The change process

Clients affected by problem gambling may not be ready or able to accept that they have a problem.

Your ability to help your client change their gambling behaviour will be greater if you:

  • understand your client's current stage of change
  • match your support and professional responses to the stage that they are currently in.

Any life change is likely to be a process rather than event.  The change process in addiction was best described in the Motivational Interview (MI) and its derivative Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) developed by Miller, Zweben, Di Clemente and Rychtarik in the mid 1990s who described a more or less cyclic process of change in people making both self directed changes and change assisted by formal counselling.

Some key messages for professionals from this approach are:

  • change comes from the client rather from outside forces
  • the client (as opposed to the counsellor/professional) has to recognise, frame and resolve the ambivalence that will ultimately drive change
  • direct persuasion may not be effective in resolving change and may actually increase the clients' resistance to change
  • the client will be helped where a counsellor elicits information that helps them to examine and resolve their ambivalence to the behaviour they want to change
  • readiness to change is not an internal or fixed state but a fluctuating result of environmental and interpersonal interactions.
  • the therapeutic relationship resembles a partnership or companionship

For professionals working with people affected by problem gambling this therapy suggests helping clients to change requires recognising their current stage of change.

Movement between steps can be rapid and in both directions in the cycle.  Having recognised where the client is in terms of stages of change, the professional must then use targeted strategies to enhance change and help the client move to the next stage.

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.

Pre-contemplation

"I don't have a problem"

Contemplation

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

Determination

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

Action

"I am doing something to change my behaviour now"

Maintenance

"I've changed"

Lapse/Relapse

"I have started gambling again"

The Professional Development Centre has a range of training and development opportunities.

Find out more