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The 5 Key Skills Needed By Alcohol and Drug Support Workers

by Craig Boyle

Alcohol and other drug abuse problems afflict thousands of Australians and, according to statistics, cause one in every 20 deaths. Alcohol and drug support workers help fight back against substance abuse. It’s a very rewarding career path – but one that requires some key skills that you can develop on an alcohol and other drugs course. 

A career in drug and alcohol support work will involve difficult and upsetting scenarios, powerful emotions and incredibly rewarding moments. It’s a field that is not for everyone, but is of vital importance to the people in the grips of addiction.

Drug and alcohol counsellor

By studying an CHC43215 Certificate IV in Alcohol and Other Drugs course online, you can take the first steps towards being a support worker, caseworker, alcohol and drug support worker and more. But is it right for you? These are the core skills you’ll need to possess or build to succeed in your role.

Using empathy to understand clients

Alcohol and drug support workers get involved with people who are often at rock bottom. They are struggling with problems you may not ever experience yourself. Therefore, it’s important that you can extend empathy and understanding to these individuals. They may have committed crimes or admit to things you find upsetting, but the focus must remain on helping your client work through their problems.


Safeguarding is a skill that involves identifying vulnerabilities in your client’s lives, then taking steps to protect a client. This can be anything from recognising when a teenager is living in an abusive household to protecting a partner from domestic violence. Typically, you will need to spot these signs, notify the relevant authorities and work together to come up with a plan.

Safeguarding skills can be built, but often suit people who have a keen eye for detail and are great at communicating with others.

Organisation and communication skills

You’ll be liaising with a range of services from prison officers through to housing support organisations. This requires tight organisation and communication skills to ensure everything stays on track. You’ll also need to build strong skills that allow you to communicate with not just your client, but their family, carers or other key people in their lives.


Most alcohol and drug support workers must develop rehabilitation plans with their clients. This is a skill that you’ll be taught on an alcohol and other drugs course, but it’s also something you can work on in your day to day life by practising your ability to create both short- and long-term plans.

Mental health awareness

Many of the victims of drug and alcohol addiction also suffer from mental health problems. From depression to anxiety, OCD to ADHD, the range of issues you may encounter are vast. As a drug and alcohol worker, you’ll need to be able to understand mental health conditions and know how to work effectively with your client. Therefore, you should ensure that any qualification you study includes training on mental health.

Build your skills today Take the first step towards becoming an alcohol and drug support worker today by enrolling into our alcohol and other drugs course. You’ll build the skills listed above and be able to help people combat life-threatening addictions. Learn more.

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