My name is Michelle, I'm a psychologist and I work for Gambler's Help. I'm been working with Problem Gambling for four and a half years.
All sorts of different types of people come and see me for counselling, it varies between, anywhere between the ages of sort of 18, through to, I think the oldest client I have had is probably about 78, so certainly across the board from all sorts of different backgrounds, educational backgrounds, social backgrounds, so it really is a very, very broad, a very broad spectrum.
Generally speaking, the way that I would work with people is relatively the same, although there is a level of flexibility within that, but it is very much dependent upon what their needs are and what they're comfortable dealing with. Very often people aren't comfortable with going back and dealing with those sort of issues and that's ok so I actually really go with what they are comfortable doing and so there's a level of flexibility about that, but that really does depend on the client themselves.
The warning signs for people who are developing a gambling problem are things like, I guess spending a little bit too much time at venues, more time than they would be normally be wanting to spend, feeling as though they are wanting to go more and more often, gambling on their own, also spending more money than they can afford. When that starts happening more and more often it becomes quite a warning sign for them in terms of the gambling problem developing.
I've certainly seen a lot people who have been in positions where they have lost their family homes, lost their families, lost relationships, jobs, a high number of my clients have had past suicide attempts, and they come, feeling completely like they are, you know at the bottom of the pit, and they can't see a way out and it's incredible to actually see that with a little bit of support and with some strategies in place they can actually turn their lives around. If a person is committed and they are willing to work hard, it's always going to work.
I think it's really important, I think often people come to see me and they have actually lost a lot of hope about their lives and what they can't do and they often feel quite powerless, they feel that the gambling is controlling them and so they feel very much out of control and I think that for me it's really important to get across to them that they are still in charge and to help them to believe in themselves again and to believe in their own abilities to make change in their lives and to give them sometimes stories about how people can and have changed and have actually stopped gambling and actually have turned that around, and so because hope is incredibly important in moving forward and continuing to be committed to the change process and to continue to coming to counselling hope is really very much part of that.
If people are actually needing some counselling and wanting to access the service the first port of call is usually the 1800 number, they call that and they then get further assistance and then they can access our more immediate service and which will then give them an opportunity to make an appointment to see either myself, depending upon the area in which they live as soon as humanly possible. It's really important that people understand that the service is totally confidential for example I've often had situations where friends or family members or partners have called and said “has so and so got an appointment or is so and so coming to see you” or something and I actually don't..they aren't privy to any of that information so I actually say to them that I can't give you any of that information, if you have a question for this person you need to ask them.
I guess the number of sessions you have and how often you have to come very much depends on the person. We certainly on average see people somewhere between 3 to 5 sessions. That's on average. We certainly have much more scope to see people a bit longer term if they need, you know, ongoing support, and normally that would be on a weekly basis to start with and then it might stretch out to be fortnightly and sometimes I actually will see people once they've got their gambling behaviour under control perhaps on a monthly basis for a little while just to touch base, make sure that things are still ok and give them a place to talk if they need to. The service is a free service, so they don't need to be concerned or worried about the financial side of things which is often really helpful because people are already in financial difficulties so that can often be quite a relief for them.
The most important thing for people to realise is that help is just around the corner, they really just need to make a phone call and none of us are very scary and no one is going to wave their finger at them and tell them they've been terrible and bad, there's no judgements involved and I think for people their worst fear is that they are going to come and be judged and be told what a terrible person they are, and that's not going to happen, they are just going to come and have a chat and talk about issues that they want to talk about and just find really positive ways and better strategies for dealing with issues in their lives and that's what we are about. We're about actually helping people find better ways of managing their own lives and it's not as scary as it feels like and once you get here for the first session you'll realise that. It's actually ok and will end up feeling like a comfortable place to come and be able to get some support and talk about things that you need to talk about.
I have an enormous amount of respect for people who actually make that step to actually come to see someone like myself and I think that people do make amazing change when they are actually ready to do that and when they're ready to sort of come and you know, break that cycle of silence and break through the barriers of actually keeping this to themselves about this problem, they do make some fantastic steps forward. Irrespective of what their backgrounds are, irrespective of what they've done in the past, they actually can make some really big changes in their lives. So that's the most exciting thing for me.
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