gender, area of expertise, or any other single factor.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about the barriers. Please let’s continue the conversation below.

Thank you so much Judy!
I hope this is helpful to you. What do you guys think - does this sound familiar?

Re: Q&A with a gambling counsellor: What's getting in your way of accessing professional support?

Posted: Sun Sep 22, 2019 5:45 pm
by Shane regretful
I’m letting my family down

Re: Q&A with a gambling counsellor: What's getting in your way of accessing professional support?

Posted: Sun Sep 22, 2019 5:47 pm
by Shane regretful
And myself