Key messages

  • Families, other support people and peers can be an important part of treatment and recovery for individuals with problematic alcohol and other drug use.
  • Victorian alcohol and other drug treatment services adopt a family-focused approach. They engage families and support people in assessment, treatment planning and recovery.
  • These agencies must consider the needs of family members and dependent children throughout the treatment process with the aim of reducing the harm to families caused by alcohol and other drug use.
  • A range of support services for families and support people, as well as peer-support services, in Victoria can assist the individual and their families and support people through the treatment and recovery process.

About family and peer support in alcohol and other drug treatment

Families, support people and peers can be critically important for people who have problematic alcohol and other drug use. They may provide important emotional support, as well as practical assistance. This support can make a significant difference to a person’s recovery journey.

Alcohol and other drug treatment services and the family-focused approach

The Victorian alcohol and other drug treatment system adopts a family-focused approach. This means that family members, including the dependent children of a person who is a client of an alcohol and drug treatment service, are eligible for focused support.

Services must consider the needs of family members and dependent children throughout the treatment process, with the aim of reducing the harm to families caused by alcohol and drug use.

Requirements of alcohol and other drug services

Alcohol and other drug intake providers and treatment providers engage family members in the intake and comprehensive assessment process and in developing and reviewing a person’s individual recovery plan.

Catchment-based intake services

Catchment-based intake services are responsive to the needs of families and significant others of people with an alcohol and other drug issue, even when the person is not yet engaged in treatment.

Depending on the needs of families and significant others, referrals are made to family and generalist supports or group- and peer-based programs and forums where these are available.

If appropriate, intake providers can provide brief interventions or single-session therapy for families and significant others and refer to counselling services where this need is identified.

Treatment services

Treatment services consider the needs of family members and dependent children throughout the assessment and treatment planning process, including the provision of:

  • information and advice regarding the family’s support role and associated challenges, including about alcohol and drug dependence or abuse and other issues such as mental health, and how to identify early warning signs and provide positive responses in challenging circumstances
  • supported referral to a range of relevant community services that can assist with the safety and wellbeing of the family members; in particular, the needs of dependent children.

Types of family and peer support

Family drug help

Family Drug Help, delivered by the Self Help Addiction Resource Centre (SHARC), provides services that aim to strengthen the physical and mental health of families dealing with a loved one's alcohol and other drug use, and support the family's ability to cope with their individual situations. Family Drug Help provides a confidential 24-hour helpline, and access to information and referral to support groups and family counselling. Call 1300 660 068 or visit the SHARC website.

Family drug education

The department funds family drug education workshops through a consortium of Turning Point, SHARC and The Bouverie Centre. Their education program Breakthrough: ice education for families helps Victorians to recognise when a family member has a problem with ice, encourage the affected person to get treatment and support them through their recovery. For workshop dates and more information call 1800 ICE ADVICE (1800 423 238) or visit the Turning Point - BreakThrough website.

Family drug support services

Family drug support services are available through selected community health providers across Victoria. Providers deliver programs that are flexible and meet local population need and demand. Activities include peer support, group-based support, support for young people whose parents are affected by drugs, targeted support for siblings, grandparents, culturally and linguistically diverse communities (CALD) and Aboriginal people, individual support (such as counselling) and information sessions.

Parenting support toolkit for alcohol and other drug workers

A parenting support toolkit for alcohol and other drug workers, developed in 2005 in partnership with Odyssey House Victoria and the Parenting Research Centre, is available for download on this page.

Peer support

Peer support involves individuals with personal experience of alcohol and other drug use providing mutual support and information to a person who is having, or who has had, difficulties associated with their alcohol and other drug use.

Peer support groups or activities are usually established by current or past alcohol and drug users, and may operate out of and be supported by community organisations, alcohol and drug agencies or community health centres.