Experiences with treatment

People have described experiences of multiple types of treatment and support services. This includes GPs, mental health, and emergency services. Some have used the National Gambling Treatment Service. This is outside of the NHS. It provides counselling. It also provides residential services. You live there while you go through a programme. Some use the few specialist NHS gambling clinics. Some use private counselling, often paid for by someone in their family.

People tend to struggle to know what help is available. People could also struggle to access the service when they did know. They emphasise that if people have gambling difficulties, they have no money to pay for services. Many found general health services do not know how to respond to gambling difficulties. People have different needs. Some just want help with the gambling. Some want to address wider life issues.

People describe the challenges that they experience when trying to get support or treatment for gambling difficulties. Many say they are unsure of where to get help. People tend to search the internet for this information. Some have found that there are no local support services available. Others have described facing long waiting lists. In some cases, people have to pay for private treatment, which is very expensive.


And then I decided to get help. So, I didn’t know where to go really so I googled gambling problems, gambling addiction. The first thing that came up was National Gambling Helpline. So, I rang them because again I didn’t really know what to do. I explained what was happening and at that point it was still very raw. As you can imagine, I didn’t know what was going to happen. They did an interview with me over there, about an hour. It was kind of asking some quite intense questions. They were asking about if I’d had any thoughts about suicide and that type of stuff and asked me what type of gambling. So, it was OK, but it was felt quite a… not grilling as such, but it was draining. They suggested that I speak to my doctor about looking to get some counselling. They advised me about Step Change, to look at my debts. So, there was some help there, but again, I was kind of left at a point where so now I have to go and contact my doctor and tell them, and it was all quite draining. So, I did that. I did do that. And then I had to wait because there were some gambling centres that could help, but they were based kind of London, more based in London. I checked about groups around here like, you know, Gamblers Anonymous or whatever, Gamble Aware. I couldn’t really find anything. So, I spoke to my doctor, they put me on an NHS list for counselling, and I eventually got 12 sessions with Beacon, which were great, really. They were amazing to be honest.


Then because I was going into rehab, I thought, “Shit, I can’t do anything.” I sat there and I went onto basically all the gambling sites I could get onto and just started spending every penny I had because in my mind I was never going to be able to do this again because rehab was going to cure me. I spent all the money I had, I smoked all the weed that I had in the house. I didn’t drink anything. That was the one thing I didn’t do. I just gambled and smoked weed. It was like, “I need to get it done because I can’t do this in a month’s time”. Went to rehab and because of COVID, we had our phones in rehab. Normally we wouldn’t have had our phones, but they gave us our phones. I was like, “Happy days, I can just sit in rehab and gamble.” So I did. I sat in the Priory, gambling. I was putting football bets on, I was going on slots, I was going on whatever I wanted really because we could just sit with our phones. For the first week, 10 days, that’s what I done. I just gambled my way through rehab, I just thought, “Just sit here and gamble everyday,” I go to the therapy sessions, do my bit, get involved a little bit and then I can just come chill up here. I can just gamble and nobody knows what I’m doing. They’re not going to think I’m going to be gambling in rehab. Are they? So I’ll just carry on doing it. I was just sitting there gambling away in rehab. The weird thing was I was gambling in rehab, but my gambling, we very rare spoke about my gambling. Actually in rehab, it was all about the alcohol. The 12 steps which I understand and I fully get that. I fully understand that they’ve got a limited amount of time. They’ve got four or five people sitting in front of them. One’s an alcoholic, one’s a poly addict, well, two are poly addicts, one was a cocaine, so I get that it’s difficult to sit and treat me more for my gambling than my alcohol or more for my alcohol than my gambling because they’ve got a limited amount of time to get as much information into us, and to try and help us as much before they throw you back out in the real world.


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.


People often say that when they try to get help via their GP, from mental health, or emergency services, they do not receive treatment that is suitable for them. These services tend not to understand gambling difficulties or know how to address them.

They encourage to do. And there is very little advertisement for help. You know, very useless, totally useless. If you don’t know, I went to the […] hospital emergency department because money in my pocket I cannot trust myself. And to the emergency department, I say to my doctor, it’s like that, I am facing this type of problem. So, they totally ignore me. Why you are here. It is for emergency. You cannot come here. I’m pressing problem. I cannot sleep. I cannot eat. A lot of things in my head. So, they just don’t give me any treatment, they just print one paper. There are some addresses there like, GA meeting, GamCare number. So it’s not enough. Like they hate, it’s like that. They hate me or they hate this type of people.

I phoned mental health services in Swansea and I voluntarily sectioned myself at a mental health hospital where I was there for three months, and I just went under. I had psychiatrists and that kind of stuff, and they never knew gambling, so they never diagnosed it. They were treating me for anxiety, depression, that kind of stuff and medication to try and keep my mood under control.

When I went to see my GP, he was like, “You need to go talking therapies, or you need antidepressants,” and I’m thinking like– Obviously, at the time, you just accept it because he’s the GP, but looking back, I think I didn’t need that. I was on antidepressants for two years, I’ve really just come off them recently. It was the meetings that I needed. People to speak to, like-minded people.

That was the issue really, that I knew it wasn’t going to help me at all with my gambling problem because they just said I needed to go and see my GP as well. He’d just say to go on antidepressants and that’s not what you need because it’s got nothing to do with the gambling.

People have described the positive impact that treatment has had on their life. People who receive treatment that is specifically for gambling difficulties, describe the benefit of help from someone who understands what they have been through. Some only want help to stop gambling. Some want help to examine and address the life issues that contribute to their gambling. They may feel as if they are able to ‘get to the root of the problem’. They may also want help to deal with the emotional legacy of harm.

I’ve only had my first [counselling] session because I had to do three months at GA first. I’ve had my first session, but that was really good, and I found that really helpful because I think that way you get to address a lot of the underlying issues because you’ve got the gambling at the top, but then it’s everything underneath that you’ve just covered up with the gambling.

And [I] had sessions with GamCare, which was good. The therapist there was beyond amazing, because she was dealing with loss of all kinds for me, as well as trying to help me through with the gambling addiction. That lady was fantastic. And then I sort of got handed over to Peeraid, contacts with people who have been in similar situations. And I thought Oh, ok, and I put it off and put it off and put it off because I thought to myself, what’s going to help me, sitting in a room full of ex-gambling addicts, people with addictions, talking about gambling. And actually, that was the turning point to my life.

I was put under a new doctor who couldn’t see me face to face, but she did agree that she would put me in a new course of treatment which she thought would help me. Initially, she’d see me every week online and we’d see how it went… She made me or has made me, to a great extent, feel inside how I would’ve wanted to have felt all my life if I could have chose.

I still have counselling. I have worked with the same counsellor for many years now, and she’s been absolutely fantastic and obviously her field is women and gambling. But obviously, recognising that, you know, there are a lot of other issues that just weren’t dealt with and that infamous word tsunami, I mean, for me, it was totally, I say, both emotionally and financially.

People have said it is also important to have practical support to deal with the harm that gambling has left behind. For example, when people stop gambling, they are often left with debts that need to be paid. Debt support services have helped them to do this. For example, these services may help them to set up repayment plans.

Through each session I talked about it and I kind of raised all my fears each week when I got there about even what’s going to happen when people write letters about my loans and stuff because I can’t pay them now. And then overcoming that fear and actually having StepChange there was really good.

Get Support

If you feel like you need support or someone to talk to about your own or someone else’s gambling, there are several organisations who can offer help, support and answer any questions you may have.

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We are inviting people to share their experiences of any kind of difficulties due to gambling.