News articles

Helping gamblers to help themselves

30 June 2021
New Zealanders who are concerned that their own gambling behaviour - or that of a friend or a whānau member - is causing harm, can now go online as a first step to seeking help.
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PGF Services and The Salvation Army’s Oasis Service, with the support of University of Auckland and Deakin University in Australia, are piloting two new e-health products to promote help-seeking and to complement the delivery of their gambling harm counselling services.

One is an e-health self-assessment tool available on the websites of both organisations. The results of the simple questionnaire are available immediately to the person taking the test who then has the option of discussing their results with a counsellor if they choose to go further.

The second e-health product is a suite of e-health modules that tāngata whaiora can choose to complete while attending counselling. The self-help modules assist people who are working alongside a counsellor to regulate their gambling by identifying triggers. It also expands their access to resources and tools.

PGF Services National Director, Bridgitte Thornley says a substantial number of people who visit both organisations' websites do not go further and seek treatment.

“The stigma and shame around problem gambling means that people often try to manage their gambling addiction themselves. They want to hide their concerns from family and friends. The e-health self-assessment tool means they can confidently take that first important step in private, by themselves, to check if their gambling is still ok.”

In 2016, around 6000 gamblers sought face-to-face treatment although more than 80,000 people were identified as moderate risk or problem gamblers.[1]).

“We hope this tool will attract a new cohort of tāngata whaiora” she says.

PGF Services and Oasis decided to expand their counselling intervention options to include e-health interventions, citing evidence that they appeal to gamblers and are effective at reducing gambling related harm [2,3].

They brought a team of experts together from New Zealand and Australia. The Australian member had developed a comprehensive and intensive iCBT suite of services called GamblingLess that has been subject to multiple clinical trials over the past 7 years.”

This team proposed embedding an e-health intervention programme within a stepped care model of counselling to reduce the high attrition rates of people completing e-health treatment programmes on their own.

Forty-seven people from different backgrounds, including consumers, counsellors, clinicians and health promotion experts, tested the tools. After the survey a co-design workshop with consumers and clinicians was held to incorporate the feedback into the customisation and protocols of the products and then into the final products.

The main benefits reported were increased access and the reduction of barriers to treatment. The main disadvantages were perceived to be the loss of face-to-face time and resources if clients moved to online resources only.

In terms of the online self-assessment, participants reported a preference for the intervention to be around 10 minutes in duration and that the self-assessment could be supported by email, chat, phone or face-to-face clinical support.

Participants reported that the blended counselling approach was feasible and that their preference was for partial blending leaving clinicians and counsellors autonomy to select intervention content at each episode of care.

The preferred duration of e-health treatment was around 30 minutes per week. It was expected that this approach will render the programme highly relevant and appropriate to both providers and clients.


1. Ministry of Health, Progress on Gambling Harm Reduction 2010 to 2017: Outcomes report – New Zealand Strategy to Prevent and Minimise Gambling Harm. 2018, Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Health.

2. Rodda, S.N., et al., Improved Outcomes Following a Single Session Web-Based Intervention for Problem Gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 2017. 33(1): p. 283-299.

3. Rodda, S.N., et al., Does SMS improve gambling outcomes over and above access to other e-mental health supports? A feasibility study. International Gambling Studies, 2018. 18(2): p. 343-357.

4. Gainsbury, S., N. Hing, and N. Suhonen, Professional Help-Seeking for Gambling Problems: Awareness, Barriers and Motivators for Treatment. Journal of Gambling Studies, 2014. 30(2): p. 503-519.