The stages of change in problem gambling

Support, advice, counselling

The stages of change in problem gambling

Anyone struggling with gambling problems goes through a number of stages of change.

If you're supporting someone close to you with a gambling problem, it's useful to know where they are in the process of change. This can help you decide how to respond.

Stage 1: the person doesn't see that there is a problem

At this stage you could:

  • discuss how their gambling affects you, but be prepared they may be defensive and unwilling to stop
  • focus on looking after yourself and your family
  • protect your assets and income
  • get counselling and financial advice to help you best understand and manage the situation.

Stage 2: the person recognises that there is a problem

At this stage you could:

  • discuss the impact of gambling with them
  • talk about change, even if it's just small steps
  • try not to expect too much too soon as this may push them away.

Stage 3: the person is planning for change

At this stage you could:

  • suggest they look at the information on this website or call Gambler's Help on 1800 858 858 or Gambler's Help Youthline on 1800 262 376
  • encourage and support them in any way you can, but know there's a limit to how much you can do.

Stage 4: the person is actively changing their behaviour

At this stage you could:

  • ask them what support they would like from you – for example, help to manage their money
  • offer to attend counselling with them.

Stage 5: the person has reduced their gambling

At this stage:

  • you may feel a sense of relief and happiness or you may feel leftover anger and hurt
  • if you feel comfortable, speak with them about your feelings. Otherwise, speak with a counsellor.

Slips and relapses

Someone with a gambling problem may go through these five stages a number of times before stopping gambling permanently.

If they fall back into gambling, it's important to understand this is a normal part of full recovery. Slips and relapses can highlight what triggers the gambling and help you work out new tactics to manage the triggers.

Getting help

For more about getting help when someone close to you has a gambling problem, see:

You can also call Gambler's Help on 1800 858 858 or Gambler's Help Youthline on 1800 262 376 for free, confidential, professional advice and support. These phone lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you would like to chat live with a counsellor online, visit gambling help online. This service is also available 24/7.

Find out more about the many ways to get help, including help for young people.

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Family and friends

Read more about how we are putting families and friends at the forefront of our thinking in reducing harm caused by problem gambling.

Read the paper (PDF - 630 KB)