The Resonance Factor
What Constitutes A Drug and Alcohol Worker?
There is no set fixed job description for a drug and alcohol worker, yet the remit of the professional seems to be defined by policy, strategy or commissioning.
On top of that – with austerity, drug and alcohol professionals are being asked to facilitate external pieces of work that in days gone by, would have been picked up by professionals of a different discipline. Drug and alcohol professionals are asked to do in depth assessments. In truth how much of the assessment is designed to address the clients drug use. There is a section on blood borne viruses, smoking cessation, housing, mental health, probation and the list goes on.
It is understandable that this information has to be collated at the point of assessment, but in truth, what proportion of this work is now followed up and co-coordinated by the drug worker. This article is not saying that the assessment shouldn’t be holistic, but once the assessment is completed, wouldn’t it be fair to say that the professional should then get on and do what their job title states. Surely – that should be to work with their client around their drug and alcohol use.
If a professional gets stretched in different directions, and has to wear many hats, it gives the client no clarity. Instead of discussing their relationship with drugs and alcohol, they may spend 3 months talking about their housing and social services. At this point we have to be clear. Yes! They do need to discuss these issues, but there are already services set up to facilitate this discussion. Other professional disciplines refer clients into a drug service to address their substance use. It maybe because they have the luxury of being clear in regard to their remit and their limits. As so often happens a professional from another service may refer a client into a drug and alcohol service knowing full well that the worker will work with the all of the clients issues they are presenting with.
Drug workers should not be mental health workers, housing officers, social services, probation officers and so
Imagine the outcomes if drug and alcohol professionals main focus was the relationship that a client has with their substance use. Surely this would allow the client to get a greater understanding of that relationship, and to create a forum to see the relationship for what it is! To explore this relationship takes time, energy and space. It also demands honesty and creativity. All of these are difficult to pull together when the professional is being asked to co-ordinate all of the other problems that the client is presenting with.
As in any unhealthy relationship, if a human being is given space to unpack it, and explore it, this can allow them to make an informed choice regarding their next steps.