Stages of change - Lapse/Relapse

"I have started gambling again"

What can you do?

Sometimes during the change process when clients have started to recover, they will start gambling again.

This happens so often that it can be considered a normal part of the change process.  It can be a difficult time for the gambler and their Affected Others particularly if they set a target of total and enduring abstinence. 

Where the gambler has made absolute promises - "I will never gamble again" and where Affected Others have made threats – "If you ever gamble again I will leave you" - both can feel disempowered by the gambling and emotionally devastated.

In this stage the client is likely to feel confused about what went wrong and what led to the gambling. Identifying the triggers for gambling can be a help.

Your primary role at this time is instilling hope. The client has gambled but they are not back at square one, the time and effort they have spent not gambling still means something and can make getting back control over their gambling easier, and perhaps more realistic than it was the last time.

During relapse, you should help your client to explore ways to avoid future relapses and encourage them to learn from their relapse behaviour to prevent future occurrences:

  • Identify a relapse when it occurs
  • Re-establish your client's commitment and ability to change
  • Provide crisis intervention
  • Avoid blame
  • "Name and normalise" your client's relapse behaviour
  • Help your client understand that lapse is a common part of the process of change
  • Help your client to understand the triggers for lapse
  • Develop strategies to avoid relapse
  • Recognise and reinforce your client's ability to successfully maintain change
  • Encourage your client to re-engage with the Gambler's Help services

What can Gambler's Help do?

At this stage, your client may need to re-engage with their local Gambler's Help service. For some clients, this may be a brief intervention while for others; it may mark a new episode of care.

Gambler's Help can also provide you with information on strategies to deal with lapse and relapse through:

Gamblers Help can also provide you with the following services:

 Contact your Local Gambler's Help service

Stages of change

Find out about the different stages of change and what you can do for your client if they're transitioning through any of the following.


"I don't have a problem"


"I know I have a problem and need to change. I will do something about it, one day"


"Yes I have a problem and I need to do something to change - now"


"I am doing something to change my behaviour now"


"I've changed"


"I have started gambling again"

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