By Eluan Waldron

A leading psychiatrist has outraged counsellors for suggesting they do little to shake gambling addiction in Australia.

Dr Natalie Glinka told a joint federal parliamentary inquiry into problem gambling yesterday she believes counselling is a waste of valuable money and does not work.

She says counselling is rarely the best option as gamblers do not acknowledge their problem.

“Gamblers don’t come forth,” she says.

“They come forth if their relationships break down and they want that more than they want gambling but it’s not gambling that they see as their problem.”

Dr Glinka says the most effective means of tackling problem gambling is to instead limit availability.

“The availability of gambling in Australia is pretty well round the clock,” she says.

“That has to be stopped.

“Whether you program the pokies or they [gamblers] limit themselves it doesn’t really matter.”

Julia Karpathakis, a recovered gambler-turned counsellor, says the help she sought was instrumental in helping her kick the addiction.

“I don’t understand how someone can say that counselling does not work,” she says.

However, Ms Karpathakis there is room for improvement.

She says one of the most common complaints she hears is that counsellors often cannot give meaningful guidance because they have not been in the same situation.

She says the best way to overcome this is to train counsellors who have been gamblers in the past.

“I can turn around and say to someone that I played for 10 years and I lost everything but I haven’t played for seven years now and I’ve got a brand new life,” she says.

Jen Rapier from Gambling Help says while acknowledging the accessibility to gambling is a major problem, counselling is also integral to helping people with their addiction.

“Certainly in our experience and from the feedback we have from our clients, using practical measures can help but the counselling has to back that up,” she says.

She says there should be a joint approach.

“We run support groups for problem gamblers but also for people affected by problem gambling,” she says.

“Friends, families and colleagues can come along and try to get a better understanding to what has led to that.”

She says her group supplements counselling with important programs providing assistance to other people involved.

The parliamentary inquiry continues.