Family and friends FAQs

It's okay to ask for help. Below are questions frequently asked by family and friends. If you want to find out more about how to help a person with changing their gambling, contact the Gambling Help service on 1800 858 858 and speak to a counsellor.

WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP THEM STOP?

Two things family and friends can do to encourage gamblers to think about change are:

  1. Talk to them about your concerns – Most people who make changes to their gambling do so when they are ready. They identify for themselves that gambling is a problem. Family and friends can be significant in assisting gamblers to make changes and seek help. Talk to your family member or friend about your concerns, and how you are affected. These conversations may encourage the gambler to reflect on their gambling and its impacts.

  2. Take better care of yourself – People are unlikely to change if they don’t see a problem or reason for change. If family and friends spend a lot of time, energy and money fixing problems created by the gambling, the gambler may not see the impacts of gambling. One way to help gamblers to see the impact of their gambling is to step back from fixing it and take better care of yourself instead.

WHEN WILL THEY STOP?

Once people recognise gambling is a problem, they may or may not try to limit the harm. Researchers spoke to a group of problem gamblers. They asked “How long did it take to start using self-help change strategies once you realised that gambling was a problem?” The responses were interesting:

  • About 23% said they started using self-help strategies within one year

  • 20% said it took more than 10 years to start using self-help strategies.1

So it’s hard to know how long it takes for people to start thinking about change. Other studies asked gamblers why they sought help to change their gambling. The most common reasons gamblers reported for seeking help for their gambling were:

  • Financial concern

  • Relationship problems, and

  • Feeling bad (psychological distress).2, 3

1Lubman, Rodda, Hing, Cheetham, Cartmill, Nuske, Hodgins & Cunningham (2015). Gambler Self-Help Strategies: A Comprehensive Assessment of Self-Help Strategies and Actions. Gambling Research Australia. Melbourne.

2Pulford, J., Bellringer, M., Abbott, M., Clarke, D., Hodgins, D. et al. (2009) Reasons for Seeking Help for a Gambling Problem: The Experiences of Gamblers Who Have Sought Specialist Assistance and the Perceptions of Those Who Have Not. Journal of Gambling Studies (Online); New York25.1 (Mar 2009): 19-32.

3Suurvali, H., Hodgins, D. C., Toneatto, T., Cunningham, J. A . (2012) Motivators for Seeking Gambling-Related Treatment Among Ontario Problem Gamblers. Journal of Gambling Studies (Online); New York 28.2 (Jun 2012): 273-96.


HOW CAN COUNSELLING HELP?

Counselling can help gamblers and family members to make changes to gambling patterns and other behaviours. If you are wondering about how counselling works take a look at the thinking about change page.


WHY CAN’T THEY JUST STOP?

Most problem gamblers have mixed feelings about their gambling. Stopping gambling means accepting what is lost is lost. This is a difficult fact to accept, and many problem gamblers swing between accepting their losses, and remembering the big wins.

Most problem gamblers have mixed feelings about their gambling. Stopping gambling means accepting what is lost is lost. This is a difficult fact to accept, and many problem gamblers swing between accepting their losses, and remembering the big wins.

Gambling offers entertainment, excitement, distraction and the possibility of a win. As well as creating problems for gamblers, gambling seems to offer some solutions. Problem gamblers tend to continue gambling despite experiencing a range of harms.

Many gamblers, their families and friends think it should be simple to stop gambling. But for many people, stopping gambling is very difficult.

Think for a moment about a change you could make in your life – maybe giving up smoking, eating more vegetables or going to see the dentist about your toothache. Try these questions.

  • A change I have thought about is...?

  • How long have I thought about this change?

  • How would making this change be a good idea?

  • What would I miss and what would be difficult about making the change?

  • What have I done to make the change?

  • What happened when I tried to change?

  • What things held me back from making the change?

  • What things could help me to make the change?

Consider your answers to the above questions. What do they tell you about the challenge of “just stopping” or changing a behaviour?


WHAT CAN I DO IF THEY DON’T WANT TO STOP?

A family member or friend being unwilling to change their gambling may be upsetting for many people. It is common to feel anxious, confused or even angry when this happens. Take a look at thinking about change.


WHY WON’T THEY GET HELP?

Problem gamblers are often reluctant to talk about their gambling and to seek help to make changes. Common reasons gamblers do not seek help include:

  • They don’t think that gambling is a problem

  • They feel embarrassed to admit that they have a problem

  • They want to try to fix the problem themselves using will power.


WHAT HAPPENS IN COUNSELLING?

Counsellors work with a problem gambler to work through their concerns. They don’t tell them to stop gambling, or tell them what to do. Each person will have unique challenges and concerns, so what happens in counselling will vary from person to person. To find out more, take a look at thinking about change.


HOW CAN COUNSELLING HELP FAMILY MEMBERS OF PROBLEM GAMBLERS?

About 30% of clients who access Gambling Help services are family members and friends of problem gamblers. Family members can often feel isolated and alone and coping with a loved one’s problem gambling can be very distressing.

About 30% of clients who access Gambling Help services are family members and friends of problem gamblers. Family members can often feel isolated and alone and coping with a loved one’s problem gambling can be very distressing.

The Gambling Help service can assist with:

  • emotional help and support

  • strategies to reduce distress/stress/anxiety/depression

  • self-care

  • education

  • increase understanding of problem gambling behaviours

  • relationship issues

  • communication skills 

  • assist family members and friends to make important decisions about their relationship

  • referrals to protect family income, assets and explore options.


WHAT CAN I DO TO PROTECT MYSELF?

Protecting yourself can include lots of different actions. Take time to reflect on how you are being affected by your family member or friend’s gambling. What are the impacts you recognise?

  • Look after your health

  • Learn more about problem gambling

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself

  • Find out about financial safety for family members of problem gamblers.

Take a look at our Let us help you section.


SHOULD I PAY THEIR BILLS?

Family and friends can play an important role in assisting gamblers to seek help. If you are concerned about your friend or family member’s gambling, talking to them about your concerns can be a helpful approach. Learn more on the starting the conversation page.


HOW CAN I TALK TO THEM ABOUT GAMBLING?

Many people struggle with this question. The easiest solution may seem to be to pay the bill yourself and fix the problem. Maybe the question to ask yourself is what will this person learn if you help them out in this way? How do you think this will affect the person’s readiness to change their gambling? These actions may convince the gambler that change is not needed right now. Think about other things you may be able to do to help the gambler. Try to support them to find ways to manage their gambling so that money problems do not arise.


Contact us

If gambling has become a problem for you, or someone you care about, get some help. It’s free and confidential.

Call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858 anytime 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Click for face-to-face counselling locations

Click for online counselling and real time chat