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Stages of change

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.