Musings of a gambling counsellor

One of the heart breaking things I’ve seen working as an intake officer and counsellor at a gambling clinic is coming across the people who called the help line, but just couldn’t bring themselves to come in for that first session. Or those who showed up for the first session, and for whatever reason, dropped out. It made me think of all the people out there, who haven’t quite taken that first step in reaching out.


For people who’ve been gambling excessively for decades, for people who’ve tried everything to stop, for people at the end of their tether, it can be awfully hard to believe that anything can help. Feeling hopeless, it might be hard to believe in something like counselling. Feeling like this, it can be hard to reach out for help, or to commit to weekly sessions for a couple of months.

And it must be hard. Not knowing what treatment is like. Or even, sadly, feeling ashamed for having developed gambling problems, and not wanting to walk into a Gambling clinic. There’s a lot of shame out there. I’ve even heard clients refer to themselves as “degenerates”.

But once they come in, people quickly find out, that there is absolutely nothing “degenerate” about having developed a gambling problem. Gambling problems affect people from all walks of life. Rich people, poor people, educated people, uneducated people, mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, grandparents, grandmothers, doctors, bankers, builders, nurses, the unemployed. I could go on. The one thing they all have in common is pain. A lot of people with gambling problems have suffered enormously, and continue to do so.

But I know, in the therapy room, that there is no fundamental difference between myself and the client sitting opposite me.

Now for the good news.

I’ve seen first hand, the profound impact a couple of months of specialized gambling treatment can have on people. Time and time again, for the vast majority of people with gambling problems, treatment works.  Even for people who have been gambling for decades.

In most cases the turn around is extraordinary. Seeing people coming in distraught in those early sessions, and standing proud, smiling confidently, just a couple of months later, often surprised themselves that treatment worked.

It’s a privilege to witness, and be a part of their journey to recovery. To see these courageous people, going through such trying times, share their stories, and to have a small part to play in their turn around.

We don’t just sit around talking about problems, though hearing people’s stories can be an important part of the process. Many of the latest treatments, are very focused on the specific thought process which perpetuate gambling problems. In fact, clients find it fascinating to learn about how it all works. I was too, when I first learned about gambling treatment!

So, if you’re suffering from gambling problems, it’s very important for you to know, there is effective help out there. There is hope. And there is no reason to put it off. I urge you to give Gambling Help a call.

For those who think they may have a problem with sports gambling, poker machines or any other form of gambling, help is available. A gambling counsellor can be found by calling Gambling Help on 1800 858 858. Free individual sessions are available to anybody who might be concerned their gambling has gotten out of hand.

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