Gamblers hit courage jackpot when they seek help
“Most people call us to refer themselves,” she says. “Many come when they have acquired huge debts, are losing their house, or their relationship is in crisis.
“It takes a lot for someone to do that, to admit defeat and that they don’t have control over their gambling. People should know that there is a lot of good treatment out there and they can change, although there’s no quick fix.
“They acquired it through repetitive behaviour and practising again and again; they have to break the habit in the same way.
“We want to give people hope that with a lot of persistence and hard work they can achieve it.”
Abigail says although about two per cent of the general population, often male, are problem gamblers, a much larger number of people are affected, when you include partners, family, friends and others.
More than 200 people were assisted by the gambling treatment program last year, which receives funding from the Casino Community Benefit Fund (part of the NSW Department of Gaming and Racing).
Abigail said there is a continued push on the part of the department to increase its harm minimisation strategies, including reducing advertising and strengthening self-exclusion in pubs, clubs and casinos.
The hospital program uses cognitive behaviour therapy and has a 96 per cent success rate with people who complete the course.
“The program includes getting them to break their routine in order to break their gambling habits,” she says. “For example if they usually drop into the pub on the way home and play the machines we might get them to go a different way by bus.
“They might restrict their access to money, use self-exclusion from their pub or casino.
“The final stage is education; we look at the thoughts and beliefs behind people’s gambling behaviour and challenge them, including looking at how the machines are programmed so that you can’t win in the long run.
“That’s important because even though they aren’t gambling anymore, if you don’t look at the thoughts behind it, six months or a year down the track they might take up the behaviour again.”
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you may have a gambling problem.
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