How to become an Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) Support Worker

by Jo Hartley
Posted: February 28, 2018

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With such a wide variety of career paths available, it can be hard to know where to start and where your skills may shine. But, if you’re someone with a passion for helping others and you take joy in guiding people on the road to recovery, then an Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) Support Worker role may be perfect for you.  

Tabitha Corser is the day rehab program director and a Drug and Alcohol Counsellor at the Whitehaven Clinic Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centre in Western Australia. She’s worked in the drug and alcohol support sector for seven years and finds it both varied and rewarding.

Tabitha spoke to us about what the role of an Alcohol and Other Drugs Support Worker involves. Here are a few of her unique industry insights into how to become a support worker focussed on helping people recover from addiction.

Tabitha Corser, Founder and Director of The Whitehaven Clinic

Tabitha Corser, Founder and Program Director of The Whitehaven Clinic, addiction treatment and recovery centre.
Image: Supplied


“I never thought in a million years that I’d become a drug and alcohol support worker. In fact, the first six months of my training, I was riddled with self-doubt as to whether I could do it,” she says

“But, I always wanted to help people – in fact, I’d told my mother as a six-year-old that I wanted to be a counsellor. She told me not to be so ridiculous and that I was going to be a lawyer! I initially started down that route until I realised that studying law at university wasn’t like LA Law on TV!”

Within her role, Tabitha assesses people for intake into their programs, as well as training other support workers. She says that the one on one interaction with clients is what she loves the most, as well as the fact that no two days are the same. 

The role of an Alcohol and Other Drugs Support Worker

On a typical day as an AOD Support Worker, your tasks may include:

  • Visiting clients in their homes to assist them with day-to-day care
  • Helping clients to access education and training
  • Providing a safe space for them to talk

Alcohol and Other Drugs Workers can also be located primarily within a drop-in centre, where you’ll provide a range of services and information to help clients on their road to recovery. 

What hours will I work? 

Hours for AOD Support Workers can be varied because of the nature of the job and dependent on the primary role. 

For example, AOD support workers who visit clients in their homes need to travel both locally and further afield and may need to be accessible at any time during the day. They may also need to be on call. 

Being located within a drop in centre or a justice system, your hours will be dictated by your employer and may well be more aligned with standard part time, full time or casual hours. 

If you choose to do some voluntary or casual work, the hours will be based on an employer needs and your availability. 

How can I become an AOD Support Worker?

AOD Support worker comforting, supporting and helping her client recover from addicition

“I think work experience or volunteer programs are vital to both yourself and employers as a good way of exploring whether this is a field for you because, until you’re in it, you’re never really sure,” advises Tabitha.

If it is for you, then there is a choice of options for studying.

Studying a Certificate IV in Alcohol and Other Drugs will give you the skills to intervene in the lives of everyday people who are suffering from alcohol or drug addiction. You’ll learn to guide addicts on the way to recovery by assessing their needs and developing and implementing treatment plans. 

If you want to further broaden your skills and opportunities within this sector you can study a dual qualification of Certificate IV in Alcohol and Other Drugs and Certificate IV in Mental Health. This will provide you with the skills and understanding required to help people with mental health and addiction issues. 

This program will also provide you with the opportunity to put your skills into practice within the community during a 160-hour work placement. 

Studying these courses will train and qualify you for a wide range of support roles inclusive of:

  • Alcohol and Other Drugs Support Worker
  • Mental Health Worker
  • Rehabilitation Worker
  • Outreach Worker

To name a few.

Learn more about courses that help make a difference to the community here.

What sort of person would suit this role?

Tabitha advises that because of the focus on helping people to reconnect with themselves, it’s important that support workers are self-aware and focused on their own healthiness and self-development.

She says it’s a must to be accepting, balanced, open-minded and non-judgemental as you can certainly hear some very interesting things in the field.  

“I also think that a healthy sense of humour is a good thing for your own self, but also for clients,” she advises.

“Life was meant to be fun after all! So, treatment does not always have to be serious and staid. In fact, some of the biggest breakthroughs have come with clients when they’re able to truly recognise the “ridiculousness” of what we do – of our patterns – in order to try and get what we want.”

Why should I do Alcohol and Other Drugs support work?

Unique insights from a Drug and Alcohol Counsellor on how to become a support worker

Tabitha says that a lot of people are scared off about working in the drug and alcohol industry, but she says there’s nothing scary about it at all. It’s about people wanting help to find their way back on track again and being part of their journey is rewarding. 

“I truly feel honoured working within this sector. I believe the hardest thing for anyone is to admit they need help and so it’s so rewarding when you see someone reach a particular milestone in their growth and personal development,” she says. 

“The amazing capacity of the human spirit to overcome the worst things imaginable is incredibly inspiring.” 

Ready to give hope to people who are struggling with addiction? Download your free course guide via the form below.


Jo Hartley

Jo is currently residing in Newcastle, Australia with her husband, two sons, dog and cat. Jo is a regular contributor to Fairfax’s Essential Baby and Essential Kids sites. Her work has also been featured in SMH Life & Style, SMH Daily Life, Sunday Life, Body + Soul, Practical Parenting, MiNDFOOD and many more. When Jo is not writing she can be found eating ice-cream straight from the tub and pondering her next weight loss journey.

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