Working As a Drug and Alcohol Counsellor


According to a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Wellness, alcohol was the most common drug of concern for which clients sought treatment in 2018-2019. In 2020, wastewater data analysis revealed that alcohol was not only one of the most commonly detected substances but that there was a higher consumption of it in regional areas than in cities. Interestingly, it was also found to be the only drug where approval of regular use by an adult (45%) was higher than disapproval (21%).

Statistics like these tell us something about alcohol consumption, but they also send a message about the ways alcohol and drug counselors can target certain environmental factors surrounding unhealthy consumption. For instance, the statistics make it clear that more support may be needed in rural areas and that peer and parental influence may play an even bigger role in over-consumption than for other drugs.

On the other hand, the report found the death rate from meth/amphetamine to be four times higher in 2018 than in 1999, making it less pervasively dangerous than alcohol if misused but perhaps in more urgent need of reconsideration. New and emerging psychoactive substances (NEPs) were also found to be prevalent, but used mostly by those who already use psychostimulant drugs. Psychedelic drugs were not part of the report, potentially highlighting the decreasing stigma attached to them.

These are some of the factors that make being a drug and alcohol worker so complex, and so rewarding. In this post we’ll cover how and why professionals get into the field so you can start off on the right foot if this is the direction you’re considering.

Why should you become a drug and alcohol worker?

Simply put, there’s a very high demand for this line of work, and if you think you may be good at it, give it a shot. You may have experience with drug abuse yourself or have a family member or friend who does. You may already be a counsellor who wants to move into a more specific area. You may feel a strong urge to help people manage their lives and become the best version of themselves. Whatever the reason for your interest, and whatever challenges you might meet along your journey, the bottom line is that by following this path you will be creating a compassionate and supportive space for someone where there wasn’t a space before.

How do you become an alcohol and drug worker?

To become a drug and alcohol worker in Australia you’ll need to gain relevant work experience through a Drug and Alcohol volunteer program, complete a Certificate IV in Alcohol and Other Drugs, and possibly pursue a further qualification in a related field such as social work, psychology, or mental health. Recommended and required skills include empathy and communication skills, good organization skills, ability to remain calm and manage conflict, leadership and initiative, experience with domestic violence support, and experience with youth services. You may end up working indoors or outdoors: in a rehab center, clinic, health service center, or out on the streets. You’ll also likely be involved in the implementation of health promotion, community intervention, and education programs on drug awareness.
If you want to make a difference in people’s lives and have an interest in how drugs impact society on an individual and collective level, becoming a drug and alcohol worker could be a good career choice for you. There will only be a growing need for workers in the field. The sooner you can get qualified to become a worker, the sooner you’ll help provide relief to those who need it.

About 

Saga Briggs is Managing Editor of InformED. You can follow her on Twitter@sagamilena or read more of her writing here.

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