Key messages

  • The Victorian alcohol and drug treatment principles assist in achieving a sustainable and coherent system that works better for those people who need it.
  • Services are encouraged to work towards implementing the principles in all aspects of treatment.
  • The principles are based on a philosophy of harm minimisation and encourage a recovery-oriented approach.
  • The principles should underpin all practice approaches, models of care, treatment modalities, policies and procedures, planning, performance, supervision, training and quality activities.
  • The treatment principles apply to all alcohol and other drug treatment services funded by the Department of Health & Human Services.

The Victorian alcohol and drug treatment principles guide service providers in achieving a sustainable and coherent alcohol and other drug system that works better for those people who need it.

The principles underpin and inform practice and service delivery and were developed in consultation with Victorian alcohol and other drug service providers, clients and their families.

What the treatment principles mean for the alcohol and other drug sector

Services are encouraged to work towards implementation of the treatment principles. The principles have as their foundation a philosophy of harm minimisation and a recovery orientation.

The principles should underpin all practice approaches, models of care, treatment modalities, policies and procedures, planning, performance, supervision, training and quality activities.

The principles apply to all funded alcohol and other drug services, including early intervention and prevention, harm reduction, treatment, pharmacotherapy and support services. They apply to specific population groups such as young people, older people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, forensic clients and others.

Treatment principles

1. Substance dependence is a complex but treatable condition that affects brain function and influences behaviour

This principle reflects the complex nature of substance dependence, its neurological impact and influence on behaviour. It acknowledges that substance dependence can be treated effectively. While lapse and relapse may be common but not inevitable features of recovery from dependence, they can also offer valuable learning opportunities for clients.

2. Treatment is accessible

A principle on treatment accessibility draws on theories of individual treatment readiness to highlight the importance of a treatment system that is visible, accessible from multiple points of entry and available in a timely manner. Treatment should be provided equitably and without prejudice to diverse populations (for example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, culturally and linguistically diverse communities or forensic clients) and in diverse locations (for example, metropolitan, regional and rural). Treatment should be experienced as welcoming, accepting, non-judgemental and responsive by clients and families.

3. Treatment is person-centred

A person-centred approach tailors treatment to the multiple needs of the client, not just their substance use. This approach supports people to be active and equal participants and partners in their treatment planning, taking into account their family, significant others, cultural circumstances and any other needs.

4. Treatment involves people who are significant to the client

With the client’s consent, people who are significant to the client are meaningfully engaged in treatment planning. Treatment also addresses the needs of a client’s family and significant others, and, in particular, the needs of dependent children.

5. Policy and practice is evidence informed

Alcohol and other drug policy and practice should be informed by a robust evidence base. The timely transfer of knowledge between research and practice is a critical enabler of evidence-based policy and practice. Resource allocation that supports sector innovation and evaluation is encouraged to complement the existing evidence base.

6. Treatment involves integrated and holistic care responses

Integrated and holistic care means engaging practitioners from different health, human services and welfare sectors to provide coordinated care to meet people’s diverse needs. Such care involves clear pathways, strong partnerships and collaboration, and reduced duplication within and across sectors. A variety of treatment types, interventions and modalities should be available and tailored to the unique needs of people, their family and children.

7. The treatment system provides for continuity of care

Continuity of care acknowledges the importance of providing treatment that responds to a person’s ongoing needs. As such, treatment systems should articulate clear care pathways, deliver early intervention and prevention, treatment of appropriate mix and duration, and post-treatment follow-up.

8. Treatment includes a variety of biopsychosocial approaches, interventions and modalities oriented towards people’s recovery

A responsive service system requires a range of approaches to meet people’s diverse needs. Treatment should build on the person’s own strength, resilience and resources. Recovery-oriented treatment acknowledges that a person’s path to recovery is individual and unique, and informed by their strengths and hopes, preferences, needs, experiences, values and cultural background.

9. The lived experience of alcohol and other drug users and their families is embedded at all levels of the alcohol and other drug treatment system

The knowledge and lived experience of alcohol and other drug users and their families should be embedded at all levels of the alcohol and other drug treatment system, including policy development, service planning, service delivery and quality improvement. The value of the lived experience must be acknowledged and supported within organisations and programs.

10. The treatment system is responsive to diversity

Alcohol and other drug treatment and support should be culturally safe and responsive to people’s differing understandings of health and wellbeing. Consistent with notions of equity, treatment should be responsive to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and people from diverse cultural backgrounds, communities, religions, language groups, gender and sexual identities. The unique needs of forensic clients, young people, older people, those with a dual diagnosis, and vulnerable and disadvantaged people with complex needs should also be addressed.

11. Treatment is delivered by a suitably qualified and experienced workforce

A strong and capable workforce is an essential component of any robust service system. The alcohol and other drug workforce should have the requisite skills, knowledge, values and attitudes to respond to people’s needs and a capability and willingness to work across disciplines and sectors. The workforce should include meaningful roles for those with a lived experience of substance use.