Alcohol and Drug Counsellor Profiles: Rosie
At Counselling Online, we know it can be intimidating to approach a total stranger about what’s going on in your life. Meet one of our alcohol and other drug counsellors - Rosie - and learn more about how and why she become a counsellor.
At Counselling Online, we know it can be intimidating to approach a total stranger about what’s going on in your life. Meet one of our alcohol and other drug counsellors - Rosie - and learn more about why she become a counsellor.
Alcohol and other drug counsellors are all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds. Some of our counsellors are just starting out, while others have been working with people who are struggling with substances for decades. Some have personal experience with the struggle, or have been through it with family or friends. Some have just been touched by the journeys they see in the world around them. The one thing they all have in common is: they’re here to help.
This is the second entry in a series to help you get to know some of our counsellors: why they decided to become an alcohol and other drug counsellor, and what it means to them.
What set me on my path to be an alcohol and drug counsellor
My start was in caring for children
I started my social services career in the 1980s at an institution for children and young people. I was in my 20s. I was actually a cleaner at the facility and loved the work. A year later when a childcare position was advertised I decided to go for it, even though I had no degree or experience in that area.
In the interview, they asked a question: “Why should we give you the position when there are more experienced and qualified people out there?”
I answered: “Well, I’m here, you know me as a hard worker and I think you should give me a go.” And so they did give me a three-month trial! Yay!
I guess it was a bit cheeky of me, but I wanted to work in that field and soon realised how much I loved it. I remember thinking that I’d do it without pay because I had found the career made for me.
I loved working with the kids and their families but it was incredibly sad at times. I often think about the children I worked with and hope I helped to make their time easier in there and gave them some special fun times.
It was lovely seeing their little faces lit up and laughing and playing or snuggling up cosy at bedtime with a story. All kids deserve to have this and feel safe.
We worked shifts that started at 7am and ended at 8pm so we could be there in the morning when they woke up and at bedtime. I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to work there. I was there for 2 years before the Department deinstitutionalised — meaning children were moved out of institutions and into community-based housing with their families or foster arrangements. At this time all Victorian institutions were closed.
Around the same time, my employers at the Department of Health put me through training at RMIT to do a Youth and Childcare Certificate. I felt so lucky to be given this education — all for free. I’d been a bit of a wild child in my teens. I left school at 15 and worked mainly in shops. I hadn’t had an opportunity to study or do further education, so this was a dream for me and the beginning of my career.
Working with young women
In training, I chose a six-week placement at a youth residential setting for young women, which I really enjoyed. The staff team was amazing and I was impressed with their knowledge and skill. In fact, I’m still best friends with the manager at the time, 33 years later!
I ended up getting a job as a Youth Worker at the young women’s hostel after my placement. I worked in that role for the next ten years. Although that role was challenging at times, I learned so much from the experience — from the staff and most importantly from the young women I worked with. I could tell some hilarious stories, but then I would have to kill you as it is all confidential (just kidding).
Many changes were happening within the Department of Community Services towards the end of my ten years, which affected workplaces and led me to a new career path in Drug and Alcohol Services.
A pivot to the alcohol and other drug sector
I started working in a drug withdrawal unit with adults. I didn’t have any experience in the field so they put me through a Certificate 4 in AOD via Turning Point and provided me with lots of other fabulous training which I’m so grateful for. I often reflect on how fortunate I was and how each door opened for me, but also recognize that I have always worked hard and been a reliable and dedicated worker who always waved the flag for the client’s rights.
My first memory of working in drug withdrawal is how amazing and respectful the clients were! I had been working with youth for ten years — I loved my young clients, but they often had a traumatic background and presented with challenging behaviours including anger and at times growing abusive... sometimes I was told to f*** off on a daily basis!
So here I was with these grownups that were respectful and wanting assistance to change. It took a while to adjust to that vibe but I loved it and felt incredibly lucky to have the job. I met so many amazing clients and still feel privileged to hear their stories and be part of their recovery and journey.
During the next ten years, I worked in a variety of other roles in AOD including face-to-face counselling, withdrawal caseworker, outreach work with women and children, team leader in an outreach program and then manager of that program. I loved the organization I was working in as it incorporated a holistic approach which is something I also believe in and felt drawn to. I was given so many opportunities there and grew as a worker and a human being and had the pleasure of working with so many amazing human beings staff and clients.
After ten years in the AOD sector and for personal health reasons I left and worked for around a year and a half in retirement villages as an emergency response officer. The people were lovely but the job was huge and the pay was terrible.
I decided to return to AOD as I missed the sector and client work. I did not want any managerial role as my preference was, and always will be, working with the clients. Again I worked in the withdrawal unit at the same organisation in a night sleepover position and did a half-time counselling role. It was during this period I enrolled in Family Therapy Graduate Diploma and completed two years later.
Getting on the phones
I decided I wanted to do more family work. I saw Turning Point’s Telephone and Online Services team had positions and thought I’d apply for a job as a ‘fill-in job’ until I got a ‘proper job’ and here I am ten years later still loving my job!
I am so thankful that I haven’t gotten bitter and twisted or cynical, as some people do when they get burned out, and that I can still feel appreciative of the chance to help clients in my role as a telephone counsellor.
Being a telephone and online counsellor means we can provide support through brief intervention. Calls can vary in length although anywhere up to an hour depending upon the callers needs. I think it’s a very powerful option for people because they often feel more able to disclose when they can protect their anonymity.
After so many years of doing case management, counselling and assessments I love the freedom of not doing case notes! At times I worry about someone who I’ve spoken to, but we have the facilitated referral process so we can always link people into ongoing support if they are open to that, and sometimes clients call back to check in.
I still feel privileged to hear people’s stories and hope that they feel heard, respected and supported after a call here. My aim is always on supporting them and encouraging them to recognise their own strengths… in the alcohol and other drug and gambling treatment sectors, people are amazingly resilient and have many skills and strengths. I love working with families as well as clients as it is all so connected. I would say around 40% of calls are from loved ones.
After working in the welfare sector since my late 20s this will be my last role/job in this field, and that’s why I’m so pleased I like it as much as I do and still get the fulfilment and satisfaction that I need to enjoy my job. I love that my role also allows me to visit agencies and talk to clients face-to-face about our services and the support we offer. I love making connections with other people whether it be on a webchat, a telephone call or face-to-face… I just love people — well, most of them. As a worker I have always believed people can change and that there is always hope no matter how difficult or challenging the situation may look.
What’s in my future?
In all the years of employment, I would not change anything! Study wise I wish I had done a social work degree, as I’ve always been interested in working in palliative care … it’s never too late though! I might do it one day.
In my private life, I’m interested in holistic therapies. I studied naturopathy many years ago and have always been interested in this side of things and the holistic options available for treatment. In the future I want to move towards supporting people holistically.
Many clients I have worked with over the years have a strong desire to work in the alcohol and other drugs sector when they recover. I think it’s fabulous wanting to contribute to something that has helped you and workers with lived experience definitely play an important part in treatment services … but I always suggest having a period of time doing things that don’t involve drug and alcohol.
The world is a big place and there are many opportunities out there, such as travel (Ed note: which hopefully we can all do again someday soon) which I absolutely love doing because it provides so much opportunity for learning about cultures and history. Having the time to get to know who you are and what you are all about. I have witnessed people working in the sector too early in recovery which has led to relapse. It’s important in my view to have time to live life and give yourself time to flourish in recovery.