There is a range of considerations that need to be thought of before accessing a service.

Getting Support

A key starting point when choosing to seek support is reflecting on our individual support needs. Everyone is different and so will the types of support we need. Think about the following questions:

  • What drug/s do we need support with?
  • What does support look like?
  • What do we want to achieve by accessing support?

These questions can be confronting to think about, but they can help us feel emotionally prepared to answer some tougher questions about our alcohol and drug use when accessing support services.


Admitting that there is a problem with our experiences of drug use is often the first step towards accessing appropriate support and beginning the process of healing and recovery. The type of drugs that we may need support with can also be linked to the specific types of support services.

While it can be hard to know what type of support we may need, it can help to think about what types of support we might want. What types of services would we be willing to work with? The questions below can help us think through what support options may work best:

  • Will we need some medical assistance managing withdrawal symptoms?
  • Will we be staying at home while getting support or will we need to go somewhere removed from our environment to get the right support?
  • Will a day program suit our needs or would we need a more intensive program?
  • Will we want to work one on one or in a group setting, or both?
  • Will we benefit more from a health care professional or a peer that also has lived or living experience of alcohol and drug use?

Through our support journey, we’ll be setting goals. It may be helpful to think about what we are wanting to change about our drug use and what the bigger picture looks like. These will be different for each person and they may shift over time. Some examples include wanting to no longer use alcohol or drugs, having better relationships with my friends, having sex without alcohol or drugs, improving emotional well-being or becoming a better parent.

There are no right or wrong goals, only those which we set for ourselves. Find out more about goal settings in the Reduce Our Use section.

Types of Support

We may start our support journey with expectations or presumptions, but the more we find out about particular services and what they offer, the more informed we are to make the right choice.

We’ve put together an overview of different service options, but it’s best to chat with an alcohol and drug counsellor about which one may work best for us.

Counselling is the most common type of treatment for people seeking support for their experiences of alcohol and drug use. There are many types of counselling approaches, however, the main goal of counselling is to give us a safe space to discuss and manage our experiences of alcohol and drug use. It may involve discussing our current patterns of use, helping us to plan how to manage triggers, building self-care plans or taking part in activities that support our recovery journey.

Counselling services can be offered in person, over the phone or online. We can choose to undertake counselling alone, with chosen family or supportive friends, or in a group of individuals who are also seeking support for their alcohol or drug use. Counselling may be short-term or ongoing. For more information about alcohol and drug counselling check out the Australian Drug Foundation or Thorne Harbour Health.

Peer support is offered by people with lived or current living experiences of alcohol and drug use and with the services available in the peer-to-peer context. These programs are available to people who use alcohol and drugs, their chosen family members or support people.

SMART recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are examples of peer support programs. Family members and friends can also access peer support programs. Peer support can just be focussed on accessible credible, relevant and helpful information to support our needs.

Residential detox services provide a supported, live-in environment for people to withdraw safely from alcohol and drugs in a supervised facility or hospital. These facilities are constantly staffed, may offer individual and group counselling, and have peer support available. There are also youth-specific detoxes.

Residential detox services may be suitable for people:

  • Who cannot (or would prefer not to) detox at home (i.e., it’s not medically suitable, there are children in the house, or it’s an unsupportive environment);
  • Who have been unsuccessful with non-residential services;
  • Who are not suited to community-based programs; or
  • Who have complex needs.

To find out about accessing residential detox services call DirectLine on 1800 888 236 or chat with them online.

Rehabilitation (rehab) programs take a long-term approach to treatment and are aimed at helping us achieve our treatment goals in a drug-free, therapeutic and supportive environment. Residential programs provide accommodation as well as a structured care plan and can last from a few weeks up to many months. It requires completing detox beforehand though.

There are a range of factors that need to be considered when looking at rehab programs. For example, there are public and private programs that vary in costs, services provided and referral pathways. Find out more about rehabilitation programs at the Australian Drug Foundation.

Dual diagnosis refers to the relationships between a person’s mental health and alcohol and drug use. Examples include people experiencing both a mental health diagnosis that leads to or is associated with substance use; or people who experience challenges with drug use that leads to or is associated with a mental health concern and diagnosis.

People who experience dual diagnosis are affected in different ways and have very unique and individual needs. Dual diagnosis services respond to both mental health and alcohol and drug issues in a way that is most beneficial to the individual. Contact DirectLine to know more about dual-diagnosis services.

Pharmacotherapy involves replacing a drug of dependence with a legally prescribed and dispensed substitute. The use of prescribed pharmaceuticals can help as part of a comprehensive treatment and support plan. Medications are often used to help reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms, curb drug cravings and reduce the likelihood of use.

This is only available for some drugs, and the doctor or treatment service can give us more information about what’s available for our specific situation. For example, opioid dependence treatment might include buprenorphine (suboxone), methadone or naltrexone. Alcohol dependence may be treated with naltrexone, and acamprosate, however, it is very much dependent on our individual needs and patterns of alcohol use.

People who experience a high dependence on alcohol or other drugs may want to consider pharmacotherapy in conjunction with other treatments, such as counselling.

We can discuss referral options for pharmacotherapy with a local doctor. We can also contact Harm Reduction Victoria’s Pharmacotherapy Advocacy, Mediation and Support (PAMS) service to find out more about pharmacotherapy options.


Finding a Service

There’s some different ways you can connect with treatment providers. 

  • Call Directline: a 24/7 alcohol and drug phone and online counselling service providing information support and referral. Directline counsellors can connect you to a treatment service in your area. 
  • Find different types of support services in your local areas by using the search function of the Alcohol and Drug Foundation website  
  • There are also services offered by Thorne Harbour Health 
  • Look for the main support service we recommend in the Support Services Section. 

The information given on this page is not medical advice and should not be relied upon in that way.