What is Counselling? | Gambling Support

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What is Counselling?

Counselling is described as a client-centred relationship that provides a non-judgemental space to be heard and understood and to explore the possibility of future change.

What is the role of the gambling counsellor? 

The gambling counsellor is a professionally qualified and experienced individual who works alongside the person/s to create change oriented behaviour, provide emotional support and reduce social isolation. The counsellor will encourage people to set harm reduction goals for gambling behaviour, explore triggers for relapse, identify early warning signs and employ strategies to stay safe from gambling harm. The counsellor will also gently challenge people to consider new thoughts and behaviours. Counsellors do NOT tell people what to do and limit giving advice. This is seen as counter-productive to supporting change at people’s own pace and in alignment with their cultural values and beliefs.

What is gambling counselling?

Gambling counselling employs counselling skills and specific techniques to assist people and their families to manage change. In particular, gambling counselling is focused on reducing the harm associated with gambling and a collaborative approach is used to support people to reach gambling harm reduction goals. See types of therapy for the common techniques and approaches used.

Family members are supported in their own right and can also take part in sessions with the gambler. Counselling with family members (as with the gambler themselves) uses a holistic assessment to assist the counsellor to create a focus or plan for the counselling with the client.

Common areas of focus are:

  • Education about gambling harm. 
  • Development of a counselling plan, including strategies to support the gambler and/or family and whānau.
  • Changing thought patterns regarding gambling behaviour and other areas of your life 
  • Creation of a gambling relapse prevention plan that is reviewed at follow-up. 
  • Stress management
  • Explore and express difficult emotions, such as boredom, excessive worry and depression. 
  • Development of effective coping skills
  • Development of a self-care plan
  • Effective social support network
  • Learning relaxation techniques
  • Assisted referrals to budgeting and legal services

Assessment and planning 

The focus of gambling counselling is based on a holistic assessment of people’s social, mental health, physical functioning, cultural values and beliefs and family/social support. Specific questions are asked about the gambling itself and its financial, legal, personal, social impact on the person and others. Part of the gambling counsellor’s role is to balance hearing the client's story and the provision of emotional support with assessing or asking specific questions about other relevant areas such as family history, other addiction history, mental health history and level of risk and safety.

A counselling plan can have multiple areas of focus such as (but not limited to) gambling relapse prevention, stress management, relationship support, distress tolerance and managing emotions. One area that is often relevant is identifying unhelpful thinking patterns about gambling and replacing these with more constructive thoughts and supportive behaviours.

Assessment and education about gambling harm and support for relapse prevention is key.

The gambling counsellor will also be able to support a person/s to apply for self exclusions from gambling venues and block online gambling sites and help them access other relevant services such as money management or budgeting support, alcohol and drug programs, food banks for welfare relief.

Gambling relapse prevention and education

Explores thoughts, feelings, behaviours that put a person at greater risk of relapse. Strategies are developed to reduce a person giving into an urge or unhelpful thought about gambling. It is helpful to share your relapse prevention plan with family, whānau or someone you know.

Relapse prevention is an approach that helps people who are trying to change their behaviour learn to anticipate and cope with situations that might cause them to relapse. The goal of relapse prevention can be either to stop the behaviour entirely or to establish limits or controls over the behaviour and experiment with change.

While there is a lack of consensus on what constitutes a gambling relapse, it can be helpful to understand the distinction between a lapse and a relapse as defined in the field of substance use research.

In a lapse, the person briefly behaves in a way that is inconsistent with their behaviour change plan (e.g., having a bigger gambling episode after a period of of lessened activity or after a period of abstinence). In a relapse, the person feels that they are unable to control their gambling or continues to gamble in a way that signals a return to old behavioural habits after a period of abstinence.

The goal of relapse prevention approaches is to identify the situations that put the person at high risk of relapse and increase their ability to cope with them. A relapse prevention plan is a written document that serves as a reminder of the things that prevent relapse.

Common areas that are included in a plan are:

  • Naming early warning signs and triggers
  • Identifying strategies to manage triggers
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Contact details for support people and agencies.

The relapse prevention plan can be implemented as soon as a person starts counselling.

Psycho-educational support groups

There are different types of groups available. All groups are facilitated by an Oasis counsellor/therapist and all groups are educational with specific weekly or fortnightly themes or topics. The groups also have a strong supportive function where group members are encouraged to offer support, encouragement to each other.

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