Family is an interesting structure. The bonding between parents and children makes it even more gluey.

Many people perceive one’s craving for money as the only reason for problematic gambling behavior. In fact, reasons behind are very complex. It may be due to gambler’s misunderstanding of gambling that they can solve their financial problem or enhance their self-esteem through winning in gambling, or they feel lost in life, family problem or spousal relationship.

Michael’s father was a gambler, who owed a huge amount of money and often left home to escape from debts collection. His mother had reached her tolerance limit and divorced with father eventually. During this low time, Michael became mother’s only support of survival. When Michael was 10 years old, his mother got married again and migrated to Australia with Michael. In Australia, Michael and mother felt that they were living under other’s roof, but in view of their problems in livelihood, they endured silently.

Michael, 20 years old, studied Economics in university and started gambling on horse races and in casinos half year ago. He suddenly gave up his degree six months ago and went to be a chef apprentice for unknown reasons. His father was a chef. More surprisingly, this young man started gambling severely. During his counselling sessions, Michael expressed his ambivalent feeling towards his father. He described, “father is the idol in my heart. He was so charming when he was managing the kitchen…At the same time, I hate him because he hurt my mother so deeply and left me when I was young…” After some moments, I asked, “have you ever thought of finding him?” He answered, “I don’t want to, neither does my mother.”

Michael’s loyalty towards his mother became an obstacle to handle his relationship with father. Gambling became a memorial action for father, or a cry in heart for breaking this interwoven relationship. In his later counselling sessions, mother’s participation gave Michael a great support and relief. When mother learnt to let go, Michael also had sufficient room to learn to be independent and handle his problems which had never had a chance to confront. This was indeed a difficult path. Michael needed to encounter many challenges and failures, but he would put effort to stand on his feet again.

After six months of counselling, Michael is now free from gambling, and he can concentrate on his study and life again. He also decided to visit his father in Hong Kong, which was another new challenge for him, as well as an opportunity to rebuild their relationship.

Counselling is a process to help an individual to understand themselves more and the root of their problems. This also helps rebuild one’s self-esteem and relationships with others, so that they are empowered to confront and handle their difficulties.