How To Support A Patient | GambleAware NSW

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How to support a patient

Starting the conversation about gambling may open doors to lasting change. Know when it’s appropriate to listen, advise, or refer to specialist services.

As a General Practitioner, you may not have specialist knowledge about gambling advice or counselling. That’s okay. Once you’ve determined that your patient has issues relating to gambling, you can think about what you can do. The screening process may have helped you start the conversation. What now?

Exploring your patients options for change

Everyone will be different. Like many issues that impact someone's mental health, gambling may not be something your patient is ready to acknowledge. Even if they do, they might not be ready to make changes – especially big changes.

  • If they’re not ready, continue to engage with them about why they came to see you in the first place. You can look for opportunities to come back to talking about reducing gambling harm.
  • If they tell you they want to do something about their gambling, seize the moment to strengthen their commitment to change. Maybe you can help them set realistic and negotiable goals as part of the change process.

How you provide information, suggestions or professional opinion is critical.

“There is an art to the skilful provision of information or advice – it needs to be collaborative, joining with the client as an equal partner, and respects the client’s autonomy. The timing of information or advice can also be an important factor. … information offered too soon can elicit defensiveness, or too late can generate frustration. Ideally, it is offered once the client has recognised a need and is interested to hear what we have to say.”

Tumbaga, L., Ryan, L. and Macaw, E. (2015). Motivational interviewing in problem gambling counselling: applications and opportunities. Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.

Supporting patients from culturally diverse backgrounds

Gambling counsellors who mainly work with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) clients have told us that cultural differences and language barriers can make people reluctant to access support for gambling issues, and they may be confused about where to go. Plus, different cultural attitudes towards gambling may add to the challenges your patients and their families face.

We put together all we learned in this 22-page booklet. There’s a useful section that provides insights into why people are reluctant to seek help.

Referring your patients to specialist services

Should you refer your patient to a specialist service or not? You may find that automatic referral is not necessary. They may just need some additional GambleAware information that you can support them through. There’s a lot they can explore in their own time, including access to specialist services.

As a starting point:

  • Provide them with resources that provide accurate information and encourage them to think about their situation.
  • Encourage them to talk to a trusted friend or existing resource.
  • Provide the GambleAware I need support link.

Your patient can choose GambleAware options from online chat to face-to-face counselling – even financial assistance. Aboriginal people can find culturally appropriate services, and services are also available in over 40 community languages.

GambleAware can support them or steer them in the right direction. And you can reassure your patients that talking to GambleAware is free and confidential.

Ways to support your patients

Providing information and advice about topics such as the potential harm associated with gambling, and ways to reduce the risks, can be important when working with a person who is experiencing gambling harm.

Let clients know that:

  1. Gambling related concerns are common
  2. Gambling can start to become a concern when a person spends more time and money than intended
  3. Gambling can lead to issues relating to finances, mental health (e.g., anxiety and depression symptoms), relationships, physical health, and work
  4. There are a variety of effective, confidential, and free support services available that can help people to reduce or stop gambling

Free & confidential counselling including many options:

  • Face-to-face, online, and phone
  • Psychological treatment for gambling
  • Counselling for partners & family
  • Financial counselling
Educational and self-help resources available on this website can be useful for low-risk patients or those who are not yet ready to engage in treatment.

Self-exclusion from pubs, clubs and casino, banning self from apps can be useful tools when combined with counselling but is not recommended as a replacement for counselling.

It is normal for people to have conflicting feelings about gambling. This may be the first time they have considered their gambling or discussed it with someone, and they may not be ready to change. Even if a client is not ready to seek help, there is value in starting a conversation and providing them with information to reflect on in their own time.

You should try to understand their ambivalence or resistance to getting help. Common barriers include:

  • lack of awareness that gambling is causing them harm
  • shame and stigma
  • not wanting to give up the benefits of gambling
  • belief that they can resolve it themselves
  • misinformed beliefs about what treatment involves

Even if they don’t want to seek help, you can still talk to them about the benefits of overcoming gambling issues and the range of support options available through GambleAware.

Above all, keep the conversation going, and check in again at a later date.

For free, confidential advice and support, call GambleAware on
1800 858 858 24/7, or go to I need support.

GambleAware acknowledges Aboriginal people as the traditional custodians of the land and we pay respects to Elders past, present and emerging. GambleAware is an inclusive support service.
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