Q&A: Talking with an ADIS counsellor


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Whether alcohol or other drugs are a problem for you or someone you know, or you just have questions about alcohol and other drugs, the Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) is always available and ready to help.

The ADIS helpline is provided by St Vincent's Hospital in partnership with the NSW Ministry of Health. It is staffed by professional counsellors offering specialised drug and alcohol information, support and referrals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week over the phone or via webchat (Monday to Friday 8.30am – 5:00pm).

We talk with an ADIS counsellor about what to expect when calling or web chatting with the service, and what they enjoy about being on the other end of the line.

Who are ADIS counsellors?

We come from a range of backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. Our training and experiences may be different, but our main aim is harm minimisation. Because we are an anonymous service, our callers are anonymous, and, our counsellors are anonymous (we don't provide our names). Anonymity may help people feel more open to talk about sensitive issues and problems. If callers choose to give their name, that's okay also. 

ADIS is staffed by a team of people from diverse backgrounds - drug and alcohol nurses, social workers and counsellors. This diversity allows us to understand issues and provide suggestions and solutions from a broad range of treatment areas that help individuals and communities more broadly.

What can people expect when they call ADIS?

Drug and alcohol issues can often be very challenging, speaking with us can be a good first step. All our counsellors are respectful, non-judgmental and compassionate. When you call us you'll be talking with highly-skilled counselling staff that treat you with dignity, privacy and respect.

We take all your concerns and questions seriously and provide quality information that's sensitive to your needs and situation. We also don't pressure people to make changes, instead we will support you to make your own decisions and identify ways to help you reduce harms associated with alcohol and drug use.

Why should someone call ADIS?

Anyone can call to speak to us about drug or alcohol related concerns or queries, we're here to support people to make informed choices.

People can call this line to talk about any problems they have with alcohol or other drugs; or to talk about someone else's problems with use. Some people want to better manage their alcohol or other drug use, and some people want to stop using. This line can help people talk openly about these problems and ways they could make changes.

We also receive calls from family members, partners, friends, employers, and community members. We may discuss ways they can support someone with an alcohol or other drug issue, and we can refer people to other services they might find useful. We receive calls from people from different cultural, social and economic backgrounds, and geographic locations.

What information does a caller have to provide?

Any call made to ADIS is confidential and anonymous, unless you choose to give us personal information so that we can provide call-back services to you. Your phone number does not appear when you call, and calls are not recorded.

We note some information about calls for statistical purposes, such as the type of drug being asked about, and was the caller male or female. NSW Health can use to this information to improve services and understand who, where and how people are impacted by alcohol and other drug use.

No identifying information is kept about you and your name and address are not taken. During your call you'll only be speaking with an ADIS counsellor, the call is not forwarded to any other person or organisation.

What do you talk about on a call?

People call for all sorts of reasons related to alcohol and other drugs. They may talk about their own or someone else's problem. We can talk about the problem, and how the problem impacts them and / or others.

Quite often people have tried different things to change the problem. They may want to discuss this and other things they could do. Sometimes people may want to talk through what's been happening for them, and how they managed the problem. Others may seek support whilst they stop using alcohol or other drugs or whilst they reduce their use.

Family, friends and partners may want to talk about what they are or are not responsible for regarding another person's use. Or, they may seek support on other ways of being supportive.

Referrals are another important part of what we do. You may be surprised at the range of services available across NSW. We can help people develop a plan towards making changes.

What's the most rewarding part of your job as a counsellor?

Being able to support people from different cultural, social and economic backgrounds.

Every person's story, and experience, is different. I get to hear their story, and discuss ways that might work for them, to make the changes they seek to make.

We never close. I am able to support people in crisis as well as people wanting to share their successes (there are so many reasons people call).

For free and confidential advice 24/7 call Family Drug Support on 1300 368 186 or Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015. Counsellors are available to provide information, referrals, crisis counselling and support. Or start a Web Chat with an ADIS counsellor online Monday to Friday, 8.30am – 5pm. ADIS can also provide up-to-date information about service availability in your area during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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