Online and on-demand support for people affected by problem gambling

The potential for e-mental health interventions

Content type
Policy and practice paper

July 2016


This discussion paper is to inform on the evidence and use of e-mental health support and treatment options and ways these may be developed in the future.

This paper reviews the available Australian and international research about the effectiveness of electronic mental health (e-mental health) programs and services for problem gamblers.

E-mental health refers to various digital platforms providing therapy for individuals.

The paper found that while a majority of e-mental health interventions have not been evaluated, e-mental health can provide an appropriate and cost-effective way to increase the number of people accessing help for problem gambling.

Key messages

  • The majority of e-mental health interventions have scarcely been evaluated.

  • E-mental health may provide an appropriate, cost-effective option for increasing the proportion of people seeking help with problem gambling.

  • Program evaluations are required for different groups and situations, to demonstrate the efficacy and effectiveness of treatment options.

  • Telephone-based treatments have accumulated the most comprehensive evidence base to date, but some other options also show promise.

  • Combinations of e-mental health interventions, and integration of e-mental health with traditional supports, seem to have the greatest potential for intervention programs.

Potential benefits of e-mental health

Potential benefits of e-mental health

The paper finds that only 8-17% of those with gambling problems will seek professional help (Productivity Commission, 2010). The most commonly reported reasons people do not seek help are: the preference to self-manage recovery; feelings of shame and stigma; and a lack of ready access to services.

While there is evidence that face-to-face interventions for people experiencing problem gambling have been effective, their high cost and low uptake suggests they may be having a limited impact in reducing gambling problems across the population.

Accordingly, e-mental health may provide gamblers with an opportunity to self-manage their gambling in a setting that can be cost-effective, anonymous, private, convenient and immediate.

The paper outlines evidence of problem gamblers reporting a strong preference for e-mental health (Cunningham, Hodgins, & Toneatto, 2008) and showing a greater likelihood to seek help over the telephone or the internet than through face-to-face treatment (Hing, Russell, Gainsbury, & Blaszczynski, 2015).

How is e-mental health delivered?

How is e-mental health delivered?

E-mental health can be delivered through:

  • email;
  • chat and instant messaging;
  • internet-based and video counselling;
  • online information;
  • online screening;
  • forums and message boards;
  • online self-directed programs;
  • websites; and
  • telephone counselling.

E-mental health can be delivered as part of an integrated services, combined with other online options, or with in-person allied health or gambling help services.



  • Providers should proceed with e-mental health because it can be used to reach under-served populations and those who otherwise would not seek help.
  • E-mental health should be embedded in responsible gambling programs and offered in community and treatment settings, in venues and on gambling websites.
  • E-mental health requires targeted promotion, especially to attract a new cohort of help-seekers.
  • Future initiatives need to take advantage of existing services and deliver more integrated options across a range of modalities.
  • E-mental health for problem gambling should be developed as part of an evidence-informed approach, subjected to rigorous review and evaluation.

Dr Simone Rodda (Turning Point, Auckland University of Technology, Deakin University), Professor Dan Lubman (Turning Point) and Associate Professor Nicki Dowling (Deakin University).


Rodda, S., Lubman, D., & Dowling, N. (2016). Online and on-demand support for people impacted by problem gambling: The potential for e-mental health interventions (AGRC Discussion Paper No. 6). Melbourne: Australian Gambling Research Centre at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.