You’re concerned that your father has a gambling problem. This puts you in a challenging place, as the man who is supposed to be your protector, supporter, and role model is struggling with his mental and behavioral health. It’s impacting him and the family, yourself included. In a desperate call for help, you’ve come online and typed “My dad is a gambling addict” into your search browser and found this article. We’re relieved that you did.
Kindbridge Behavioral Health is America’s most accessible resource for specialized online treatment and therapy for problem gambling. Our counsellors work closely with individuals and families not only to help the person with problematic gambling behavior, but to work through the mental health consequences that their gambling has had on everyone in the household. At the risk of getting ahead of ourselves, we will pause there and return to directly respond to your plea for support. Below is a step-by-step breakdown of how to proceed.
Important: This guide is for adult sons and daughters who are concerned about their father’s wellbeing. If you’re 17 years old or younger, please have your other parent or guardian (as applicable) or a trusted adult family member read this guide with you, as you may need help from them for certain steps.
Powerful Steps Towards Helping Your Father Beat His Gambling Problem
Confirm that it’s a Problem
If you suspect that your dad has a gambling problem, he likely does. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. That being said, we do encourage a more measured approach when seeking confirmation without his admittance.
Begin by referencing the common signs of problematic gambling behavior. If your father exhibits a combination of the behaviors below, therapeutic interventions need to be taken:
- He gets defensive when asked about his gambling habit.
- He has admitted that he should limit his gambling.
- He has stated that he only gambles when stressed or bored.
- He has borrowed (and continues to borrow) money to recover gambling losses or pay related debts.
- He has lost a job due to gambling.
- He has divorced, separated, or broken up with a spouse, partner, or companion because of gambling.
- He receives calls at the family home from lenders and loan companies.
- He often talks about gambling.
- He often gambles from his phone while at family functions (dinner, etc.) and gets confrontational when asked to stop to focus on family time.
- He takes frequent trips to popular gambling destinations such as Las Vegas, Reno, and Atlantic City. If there was a pattern of this during family vacations in your childhood, this may have been occurring for a long time.
If the above signs confirm that your father struggles with gambling, yet he remains dismissive of your concern, ask him to oblige you by completing a quick 5-minute questionnaire. The following quiz will help identify whether or not he should speak with a qualified counsellor:
Assess His Risk
If the exploratory process did not outright confirm your suspicions, it does not mean that there isn’t cause for concern. Again, where there’s smoke, there’s generally fire. Trust your instincts and dig deeper to find out if there are are underlying factors that may increase your father’s risk of developing gambling disorder. He may be at the brink of a problem, which is why identification of risk factors is important. Primary risk factors include the following:
- Your father has co-occurring conditions such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder.
- Your father’s parent/s (your grandparent/s) struggled with gambling (genetic factors matter).
- Your father is taking certain prescriptions medications for co-occurring mental health conditions.
- Your father has a co-occurring substance abuse disorder (alcohol and/or drugs).
- Your father is in a higher-risk (for gambling disorder) profession such as professional athletics or the military.
Share this valuable information with your father, as it may be an eye-opener for him. It’s easy to be dismissive of someone’s concern until you find out that there is a recognized impetus behind the threat. If informing your father about these risk factors causes him to pause and rethink the role gambling plays in his life, the effort was worth it. He may not come around and admit that he needs help today, but he may do so in the near future.
Hold an Intervention
If it’s clear that your father has a problem with gambling, but initial conversations about getting help have failed thus far, it’s time for an intervention. Create a safe and non-judgemental environment for the intervention, invite loved ones who have been impacted by his gambling, and provide specific options for getting help. Read this guide for how to hold a gambling intervention then click the link below to access individual online therapy for your father:
Offer to Work the Problem with Him
You initiated outreach to get help for your father and you’re innately invested in his recovery. Let him know that you’re willing to do the work with him. This is an important time to address the aforementioned genetic factors, as he may be more easily convinced to attend family counseling if there is even the slightest chance that you (his offspring) are also at risk. The two of you can engage in online family therapy for gambling in a private or group setting. Kindbridge offers both options to accommodate preferences and financial considerations (if not covered by insurance):
Get Help for Your Father, Together
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