What to expect from gambling counselling

You don’t have to go through it alone
What to expect when seeking help from a Gambling Counsellor (we aren’t scary).

Admitting you have a gambling problem can be scary! Doing something about it can be scarier still! But be brave, the benefits are worth it.

So what can you expect when seeking help from a Gambling Counsellor?

Firstly, and most importantly, you will not be judged!

Believe me, the counsellor has just about heard it all, and knows what issues come with gambling. You will never be judged on your gambling habits.

So what happens in counselling?

Depending on the organisation, you may be screened for your presenting issues. The issues around gambling can be different for each person, depending on their situation. For some people it’s financial troubles, not being able to pay bills and sleep problems, for others it’s mood swings and feeling angry. It could be all of these and more. Gambling issues are as individual as you are, so a screening ensures you are getting the best and most appropriate help available. Some clients will need extra help, like a Financial Counsellor, as gambling problems and financial problems go hand in hand. Financial Counsellors are free and are a great way to get on top of your bills and keep creditors off your back!

Confidentiality – what you say in the room, stays in the room

When you see your Counsellor you can be assured that all the information you tell them is confidential.

Although Counsellors must abide to mandatory reporting rules (meaning that if you are going to harm yourself or someone else they must take action) you can rest assured that what you say in the session stays with the Counsellor.

At times the Counsellor may need to discuss your case with their supervisor, but you will only be identified by a case number and never a name, and the supervisor must also maintain your confidentiality. So what you say in the room, stays in the room!

First step – screening

A gambling screen will generally be used to assess the level of your addiction, like the South Oaks Gambling Screen or the Canadian Problem Gambling Index. This is a series of questions like ‘Have people criticised your gambling?’ Or ‘Have you ever argued with people you like over how you handle your money?’ and your answers will give the Counsellor an idea of how extensive your problem is. The screen can also be used after counselling to measure the effectiveness of the counselling process.

From here you will get a chance to tell the Counsellor your story. My advice here…be honest! This is the best way to get the best help. If you hold things back, or only tell part of the story then you will not get the full effects of counselling.

Remember, the Counsellor is not a mind reader. If you don’t tell them, they wont know. If they don’t know, they cant help. So be honest. Telling your story is a great way to get a good perspective on things, it clears it up so you can look at the facts without all the emotions fogging up the view. The emotions and feelings will be dealt with too and your Counsellor can help you cope with these, taking the pressure off! Remember… a problem shared is a problem halved!

Counselling from here could take many paths depending on your individual situation. There will be choices to make, like abstinence (quitting) or control (playing within your limits) Maybe looking at formal processes like self-exclusion which means you enter into an agreement with various venues and agree to be banned. For some venues you can exclude from the gaming areas only, for others it may be the whole venue. Your Counsellor will help you with this.

Counsellors will also help you with other things that might need to be put in place to help you stick with your decisions. Your Counsellor will discuss options with you to find a tailor made approach to your gambling issues, and the issues that have been affected by your gambling like relationships, work and finances. Counsellors can also help with the many personal issues that gambling might have raised for you. You will get to deal with feelings like guilt, embarrassment and anger, and learn how to recognise your high risk situations and ways to handle them. With a counsellor, you will also look at what makes you want to think about gambling (your triggers) and together you’ll work out the best measures to reduce these triggers and learn how to apply them.

Lapse and relapse will also be a part of your counselling experience. This can arm you with a barrel full of precautions you can put into place to help when the urge to gamble rears its ugly head, and help you overcome a lapse or relapse you may have had. With a counsellor you will also review what things worked and what didn’t so you are better prepared if there is a next time.

Your Counsellor can also give you loads of self-help information plus information for family and friends. Most counsellors not only see gamblers, but also partners and family members or friends of gamblers. Either together or alone. So if you are worried about a loved one’s gambling a counsellor can help you too! They can also connect you to 24 hr help, like Gambling Help 1800 858 858 or  gamblinghelponline.org.au or a helpline like Lifeline. These can be a great source of support when those urges hit and your Counsellor isn’t available.

How many sessions will you need?

That will be up to you and your Counsellor. It will depend on the depth of both your gambling and personal issues, and how things are travelling in the counselling process.

The thing to remember… get help! Don’t go it alone! There are professionals available that want to help. All you need to do is reach out.

For more information and to find free help near you, click here http://www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au/GamblingHelp/HelpNearYou/Search.aspx

Thousands have beaten their habit, you can too!

Counsellor Sam

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