Online support needs and experiences of family members affected by problem gambling

Research Report – April 2017

Results

Characteristics of family members

The first aim of this study was to describe the characteristics of family members including gender, age, relationship to the gambler and length of time the gambling has impacted on the family member.

Services users were most often female (89%, n = 55). The average age was 36 years of age (SD = 12.5), with a range between 21 and 67 years of age. As shown below, 59% of family members were younger than 35 years of age.

Table 1: Age range of family members accessing e-therapy
Age Frequency Percentage
18-24 8 13.8
25-29 16 27.6
30-34 10 17.2
35-39 5 8.6
40-44 5 8.6
45-49 4 6.9
50-54 2 3.4
55-59 3 5.2
60-64 4 6.9
65-69 1 1.7

Notes: n = 58. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.

Family members were asked to describe their relationship to the person with the gambling problem. Almost two-thirds were the partner of the person with a problem. As shown below, the person with the problem was also a parent, child, sibling or friend.

Table 2: Relationship to the person with the gambling problem
Relationship Frequency Percentage
Partner 41 66.1
Parent 5 8.1
Sibling 2 3.2
Child 6 9.7
Other relative 1 1.6
Friend 7 11.3

Note: n = 62.

A high proportion of family members currently lived with a family member with a gambling problem. Over two-thirds of family members lived with a person with a gambling problem in the last 12 months (n = 42, 68%). Seven family members had lived with someone with a gambling problem but did not currently do so (11%). A further 13 family members did not and had not lived with a person with a gambling problem (21.0%).

We asked family members, "To the best of your knowledge, for how long has your family member had a problem with gambling?" The highest percentage was more than 10 years, with a similar number reporting a more recent development of a problem (i.e., 1-2 years).

In addition to the duration of the gambling problem, family members reported the amount of time that had passed since they found out about the problem. Over half the family members found out about the problem within the previous 12 months, with almost 25% finding out in the past month.

Impact of gambling on family members

The second aim was to examine the impact of gambling on family members including their functioning, coping and levels of social support.

The PG-SOIS was employed to measure the impact of problem gambling across six broad areas of functioning including financial, emotional distress, interpersonal relationship with the gambler, social life, employment and physical health. The average score on the PG-SOIS was 13.3 (SD = 4.1) and scores ranged between 3 and 18. Participants were most likely to report being often impacted in terms of their emotions (77%), their relationships (67%) and financially (51%), with smaller proportions reporting being often impacted in terms of social life (40%), physical health (40%), and employment (33%).

Table 3: Frequency and percentage of endorsement of items on the PG-SOIS
  Not at all
n (%)
Rarely
n (%)
Sometimes
n (%)
Often
n (%)
Have you experienced feelings of sadness, anxiety, stress or anger due to the other person's gambling? 0 3 (5.3) 10 (17.5) 44 (77.2)
Has the quality of your relationship with the other person been affected by his/her gambling? 1 (1.8) 6 (10.5) 12 (21.1) 38 (66.7)
Have you or your family experienced financial hardship as a result of the other person's gambling? 3 (5.3) 5 (8.8) 20 (35.1) 29 (50.9)
Has your physical health been affected by the other person's gambling? 7 (12.3) 15 (26.3) 12 (21.1) 23 (40.4)
Has your social life been affected by the other person's gambling? 7 (12.3) 7 (12.3) 20 (35.1) 23 (40.4)
Has your ability to work or study been affected by the other person's gambling? 9 (15.8) 11 (19.3) 18 (31.6) 19 (33.3)

Note: n = 57.

Table 4: Endorsement of items on the FG-FIM, by frequency and percentage
Thinking about the past 3 months, how often have you or family members experienced any of the following as a result of your family members gambling? Never
n (%)
Rarely
n (%)
Some-times
n (%)
Often
n (%)
An inability to trust your family member 4 (6.9) 4 (6.9) 11 (19.0) 39 (67.2)
Feelings of anxiety 4 (6.9) 5 (8.6) 12 (20.7) 37 (63.8)
Feelings of anger towards your family member 4 (6.9) 8 (13.8) 10 (17.2) 36 (62.1)
Feelings of depression or sadness 5 (8.6) 3 (5.2) 17 (29.3) 33 (56.9)
Less quality time with your family member 4 (6.9) 8 (13.8) 13 (22.4) 33 (56.9)
A lack of money for family projects (e.g., major purchases, holidays) 6 (10.3) 6 (10.3) 13 (22.4) 33 (56.9)
Had to take over financial responsibility in the home 11 (19.0) 7 (12.1) 9 (15.5) 31 (53.4)
Increased arguments over your family members gambling 9 (15.5) 6 (10.3) 12 (20.7) 31 (53.4)
Had to take over decision-making in the home 13 (22.4) 7 (12.1) 9 (15.5) 29 (50.0)
A breakdown in communication with your family member 8 (13.8) 6 (10.3) 16 (27.6) 28 (48.3)
Distress or upset due to your family member not being around because of gambling 14 (24.1) 6 (10.3) 13 (22.4) 25 (43.1)
Reduced income for household running costs (e.g., food, rent, bills) 6 (10.3) 11 (19.0) 18 (31.0) 23 (39.7)
Financial hardship 7 (12.1) 9 (15.5) 21 (36.2) 21 (36.2)
Experienced family violence or conflict 26 (44.8) 11 (19.0) 10 (17.2) 11 (19.0)

Note: n = 58. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.

The PG-FIM was employed to measure the impact of problem gambling on family members across three broad domains (financial, increased responsibility and inter/intrapersonal functioning). The average score on the PG-FIM was 29.2 (SD = 11.0), with a range of between 0 and 42. The three sub-scales were calculated with the highest mean reported for the psychosocial sub-scale (M = 16.6, SD = 6.7). Sub-scales for financial (M = 6.2, SD = 2.7) and increased responsibility due to gambling were similar (M = 6.4, SD = 3.0). Family members were most likely to report often being impacted by an inability to trust the gambler (67%), feelings of anxiety (64%) and anger towards the gambler (62%). The least commonly endorsed impact was related to family violence or conflict (19%). Even though family violence or conflict were less frequently endorsed, it was still endorsed by almost one in five family members across the sample.

The Coping Questionnaire measured family members attempts to cope with problem gambling. The average score was 8.8 (SD = 4.8) with a range of 0 to 18. The median score was 9 and the mode was 11. The most commonly endorsed coping strategies involved encouraging your family member to take an oath or promise not to gamble (79%), starting an argument about the gambling (78%), making excuses, covering up for the gambler, or taking the blame for the gambler (71%).

Table 5: Endorsement on the Coping Questionnaire, by frequency and percentage
What strategies have you used to cope with your family member's gambling over the past 3 months? Not used
n (%)
Once or twice
n (%)
Some-times
n (%)
Often
n (%)
Don't know
n (%)
Encouraged your family member to take an oath or promise not to gamble. 12 (20.7) 9 (15.5) 11 (19.0) 26 (44.8) -
Started an argument with your family member about their gambling. 13 (22.4) 6 (10.3) 14 (24.1) 25 (43.1) -
Got on with your own things or acted as if your family member was not there. 18 (31.0) 10 (17.2) 11 (19.0) 19 (32.8) -
Given your family member money even when you thought it would be spent on gambling. 21 (36.2) 10 (17.2) 12 (20.7) 12 (20.7) 3 (5.2)
When things have happened as a result of your family members gambling, made excuses for them, covered up for them, or taken the blame yourself. 17 (29.3) 10 (17.2) 16 (27.6) 11 (19.0) 4 (6.9)
Accepted the situation as a part of life that couldn't be changed. 20 (34.5) 9 (15.5) 13 (22.4) 8 (13.8) 8 (13.8)

Notes: n = 58.

Family members were asked to describe their levels of social support. Specifically, they were asked how many people are so close to you that you can count on them if you have serious problems. Thirty family members reported that they had one or two close friends (52%) and 14 reported 3-5 people (24%). Six family members stated that they had six or seven close friends. Eight family members said that they did not have any close friends that they could count on (14%).

In terms of social connectedness, most family members stated that other people showed concern or interest in what the family member was doing. Thirty-eight family members stated that people had a lot of concern or some concern and interest (66%). Fifteen family members were uncertain of the amount of concern others displayed (26%) and a further five family members stated that others showed little or no concern in what they were doing (9%).

For the most part, family members reported that it would be difficult for them to get practical help from neighbours if they needed it. As shown below, over two-thirds of family members stated that it would be difficult or very difficult to get help if needed.

Types of low- and high-intensity services accessed

The third aim was to describe the types of low- and high-intensity services accessed by family members prior to e-therapy. Almost all family members had attempted some kind of intervention prior to accessing e-therapy (93%). Only four family members had not accessed any help prior to accessing one of the e-therapy options.

As indicated in Table 6, over two-thirds of family members had engaged with at least one low-intensity service prior to accessing one of the e-therapy options (n = 41, 68%). Twenty-six family members had accessed one low-intensity service and 13 had accessed two low-intensity services. Just two family members had accessed three low-intensity services.

Table 6: Number and percentage of family members that had accessed services and supports
  Never
n (%)
Once
n (%)
2-5 times
n (%)
More than 5 times
n (%)
Low-intensity        
Talked to a Gambling Help counsellor online 34 (56.7) 23 (38.3) 1 (1.7) 2 (3.3)
Sent an email to a gambling help counsellor 46 (76.7) 8 (13.3) 3 (5.0) 3 (5.0)
Phoned a gambling helpline 42 (70.0) 10 (16.7) 7 (11.7) 1 (1.7)
High-intensity        
Talked to a gambling counsellor face-to-face 49 (81.7) 5 (8.3) 4 (6.7) 2 (3.3)
Sought financial counselling by phone or face-to-face 53 (88.3) 6 (10.0) - 1 (1.7)
Talked to a psychologist, psychiatrist or GP about the gambling 40 (66.7) 10 (16.7) 4 (6.7) 6 (10.0)
Attended a family and friends support group for gambling 55 (91.7) 3 (5.0) - 2 (3.3)
Self-directed actions        
Read or posted in the online forums 36 (60.0) 7 (11.7) 9 (15.0) 8 (13.3)
Read information on the Gambling Help Online website 18 (30.0) 15 (25.0) 14 (23.3) 13 (21.7)
Talked to family members about the gambling 13 (21.7) 13 (21.7) 9 (15.0) 25 (41.7)
Tried a self-help strategy like budgeting to reduce the impact of gambling 22 (36.7) 7 (11.7) 13 (21.7) 18 (30.0)

Notes: n = 60.

Prior to accessing e-therapy, 25 family members (42%) had accessed a high-intensity service. Twelve had accessed one service and nine family members had accessed two high-intensity services. Four family members had accessed three or more high-intensity options.

Fifty-three family members had attempted at least one self-directed option prior to accessing e-therapy (88%). Five family members had tried one option and 13 had tried two high-intensity options. The highest proportion of self-directed options accessed was three (n = 20, 33%), and 15 family members had attempted four different self-directed options.

Family members were also asked if there were any services or treatment options that they had accessed that were not represented in the questionnaire. For the most part, family members stated they had not accessed any other types of treatment. Three family members identified a school counsellor and relationship counselling that is not specific to finances or gambling. One family member identified the use of interactive tools to calculate financial goals, saying that this was a way to demonstrate what could be achieved if gambling spending were to change.

Types of e-therapy accessed

The fourth aim was to examine the types of e-therapy accessed (i.e., what was accessed and in which combinations) and the degree to which the intervention was enough. Family members were asked to indicate the types of services that they had accessed at Gambling Help Online. There were 36 family members that interacted with a professional counsellor (58%) and 26 that accessed a forum or website content and did not interact with a counsellor (42%).

As shown on the table below, the most frequent service accessed was information on the website followed by reading or contributing to online forums.

Table 7: Use of e-therapy including chat, forums, email, website information and self-help
  Yes, used this service
n (%)
No, did not use
n (%)
Talked to a counsellor via immediate chat 27 (43.5) 35 (56.5)
Sent an email to a counsellor 12 (19.4) 50 (80.6)
Read or contributed to the online forums 26 (41.9) 36 (58.1)
Read the website to source information 52 (83.9) 10 (16.1)

Notes: n = 62

As shown below, there were 10 possible combinations of service access. Of the four service options being investigated, family members accessed an average of 1.9 services (SD = 0.85, mode = 2). Reading information on the website was one of the activities undertaken in three of the top five combinations. The most frequent combination of service options was for family members to talk to a counsellor via chat and read information on the website. The second most frequent combination was to email a counsellor and read or post in the forum.

There were 22 family members who accessed one service only (36%). The most frequent single service option was information on the website, followed by chat. No family members reported accessing email without also accessing one of the other service options.

There were 26 family members (42%) who accessed two services, with the highest combination being chat and the website. Ten family members sent an email to a counsellor and read or posted in the forum.

Eleven family members (18%) accessed three services. The most frequent combination was chat, the forum and website content (11%). Just three people accessed all four e-therapy options.

As shown in Table 8, over half of the family members who talked to a counsellor via chat rated this as enough or definitely enough (54%). Almost half of family members rated information sourced from the Gambling Help Online website as enough or definitely enough (49%).

Table 8: Ratings of the extent to which the service received was sufficient
  Definitely not enough
n (%)
Not enough
n (%)
Unsure whether it was enough
n (%)
Enough
n(%)
Definitely enough
n (%)
Talked to a counsellor via immediate chat 1 (3.8) 5 (19.2) 6 (23.1) 8 (30.8) 6 (23.1)
Sent an email to a counsellor - 2 (18.2) 5 (45.5) 3 (27.3) 1 (9.1)
Read or contributed to the online forums 2 (8.0) 8 (32.0) 6 (24.0) 7 (28.0) 2 (8.0)
Read the website to source information - 11 (21.6) 15 (29.4) 19 (37.3) 6 (11.8)

Note: Percentages are calculated on the number of family members who had accessed that service option.

Family members who accessed these services were then asked how likely it was that they would follow up on the information or referral that they received. As shown in Table 9, the highest likelihood of follow up was reported by those who had sent an email to a counsellor (83%) and those who had talked to a counsellor via immediate chat (73%).

Table 9: Likelihood of follow up to information received online
  Definitely would not follow up
n (%)
Will not follow up
n (%)
Unsure whether will follow-up
n (%)
Will follow up
n (%)
Definitely will follow up
n (%)
Talked to a counsellor via immediate chat - 2 (7.7) 5 (19.2) 11 (42.3) 8 (30.8)
Sent an email to a counsellor - - 3 (27.3) 5 (45.5) 3 (27.3)
Read or contributed to the online forums 2 (8.0) - 8 (32.0) 10 (40.0) 5 (20.0)
Read the website to source information - 2 (3.9) 17 (33.3) 21 (41.2) 11 (21.6)

Note: Percentages are calculated on the number of family members who had accessed that service option.

Reasons for help-seeking

The fifth aim was to describe reasons for seeking help, expectations of treatment and what family members ideally want from services.

Given the similarity in the reasons for seeking help, expectations of treatment and what family members ideally want from services, we have grouped these responses together. The three open questions related to help seeking elicited 155 responses from 55 family members.

In total there were 53 reported reasons for help seeking, which were thematically grouped into psychoeducation (seeking information), approaching the person, encouraging help, and supporting change. There were also 57 resource needs identified, which were thematically grouped into improving coping skills/self-efficacy and social support.

Psychoeducation of gambling behaviours

Fifteen family members sought psychoeducation (or information) to understand problem gambling. This included understanding why people gamble in order to understand the problem better. One family member stated that they wanted to understand how problem gambling developed so that they could determine how severe the problem was and whether their family member was ready to change (i.e., specifically, to understand the severity of the problem).

Two family members reported that they expected to source information on the thinking associated with problem gambling in terms of what their family member could be thinking or feeling. Understanding the nature of problem gambling was seen as a way of gaining insight into the family member's current situation, including the severity of the problem. Information was also a way the family member could be reassured that their response to the gambling problem was a normal reaction to a difficult situation:

I wanted information. Facts and figures and the impact of those. I'm not the best at saving money either so had nothing to compare it too. (Female, 26, partner)

I wanted information about gambling. What I was experiencing was a normal reaction to the situation? (Female, 29, partner)

Four family members stated that they sought help in the expectation that they would feel more hopeful following the contact. For three family members who accessed the online forum, reading other people's stories gave a sense of hope that there could be a good outcome. They said:

I thought it might be helpful to access the blogs and hear about other people's stories, to give perspective on the situation and hope that there is a future. (Female, 32, partner)

I hope that I'm not alone and that this can be managed and my relationship isn't doomed. (Female, 36, partner)

I also needed hope that the problem can be fixed. (Female, 21, partner)

Three family members stated that information on gambling would be helpful. One family member stated that it would be helpful to explain that problem gambling can happen to anyone.

You don't need to have lost huge sums of money for it to be a recognised problem. (Female, 40, partner)

Another family member stated that they wanted to understand the cycle of gambling better, saying:

I want to get a better understanding of why he does these things. (Female, 44, partner)

Similarly, another family member requested more specific information on the harms of gambling specifically around life stage. They suggested:

Continued facts and figures about different age groups and what you miss out on at different stages in life. (Female, 26, partner)

Approaching the subject of problem gambling

Eight family members wanted help in how to approach the subject of problem gambling. The most frequent reason for contact was because of a family member's excessive gambling or because of their gambling problem, compulsion or addiction. Often the gambling had recently changed, which had prompted contact. For example, one family member stated:

My partner has recently started excessively gambling and has clocked up thousands of dollars of debt in just a few short weeks. (Female, 36, partner)

Two family members wanted help in how to begin responding after a gambling problem was disclosed.

Similarly another family member reported they accessed the site in search of information and resources that were available to family members impacted by problem gambling:

My husband admitted to a gambling problem. I didn't know where to begin helping him. (Female, 28, partner)

I accessed the site in search of information and to see what resources are available to the families of problem gamblers. (Female, 32, partner)

Communication was an issue for three family members. This included how to talk to the person and also their family about the gambling problem:

I am concerned about a family member and wanted more specific information that would help the family to talk about it with her. (Male, 33, other relative)

Two family members made contact specifically because of a relapse. One family member reported that their partner had started gambling again. Another family member stated that they knew that their partner had experienced problems in the past, but was shocked that they were still gambling. One said:

I recently found out my husband had been gambling playing the pokies. I wasn't aware of his return to gambling. He previously had an addiction that he had told me about and told me he hadn't gambled since meeting me, which has been over 16 months. We have recently married, so it has upset me dearly. (Female, 49, partner)

To encourage help-seeking

Thirteen family members wanted information on how to encourage help seeking inclusive of seven family members that wanted advice on how to help someone that did not want help. There were five family members that explicitly said that they made contact because the person with the problem did not want help. For one family member, her partner had agreed to seek help but had not carried through with the decision.

I want to get my partner help but don't know how to go about it. He has had meetings scheduled with someone who would help him financially with gambling but he has either forgotten to attend, couldn't get a proper time or they have cancelled. Since then he hasn't done anything about it and I feel like I need to do something to get him help. (Female, 22, partner)

Similarly, two family members described a situation where the family member would not continue to help themselves:

My partner has been struggling with a gambling addiction for over 10 years (we have been together for five years) and while he identifies as being in recovery, he will not attend meetings or counselling and his refusal to do anything to help himself is affecting our relationship. (Female, 32, partner)

My husband does not have a permanent job and when he gets any work, the money he earns goes straight to gambling and he has been doing it for years and he knows he has a problem but won't seek help. (Female, no age reported, partner)

Three family members stated that they sought help because their family members did not recognise that they had a problem. One family member sought help because they wanted advice on how to help their parent who was having difficulty changing their gambling:

My mum has been affected for many years with gambling issues. As a dependent on her, I cannot help her to change unless I devote enormous time and energy to control her habits. Most significantly, she does not have a will to change and justifies her actions. I contacted this website for some advice although I was sceptical that it could help. (Male, 21, child)

Another family member acknowledged that their partner did not see the gambling as a problem but decided that they needed to seek help for themselves. They stated:

My husband is a compulsive gambler. I need to seek help, he doesn't see it as a big problem, and I know it is only going to end badly. (Female, 52, partner)

Family members also expected assistance in sourcing or obtaining further help. Nine family members requested information on counselling services, support services, support groups and non-specific further help. For these family members the focus was on sourcing information including phone numbers or service details rather than making an appointment. This was often because information was being sought for someone else but also because information was being sought for a later time:

I wanted to understand the support services available. (Female, 30, partner)

I was expecting an email with information on support groups and counselling for my partner and I. (Female, 28, partner)

I want to be able to offer him links or phone numbers, etc., where he can receive professional help. (Female, 52, partner)

Five family members requested specific referral details and assistance with making appointments. This included facilitating contact with local services or making an appointment through an online booking system. Immediate help was also expected. This included immediate access to a counsellor via chat or email because they were feeling distressed:

I wanted someone to talk to online as I was feeling distressed. (Female, 46, partner)

How to support change

Fifteen family members sought strategies and expert advice on how to support change. Family members expected help specifically for the person with the gambling problem as well as strategies and expert advice for their own reaction to the problem. In terms of help for the gambler, family members expected information and advice on how to help a person with a gambling problem. This was most often related to specific steps, strategies and practical solutions:

Any better tips or suggestions to help, other than the basic info on the website. (Male, 33, other relative)

Expectations were also in relation to information on how to help someone who would not recognise that they had a problem and also how to help someone who lies about gambling:

I wanted to try and find the best way to deal with my partner, knowing that he is lying about playing the gaming machines. (Female, 25, partner)

Help with interpersonal communication was related to how to talk about the problem without making it worse. One family member expected general tips on how to communicate and another stated that they needed advice on what they could do to help the person with the gambling problem without causing the other to become distressed. Another family member wanted advice on communication also, but for this person it was so the family member would listen to them:

I wanted advice on how to communicate with my partner as he doesn't seem to hear what I say to him. (Female, 32, partner)

Just two family members expected specific information related to limiting gambling. One family member wanted to know if a small amount of gambling was okay for a person with history of problem gambling.

Resource needs

Improve coping skills and self-efficacy

Eleven family members made contact to improve their coping skills and a further eight family members wanted to improve their self-efficacy or confidence that they were responding to the problem appropriately.

Family members also made contact because of the impact of gambling on the family member. This included effects on the relationship, finances, mental health and coping. When mentioned, relationship problems were entwined with financial concerns. For example, one family member said their husband had both been untruthful and spent all of the family savings. Another stated:

I am in a long-term relationship with somebody with a gambling problem. We are having financial problems and also problems with our relationship as a result of his gambling. (Female, 22, partner)

Financial issues were the primary reason for contact for three family members. These family members reported that the problem gambler had gambled all of their money or had stolen their money. One family member described a combination of secrecy and the accumulation of debt in saying:

My husband has secretly been over-gambling and used up thousands of dollars ... [we are] now in huge debt. (Female, no age reported, partner)

Family members also made contact in response to their own mental health and coping concerns. They reported feeling distressed and hopeless about the gambling. For example, one family member said they felt hopeless and did not know how to recover from the depression that had developed because of the gambling problem. Similarly, another family member made contact because of feelings of hopelessness:

I feel hopeless when trying to help my son who is a gambling addict. He makes a fool of me and is nasty towards me, not realising the impact that his problem has had on me. (Female, 57, parent)

Worry was also an issue for adult children affected by a parent's gambling. Children of gamblers also made contact seeking ways to cope with the gambling situation:

My father is addicted to gambling and I am starting to worry about how it is affecting my mother. (Female, 32, child)

My dad has a gambling problem and I sought ways to help cope with the situation and to help him. (Female, 26, child)

Social support

Expert advice specifically for the family member was also expected. Twelve family members stated that they expected someone to listen and offer support. For the most part, responses were versions of "wanted to talk to someone and have someone to talk to, someone to listen". Others reported that it was a comfort to talk to someone about the issue and feel that there was someone that cared:

Just comfort words and allows me to feel that there would be someone there for me without me having to reveal my identity. (Female, 25, child)

Family members wanted guidance in terms of how to respond to problem gambling. Five family members stated that they wanted to know where to start or to check they were on the right track.

I was hoping someone could point me in the right direction: Where to start really. (Female, 28, partner)

I just needed advice on the best steps to take and I was expecting to speak to someone about what I should do next. The counsellor was really understanding, knowledgeable and sincere to my emotions. She gave me some good advice and made me feel as if I have done the right thing contacting the helpline. (Female, 49, partner)

For others who had already attempted to manage problem gambling, guidance and advice was related to reassurance.

I mostly wanted someone to talk to and someone to reassure me I am taking the right steps. (Female, 23, partner)

There was an expectation that the service could also help the family member in strategies to cope, communicate and either maintain or end their relationship. Coping was related to the situation as well as the possible outcomes if the gambling problem was not resolved. One family member stated that they expected information on how to help manage the situation and deal with the outcome of the gambling problem:

Advice on the mind of an addicted gambler. How to help manage the situation, how to deal with the outcome. How to encourage help. How to recognise how deep he is into his addiction, and hope that I'm not alone and that this can be managed and my relationship isn't doomed. (Female, 36, partner)

Three family members mentioned emotional upheaval, desperation and stress and wanted to know how to handle these experiences. Similarly, another family member reflected on the ups and downs associated with winning and losing from gambling and how this impacted on them:

I didn't know what to expect. I was desperate and was trying anything to help me out. (Female, 31, partner)

How do I handle the stress from having to listen to stuff about how to they lost the race, missed the quadrella, got beaten by a nose, are shattered by their loss. (Female, 42, friend)

Two family members specifically mentioned maintaining the relationship and two expected information on how to make a decision to end the relationship. In terms of maintaining the relationship, one family member said that they expected advice on how to balance managing the money and maintaining the relationship:

I was hoping for some strategies to help our relationship function despite me taking control of his and our finances. (Female, 22, partner)

I want to have an honest relationship and not stress about leaving $20 in my wallet or money in the access bank account. (Female, 25, partner)

Two family members also wanted to end the relationship. One stated that they expected to discuss whether to stay or leave the relationship. Another family member expected advice on how to terminate the relationship without harm or threats of retaliation:

I would like to know how to break up with the one with such problem smoothly, without any threats. (Female, 26, partner)

Reasons for help-seeking ranked by importance

In addition to the three qualitative questions, family members rated the importance of 11 reasons for seeking help across six different domains (gambling behaviour, approach to talking about gambling, encourage help-seeking, support change and identify resources).

Almost 80% reported a focus on the gambling behaviour and getting the gambler to reduce their time or money spent gambling as extremely important. The second most frequently endorsed item was associated with supporting change (i.e., getting help to support the gambler) followed by improving personal resources and coping skills. Encouraging help-seeking was endorsed by almost two-thirds of family members as extremely important.

Table 10: Reasons for help seeking by family members, by number and percentage
Target   Not important
n (%)
Important
n (%)
Extremely important
n (%)
Gambling behaviour Get my family member to reduce their time or money spent gambling 3 (5.6) 9 (16.7) 42 (77.8)
Gambling behaviour Understand more about problem gambling 6 (10.2) 21 (35.6) 32 (54.2)
Approach Improve my skills in responding to the problem like assertiveness skills 5 (8.5) 20 (33.9) 34 (57.6)
Encourage help-seeking Get my family member into treatment 9 (16.7) 12 (22.2) 33 (61.1)
Encourage help-seeking Increase my knowledge of support and help options 2 (3.4) 24 (40.7) 33 (55.9)
Support change Get help to better support my family member 2 (3.4) 12 (20.3) 45 (76.3)
Resources and skills Improve the quality of my relationship with my family member 3 (5.6) 11 (20.4) 40 (74.1)
Resources and skills Make my relationship with my family member less stressful 2 (3.6) 10 (18.5) 42 (77.8)
Resources and skills Get help in managing a crisis situation related to the gambling 10 (13.6) 18 (30.5) 31 (52.5)
Resources and skills Improve my skills in managing my emotions or feelings 6 (10.2) 24 (40.7) 29 (49.2)
Resources and skills Have someone to listen to my story and needs 13 (22.0) 16 (27.1) 30 (49.2)
Resources and skills Talk with someone who is in a similar situation to me 22 (37.3) 17 (28.8) 20 (33.9)
Resources and skills Read stories of people in a similar situation to me 17 (28.8) 22 (37.3) 20 (33.9)

Note: Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.