Changes to treatment and support

People describe the changes that they would like to see made to gambling treatment and support services. People want the accessibility, availability and quality of gambling treatment increased.

Overall, people want to see a suitably financed treatment system within the National Health Service (NHS). This should ensure that people in all areas can access help for gambling difficulties. This includes an increase in the number of regional specialist clinics and residential facilities and more online and telephone support. It also means GPs and other health and social services should know how they should address gambling difficulties. There should be more treatment options to meet the needs of different people and groups.

Other mental health and addictions are catered for in the NHS. People did not see why gambling should be different. For gambling, treatment is often delivered by organisations outside of the NHS, with their funding coming to them from gambling companies.

Gambling treatment on the NHS

People say there is a need for a more comprehensive National Health Service (NHS) based system of treatment for people experiencing gambling difficulties. This needs to include an expansion of the limited specialist gambling treatment services that are available within the NHS.

There’s very limited support available currently. There’s two gambling specific rehab clinics in the entire country at the moment and one’s just opened up in Southampton as well. But the other two are very far up north, which for my locality, that’s just not an option. I think better training for NHS professionals to be able to diagnose compulsive gambling or problem gambling as an illness. It is an illness. It’s recognized by Public Health England as an illness, so it should be treated in such a way.

I believe there should be some kind of team for addicts and addiction. I believe if an addict rings someone and says, I need this help and I need it now, that maybe within 12 hours or 24 hours they’ve got that help. Whether that’s someone that comes out to visit them and even sits to them in their home and talks to them and then discusses whether they need to go to the hospital, whether they need to go, whether there is a special area they can go, something like that needs to happen because that window is so small. If we don’t catch addicts in that window, then they’re either going to fall straight back into addiction or they’re going to commit suicide. That’s another big area I think needs to be looked at. Just how quickly can we help an addict when they need that help. I think, again with most other things, if I fall over and break my leg, I can ring for an ambulance and they come and get me, take me to a hospital and fix me up. Like I said, if you are elderly or if you are disabled and as it should be, you can get help, and that can come very quickly. Why is it different for someone who’s an addict who rings up a helpline and just wants help or they’re going to kill themselves, yet they go, basically we’ve got to put you in the process. We all know that process can take months and months. Unfortunately, addicts don’t have months and months. That’s just not how it works. I think we need to be able to pick it up earlier when someone say cries for help and with addiction, with gambling addiction, I think the cry for help always comes almost when it’s too late.


Everything so far that I’ve experienced, it’s all outside organisations, charitable organisations that have set up because they know the harm that comes from the addiction. They know about it, so they’ve set it up off their own back to be able to offer that support and offer that avenue of support for compulsive gamblers. It shouldn’t be that. It should be the government act and they put these actual proper NHS blocks or help and support in place. Not to say that people shouldn’t attend Gamblers Anonymous because it’s an outside organization because a compulsive gambler I feel should attend as much as they possibly can to access the support wherever possible. But I think more needs to be put in place from a medical point of view to support the addiction. It’s recognised as an illness by Public Health England. Why is it not treated in such a way?

At the same time, general health and social services need to be geared up to detect, manage and refer cases of people experiencing gambling difficulties. There needs to be more awareness about gambling addiction among GPs, and other primary healthcare staff. There needs to be more knowledge of gambling difficulties within the other services that people may use. People who have contact with mental health services, emergency services or other addiction services, say they feel unable to talk about gambling and have not been asked about gambling.

I actually mentioned it years ago to– I think it was going to be brought out within the general practitioner of your local doctors because they can support you as an alcoholic and a drug offender and give you medication for that. Again, these doctors and even someone who’s psychological like yourself, who trained up could work alongside the NHS and help people within this process because like I just said to you, I can go and get a prescription today for a common cold, and people can go and get medication for the heroin addiction, but what can you get for a gambling addiction? More or less if you’ve lost a lot of money, you’re going to turn around and drown your sorrows with a bottle of vodka and all. It’s vicious cycle. You can go from a gambler then to alcohol and then what’s next? You are getting deeper and deeper and deeper. Then it’s protecting the loved ones around you and what state of mind are you actually in after you’ve actually done the things you’ve done? Psychology is a massive, massive part of, which is required within helping people recover from gambling as well.


Personally for me, there just needs to be more, more awareness around gambling. If you was to go to your GP and disclose, I’ve got a mental health condition, I’m not stable, I’m feeling bit suicidal, and relayed that, would they discuss gambling as an option? No, they would probably talk about other addictions because it does come up, you know, are you feeling this way because you’ve had alcohol, because you’ve had drugs, etc? Nobody ever proactively will ask the question, is this gambling related? And I think that now needs to come to the forefront and be out. Whether the person, it’s down to the individual as to whether or not they are going to come out and say, yes, it is. But you know, when you’re in a situation and you’re almost you’re too scared to say something, and you don’t want to say something because of everything that’s attached to an addict in many respects. Someone like a GP, someone who is not close to the family, that is a different person, that’s impartial was to say, do you have a problem with gambling? And will that encourage more people to come out and say yes and speak? I would think so. I would think so. It needs to just be a cornerstone question there.


I feel like if GPs have the Gamblers Anonymous meetings, leaflets, or something along them lines, the gambling clinics and stuff like that, then it means that– Because if you’re going to go for help, and then you get disregarded, it means you’re having to look for help two or three times. You should just be able to come for help once, get the information you need, and then decide where you want to go from there.

Make it’s something that’s going to be … because I felt like it was a bit of an interrogation when I had my chat [with an organisation] and I’m sure they wanted to help, but it didn’t feel…probably because people don’t understand what I was going through. I think if you’ve got someone there who understands what you’re going through, it makes it a lot more easy and probably more effective conversation.

Many people have found the treatment provided by the National Gambling Treatment Services to be helpful. However, some people are concerned about the quality and independence of these services. This is because they are funded by gambling companies and operate outside of the NHS. They want an overhaul of gambling treatment.

People are reaching crisis point before they’re accessing treatment and then the treatment they’re getting is awful… I always say it’s better to have no treatment than bad treatment because I think bad treatment, which some people are going through the likes of [organisation] is going to make people worse and make people suicidal and these people are really vulnerable already and they’re getting shit treatment. So for me, top to bottom the system’s broken… but get it right at the top from government level, it filters down to the regulations and the regulator, have better prevention through awareness, education, and then improved treatment system.

But there was some counselling offered through the [organisation] up in the Northeast. It’s a company called [organisation]. I think in the first couple of sessions, I got the impression they were happy for me just try and reduce my gambling and I just didn’t get that.

Improve access

Often, when people were experiencing gambling difficulties, they found themselves unsure of where to go for help. People say that there needs to be more advertising and promotion of the different support and treatment services that are available.

It would have to be people having a point of contact. Some people struggle, and you don’t always have online facilities, even to things like Google. If the NHS had a number you could ring up or something, anything. It’s like because you go to the doctors, and they don’t recognize that there’s a problem. If they did do and put you in touch with a counsellor or like a GA, whereas I had to find it for myself through Google, but people don’t have that facility to do that, you know. There should be a point of contact where you can find things out like that.


I think if you go to your GP and talk about gambling addiction, that’s another part where we’ll probably go, they’ll just put it in Google, and send you to GA. I do think that maybe GP surgeries and GP doctors maybe need to have a bit more about gambling addiction and where to signpost people. If it’s severe gambling addiction, they can signpost them to GA care wherever, Gordon Moody even. I think there has to be something where people commonly know about it. Because I wouldn’t have known about Gordon Moody unless I put in my Google search “gambling addiction”. Maybe this has to be advertised in GP surgeries, in dental surgeries.

I’d like to see more advertisement around gambling addiction where the general public visit sometimes libraries even. Something in a library, “Do you think you’ve got a gambling addiction?” They do it with drugs. They do it with alcohol. You can go into a library, see a poster. I’ve never seen anything with gambling addiction, so I think public places would be good. I think GPs should be given a bit more knowledge around gambling addiction rather than just Google search like we do.


They say that raising awareness of treatment and support groups would help people to feel more comfortable using them.

It should be something that is more well-known because you’ve obviously you’ve got AA and things like that for people that have got other addictions, but GA, even I did it before when I thought I’m going to walk in that room there’s just going to be little old blokes sitting there… but it’s not like that at all. It’s really not… If you go in the doctors, you’ll always see signs for drug treatment and alcohol addiction, but you never see one for gambling problems. I think for it to be more known about and more easily accessible because you don’t know it’s there unless you Google it.

People also say that support services should be made easier to access.

Well, what I’d like to see is that all the relevant parties come together who have a connection. My role on an if you like at a local level, which is what it’s got to be, it’s got to work from the ground up, I believe. And so, what I’ve gone out of my way to do is creating a service that is you know for treatment and easily accessible treatment. So unlike when I went for my CBT, for example, I had to wait nine months. So, if I refer somebody today, they’ll be seen by a counsellor within two weeks. And it needs to be at that level. So similarly, the people who come into contact with problem gamblers need to be aware that those services are available.

Terry #2

I didn’t really know where to go. So, I think, and this is probably a problem for a lot of gamblers out there at the moment, and this is why we need to make more awareness because I didn’t really know what to do or where to go. I had to do a lot of the work myself and at that point I’d stopped gambling, but I was still very raw emotionally. I was still feeling very down, still very anxious. So, it took a lot out of me to go and then see the doctor and stuff. Maybe some people wouldn’t have the strength to do that. I don’t know. So, it’s difficult, but it wasn’t the easiest thing to get help for.

There should be more promotion of the free support services available, because people often felt that they were left paying for their treatment. 

They could make it more easily available to get sort of the counselling support. You know, I pay for the counselling, but I know that there is like ways you can get free things. But if that was more advertised and more readily available, then that would be a good thing.

I wanted to destroy something, but I couldn’t destroy the van. I was ringing up, I googled gambling rehab places and nothing come up. There was this place in [town] called [name], something like that. It said they were open, and I must have rang them over 20 times, because I was so desperate that I would have literally walked into one of these rehab places where you’re in there 24/7. I would literally have gone there for as long as it needed. I rang up another place, I never heard anything off them. I rang this other place, they said, “Yes, we do inpatient stuff.” And she went, “But for two weeks.” What did she say? £3,000, and £6,000. I was like, “Oh God”, bear in mind I’m ringing about a gambling addiction, I have zero money. It was like, well your best bet is Gamblers Anonymous.

More treatment options

People say there needs to be more treatment service options to address the needs of specific groups, such as women.

I get frustrated, but I know that the majority of people that come for support are males, but they will like, say 75% of the people that come forward are males and then nothing is said about the 25% that are women. You’re just making women feel like they have no place and I just always feel like we’re pushed off the table. There’s targeted marketing of gambling products to women, so why is there not targeted marketing for women?… It’s all of these things where they’re not expecting to see women in that crowd, so they have no voice in this. It’s majority male. It’s still focused on that. The GambleAware campaign, they’ve done one this year where it was for women but when you click on the link it says it’s a gender-neutral information and nothing has changed. Little offshoots are still coming through now for women. We’ll wait and see.

Some people say the only thing they need therapy for is to stop gambling. For others, a course of cognitive behavioural sessions to deal with gambling alone is not enough. They need more holistic counselling. This includes counselling to deal with the significant mental health and life consequences of gambling. As well as addressing underlying issues that contribute to people’s gambling. And developing new ways of coping.

And yeah, it put me off talking to people, so I was desperately searching around on the internet. It all costs money as well, that’s the thing. I used to find lots of people offering magic solutions to it, and it always costs money. So, my mum used to help me out really well. She used to lend me money for stuff like that. I did try this like online course. It was a bit like a therapy sort of thing. They just used to ask you loads of questions and I used to fill them in and send it back. But it was like, it really didn’t help me. I tried like, the doctors sent me, I had CBT a few times. Although I quite enjoyed it in a way, it was sort of good to talk to someone and felt good to open up a bit. It didn’t really help me, I don’t think, in that sort of way. Certainly not where the gambling was concerned.


I have previously accessed local sort of psychological support, but it’s very limited in what they offer. Counselling services, they give you two free sessions and you’re on your way. You’re sorted, you’re fixed. Which yeah, it was very obvious that a lot of things were deep rooted and that didn’t really work for me. A lot of it was CBT based, cognitive therapy based, and that just didn’t work for me in my illogical brain. CBT is a very logical, methodical process you think about think about your sort of affliction, so to speak, or you think about your mood and you’re more aware of your mood that that sort of approach didn’t work for me because I was too blinkered too far in the darkness to be able to see any, any sort of support like that. So, I did access counselling services, but they didn’t have any effect whatsoever on me because I was still actively gambling when I was accessing them.


Often, people are given a certain number of counselling sessions or type of treatment, but they feel that this is not enough. There is a need for continued support once the treatment has ended. 

I think that there’re some amazing people out there that really care and offer some good services. Personally, I feel that some of the services are like 75% of what people need, so it’s just not enough. I can’t remember how many counselling sessions I had, but I never got any call backs, I never got– that was it. That was my service and that was it. You’re just off, aren’t you? I recognize that some people will go into recovery and go, “I don’t want anything to do with gambling ever again. I never want to discuss it.” That’s why some organisations really struggle with callbacks because that is what they’re meant to do nowadays. I think there’s not enough with all of the things that – you don’t just stop gambling and recover within a year. Even after that time, things start sinking in, going, “Oh, and there was that. Oh, I need to mend this. I still got really major financial problems. My house is going to get taken off me.” There’s no real support for that. There’s no linked up, the kind of hand holding or advisories because it just seems this, it does look like it’s linear where it’s like, “Oh, yes. You’re going to recovery. You finished the course. You’re off. We’ll ring you.” I’ve spoken to people where things start sinking in, and it takes a while after your mind has been all over the place, and that you’re getting a grip, and then you’re looking round and seeing that life is different, hopefully. But there’s still those hangovers from the behaviour or the legacies. There’s still not enough there for that. It’s those kind of things of– I know people want different things, and there really needs to be that recognition of one service can’t do it all. Because I can see organisations trying to get money in to do prevention, treatment, aftercare, anything that’s available. It’s like, “Are you really the best people to do that?” I supposed that’s up to the funders, isn’t it? It’s just giving people choice. I think that’s really important. Recognising that it isn’t linear, and it doesn’t mean in month six that they’re going to want this. They might– we could have a map of things that are available to people and go, “If this is what you’re looking for, what about this?” and give it. Letting people feel empowered.


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