Working together for people living with addiction

16 August 2019  Connect

MHPN supports five established addiction and mental health networks around Australia.

We are well-connected to practitioners in the addiction treatment area, so we can support you to start and run an addiction and mental health network in your community.

MHPN networks help you:

  • benefit from the experience and knowledge of other practitioners
  • feel connected to practitioners in your local area
  • improve referral pathways
  • improve patient outcomes.

Visit our website to learn about becoming a leader in your professional community as a volunteer network coordinator.

Also learn about the benefits of an interdisciplinary approach from MS LEE BRIENT (PSYCHOLOGIST), MR TOM HALL (ACCREDITED MENTAL HEALTH SOCIAL WORKER) and MS KATE ROBERTS (ACCREDITED MENTAL HEALTH SOCIAL WORKER AND CEO OF GAMBLING IMPACT SOCIETY NSW).

Ms Brient is a psychologist based in Tasmania who has significant experience in alcohol and other drugs (AOD) treatment.

She believes that an interdisciplinary approach to consumer care can support the individual needs of a consumer in a more targeted way.

‘A team of practitioners have the capacity to address the individual’s specific needs, providing support and intervention in the areas that are most beneficial given the different presentations of those living with addiction’.

‘Whilst there are often many commonalities between individuals, there are nonetheless also many variances. Therefore, having access to the differing perspectives provided by practitioners whose practice has a different emphasis has the potential to be of significant benefit to those living with addiction’, Ms Brient says.

As a senior social worker, Ms Roberts has extensive hands-on counselling with consumers living with gambling addiction and is currently an advocate and policy specialist in her role as CEO of Gambling Impact Society NSW.

Ms Roberts says collaboration between interdisciplinary practitioners is important for gambling consumers because ‘gambling can co-occur with anxiety and depression’.

 

Watch the webinar 'Collaborating to recognise and address depression

in cannabis users' with panellists Ms Lee Brient, Dr Shalini Arunogiri,

Dr Paul Grinzi, Ms Monica Lord and facilitator Professor Steve Trumble.

 

‘It’s very common for people who have gambling issues to have drug and alcohol issues as part of their stories as well’, she says.

Ms Roberts says there has been some work around carers, peer workers and consumer advocates being involved as experts-by-experience alongside practitioners.

She believes the next step is to connect gambling services, welfare services and the health system. 'I’ve been a strong advocate of having that changed'..

Mr Tom Hall from First Step Solutions is the Melbourne CBD Drug and Alcohol Peer Support Network volunteer coordinator through MHPN.

He says the network meetings attract a wide range of practitioners including the lived experience workforce which he believes are a vital part of the interdisciplinary approach.

‘I’ve seen the great value of lived experience in the mental health sector. And clinicians working together is so important for AOD and mental health’, Mr Hall says.

He believes that 'the pros of [interdisciplinary care] are the person may get the same message from clinicians but may also get different messages from different clinicians.

 

Do you want to join an addiction and mental health network?

Register now via the links below:

 

Ms Brient is a member of the Launceston Mental Health Network which provides:

  • 'validation of my clinical knowledge and experiences
  • professional support
  • avenues for seeking of advice outside individual areas of expertise'.

She says networking has increased her awareness of local resources, training and professionals.

 

 Read Lee Brient's article about ice and methamphetamine use

from InPsych 2017

 

Addiction and mental health

Each of the practitioners tell MHPN that substance use and problem gambling may co-occur with a mental health condition. 

Accredited Mental Health Social Worker Mr Hall says 'often people’s judgement is clouded by mental health issues. For example, sometimes alcohol or other drugs are the first line of defence to deal with mental health issues such as hearing voices'.

Ms Brient says addressing the underlying issues of addiction is a useful starting point. She considers a variety of factors in getting to the crux of a client's behaviour: 

  • 'what purpose / benefit does the substance use/behavioural addiction provide for the client?
  • are there mental health issues?
  • is it a coping mechanism for challenging situational factors?
  • is the client coping with the consequences of trauma?'

Ms Brient addresses these factors in conjunction with promotion of harm minimisation / reduction and abstinence from behaviours.

Both Ms Brient and Ms Roberts identify CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) as a central therapeutic modality for people living with addiction. 

Ms Brient says it needs to be noted that 'substance users are not the only individuals living with addiction. There are behavioural addictions, and family, friends and communities also are significantly impacted'.

Ms Roberts has also worked with clients who have a family member living with a gambling addiction.

An integral part of her toolkit is taking a holistic approach which means considering a client's biological, social, situational and environmental factors, she says.

'I’m a strong systems worker which means helping people understand their position in the broader context. It’s a systems problem, not just an individual problem'.

 

Watch the webinar Problem Gambling and Collaborative mental health care’

with panellists Ms Kate Roberts, Dr Sally Gainsbury, Dr Paul Grinzi,

Dr Clive Allcock and facilitator Associate Professor Rachel Rossiter.

 

'We’re very aware that many other health workers don’t get training on identifying gambling issues so it can be missed', she says.

'One of the challenges is that services sometimes work in silos, and where we’ve managed to cut across those barriers, we have had greater focus'.

Ms Roberts says integrated care for people affected by problem gambling is the exception rather than the rule. However, she believes mental health practitioners can recognise problem gambling with the right training.  

'We want all mental health and welfare services to feel comfortable and confident to be able to do some basic screening so they can respond appropriately to client needs'.

Ms Roberts says the people are not necessarily going to open up about gambling. 'It is often very hidden, due to shame, stigma and guilt'.

 

Do you want to learn more? Check out the following resources:

Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs report, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Gambling activity in Australia, Australian Institute of Family Studies

Gambling in Suburban Australia, Australian Institute of Family Studies

Gambling Online Help (national)

Gambling Impact Society NSW

Network of Alcohol and Other Drug Agencies

Turning Point (national)

Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association