I have been working as a Counsellor for over 20 years, and with Relationships Australia SA for 7 years, supporting people with a very wide range of issues and experiences. For the past two years I have focussed on helping people overcome the effects of problem gambling in their lives.
Many people enjoy gambling but of course, the more a person gambles, the more likely that gambling can get out of control and rather than being fun, it can cause pain and hardship. It doesn't matter where people come from, how old they are, whether they are rich or poor, working or not working, well educated or not, male or female, gambling can become a serious problem for individuals and their families.
As a Gambling Help Counsellor I see people of all ages and cultural backgrounds.
I see people who want to stop gambling altogether because it has led to financial stress, relationship difficulties, problems at work, and feelings of guilt, depression and anxiety.
I see those who become concerned that gambling is taking up more and more of their time and want support to recover control.
I see individuals who have learned of their partner's secret gambling and seek support to work through their feelings of anger and betrayal.
I see couples who want to work through the effects that gambling has had on their relationship.
I see family members who are worried about their loved one's gambling and seek guidance with how to help them.
When people come to see me, it is really important they feel safe to talk about their issues and concerns. Initially my work with a person is to build a trusting relationship.
So my first job is to reassure them of two things:
As I listen to people's stories, I will ask questions that enable me and the client(s) to understand what has happened, is happening or can happen better. Gambling can be the cause of lots of problems for people, but it is also true that many people gamble to escape the problems they already have. In the course of counselling, I hear many stories that are filled with pain, stress, grief, trauma, depression, lack of control, shame, guilt, anxiety, loneliness, fear and hopelessness. Often people don't seem to lose their sense of humour though, in spite of their difficulties, so there can be a lot of laughter. Over time, I also hear other stories – of past and present experiences of strength, power, courage, control and achievement.
It is through this exploration that the pathway to resolution, or possible solutions to the problems, becomes clear. There is no set or prescribed way of working together. The person is always at the centre of the work and I will move with them. I am not the expert in other people's lives and, unfortunately, I have no magic wand. However, having worked with many hundreds of people throughout my years as a counsellor, I have absolute faith in a person's capacity to move forward to a better place. I endeavour, through these counselling conversations, to enable people to find their way – indeed their own way - whatever that might be.
There is no specific or recommended amount of time for counselling. Some people find a small number of sessions helpful while others remain engaged for quite long periods of time. Some people flow in and out as they feel they need. This is a FREE service and I will support a person for as long as they find me useful to them.
Generally I see people frequently to start with – usually weekly – but as they get more of a handle on things this will drop back to fortnightly or monthly or even every three months.
The most important message I can pass on to all people who are suffering as a consequence of gambling is that people can change!