Alcohol and Other Drugs Counsellor: Career profile

Working in the field of substance use, abuse and dependency is the coalface of counselling.

Alcohol and other drugs counsellors and their clients must both dig deep to discover what lies beneath dependency to reduce harm and effect change. Alcohol and substance abuse is a huge social problem and, accordingly, AOD counsellors are in high demand.

Meet an Alcohol and Other Drugs Counsellor

Ros - Alcohol and other drugs (AOD) counsellor

Ros Winkler, 60, is Forensic and Linkages Counsellor with Windana Drug and Alcohol Recovery. She loves fashion and art, drawing inspiration from her kelpie, Stirling to pick up the brush four years ago.

Describe your job in a sentence.

Helping people make changes to live the life they want.

What education and training do you have?

  • Certificate IV in Alcohol and Other Drugs
  • Diploma of Teaching
  • Bachelor of Teaching
  • Graduate Diploma of Urban Research and Policy
  • Graduate Diploma in Loss and Grief Counselling

How has this training helped your Alcohol and Other Drugs Counselling career?

My education has all been in response to positions I have held, except in the case of the loss and grief counselling, which was to address my own issues. When I was six I was with my sister when she got hit by a car and killed. It affected my family a lot but in a very Anglo-Saxon way nobody talked about it. You see you can't be alive without having issues - that self-awareness is a big part of being a counsellor. That's also why I have done a lot of professional development training like single-session family work, smart recovery group facilitation, forensic and anti-social client work, cognitive behavioural therapy for anxiety and depression, group therapy and narrative therapy. When learning from other people I take what suits the way I work and add that to my own approach to counselling.

This job is about listening to people, observing them and understanding what makes them tick.

What skills do you most need as an Alcohol and Other Drugs Counsellor?

You have to like people, be kind, accepting and be pretty tough as well. You also have to be direct with people; help them to stop fooling themselves about what is causing their problems; and help them understand why they are doing it.

What is the best part about being an Alcohol and Other Drugs Counsellor?

It is really, really interesting. I find people endlessly interesting and this job is about listening to them, observing them and understanding what makes them tick. It is a bit like reading detective stories every day, only fact is way stranger than fiction. Sometimes we laugh together. Tears are more common, but laughter is there too and it helps.

What is the most challenging part of the job?

It can be really hard emotionally. I have had two people die who I worked with over a long period and it was difficult. But just being with people who are suffering is hard. That's why good supervision and support from your workplace colleagues is vital.

What advice would you give an aspiring Alcohol and Other Drugs Counsellor?

Contact education providers to find out more on their AOD courses and then think about yourself. If a young person wants to study drug and alcohol counselling, is it because it has factored in their lives somewhere? That is not necessarily a problem, but this job is absolutely not about rescuing people. Doing some voluntary work in any capacity is also a good idea. Try one of the big charities like the Salvation Army.