How To Support A Client With Gambling-Related Issues

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How to support a client

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

If your organisation is focused on health, financial, legal or relationship issues, you may not have specialist knowledge about gambling. That’s okay. Once you’ve determined that your client 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 client’s options for change

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

  • If they are 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 people 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, and they may be confused about where to go. Plus, different cultural attitudes towards gambling may add to the challenges your clients and their families face.

Western Sydney Community Forum (WSCF), with funding through an RGF research grant, has released several resources, including e-learning modules, case studies and guides to culturally appropriate language, to support anyone working with CALD communities.

To find out more about the WSCF’s resources click here.

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

Referring your clients to specialist services

Should you refer your client to a specialist service or not? You may find that 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 someone such as a trusted friend or existing resource.
  • Provide the GambleAware I need support link.

Your client can choose GambleAware options from online chat to face-to-face counselling – even specialist 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 client that talking to GambleAware is free and confidential.

Working with specialist gambling counsellors

To best help people in your community with gambling-related issues, generalist health and community services and specialist gambling counsellors should work together and deliver consistent messages.


  • Contact GambleAware service providers in your community and get to know the staff.
  • Learn about the services, including referral processes, counselling approaches and available resources.
  • Negotiate a quick response to referral requests to each other’s services.
  • Reduce overlap by clearly defining what services each professional provides.
  • Establish clear and frequent communication relating to individuals as required.
  • Ensure you have printed materials about each other’s services and make them readily available.
  • Define “key messages” to enhance a consistent approach.
  • Hold reciprocal in-service educational activities.
  • Explore opportunities for local joint media and community education activities.

 Ways to support clients

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.
Copyright © 2022 NSW Office of Responsible Gambling