Arizona Council on Compulsive Gambling, Inc.

ARIZONA HELPLINE 1-800-777-7207


This informal intervention procedure may help you approach the gambler and encourage him/her to get help. These suggestions are not intended as a substitute for a professional intervention conducted under the guidance of a counselor, psychologist or other health care professional. If you suspect that the gambler needs inpatient treatment, seek the advice and assistance of a certified compulsive gambling counselor (a list of professionals is available on this website or by calling the Arizona Council).

Information about Gamblers Anonymous and Gam-Anon meetings in Arizona is also available on this website. You may wish to have this information available at the time you discuss the problem with the gambler.

As you list the gambler’s behaviors and identify your feelings in the Documentation step, you will recall past pain, losses, anger and resentment. Depending on your history, doing this without the support of a professional or a support group could be devastating. A counselor who is trained in intervention can help you prepare for confronting your loved one. The Arizona Council can help with referrals. We also recommend Mary Heineman’s booklet, When Someone You Love Gambles, available through Hazelden.

Sometimes, no matter what you do or don't do, the gambler will continue to gamble. If none of your efforts encourage the gambler to stop gambling or seek help, it is important that you avoid becoming an "enabler."

Seek professional counseling for yourself and join Gam-Anon where available.

If you decide to do an informal intervention, the following four steps are suggested:

  • Let your loved one know that you care and believe there is more to him/her than the gambling problem.
  • Say, "I care about you because ... " (list his/her positive attributes)

Write a letter to your gambler: "I see _____," "I feel _____." Say "Some of your behaviors are making life difficult for me and it's hard for me to show how much I love you."

  • Make a list, starting with the most recent unacceptable behavior(s).
  • Be specific about the time and place of each behavior (when and where it occurred).
  • Describe each unacceptable behavior -- including bounced checks, credit card charges, missed vacations, unaccounted absences, deceptions.
  • Describe the feelings each incident aroused in you. Say, "When ____ happened, I felt _____ (angry, sad, hurt, etc.). Avoid statements like, "You made me feel _____ (angry, sad, etc.)." When you state or describe the behavior objectively and claim your responsibility for how you feel about it, your loved one is more likely to listen.
  • List the incidents chronologically.
  • Deal only with what you have seen first hand, not with what someone else told you.
  • Be as nonjudgmental and calm as possible. Your feelings are likely to be strong and very important, but should be shared carefully.
  • Listen to the gambler as you share what you have written, or after he or she reads it.

Be specific. Request actions that are appropriate to your situation.

I want you to ____:

  • Attend Gamblers Anonymous meetings. (Note: Female gamblers should attend a "women preferred" group as one of their meetings).
  • Find and keep in touch with a GA sponsor. (Note: Men should have male sponsors; women should have female sponsors).
  • Develop an acceptable plan for money management while you are getting stabilized. This may include turning over checkbooks, credit cards, etc.
  • Demonstrate consistently changing behavior for a specified period of time (days, weeks, months) before we make any major decisions in our relationship.
  • Participate in counseling with a certified compulsive gambling counselor.
  • Attend outpatient group sessions (when appropriate and available).
  • Go into inpatient treatment (if appropriate and available).
Agree to consider any other recommendations that may fit your individual situation.

4. CONSEQUENCES ("If you ____, then I will ____")

Think through what is likely to happen if the above recommendations are or are not followed.
Only list consequences you can live with and/or are willing to act on.

"If you follow the recommendations, the results are likely to be _____, and then I will ______."

"If you do not follow the recommendations, the consequences are likely to be _____, and then I will ______."