January 30, 2018

Frequently asked questions about AOD counselling with Substance Support

Hi, my name is Kate and I’m one of the substance support counsellors at ACON. In this post I’ll answer some of the common questions that people have when they’re considering talking to a counsellor about their drug or alcohol use.


Why counselling?

We all have difficult times in our lives where we can find ourselves struggling and in need of someone to talk to. While family and friends can be great supports, sometimes it’s good to be able to talk to someone neutral who isn’t a part of your everyday life. Friends and family can mean well, but they often have their own opinions and can tend to come up with solutions based on what they think should happen. While this can be useful, you may also benefit from having the space to gain a better understanding of yourself and a clearer sense of what you want and need. Because a counsellor is removed from your immediate situation they can provide you with a different perspective on things which may help you to find a new way forward.


How do I get see a counsellor?

At ACON we provide counselling to HIV positive and LGBTI identifying people, who are concerned about their own, or another person’s alcohol and/or drug use.  To see a counsellor simply call ACON and speak to the intake officer, or you can complete ACON’s online form here and the intake officer will give you a call. The intake officer will ask you some questions about your situation and provide information about the support options available.  Substance support counsellors are available at ACON’s Sydney, Northern Rivers and Hunter officers and phone/skype counselling is also available.  Contact information for all of ACON’s offices is available here.


When should I consider talking to a substance support counsellor?

There is no right or wrong time to seek counselling and people make the decision to attend counselling when the time is right for them.  However, I would say that if you have any concerns about your own, or another person’s substance use then you could benefit from talking to one of ACON’s substance support counsellors.


Will the counsellor tell me to stop using drugs and/or alcohol?

The short answer is-No they won’t.  At ACON we support you to achieve the changes that are right for you. For some people this may mean stopping taking drugs or alcohol, in which case we will help you work towards this goal. Another person may enjoy using drugs and alcohol but want to make changes such as reducing their use, limiting the situations and times when they use, or getting their use under control so that the drugs and alcohol aren’t controlling them.  At ACON we are sex and drug positive, and we use a harm minimisation approach. Put simply, this means that if you want to continue using drugs and/or alcohol then we totally respect that, and we will work with you to make sure you’re doing so in the safest way possible.


What happens in a counselling session?

The first appointment is often a ‘meet-and-greet’ style of appointment.

It can feel strange talking about your experiences with someone you’ve just met, so the counsellor will follow your lead regarding what you feel comfortable talking about and how much you wish to disclose. The first session is an opportunity to discuss what has led to you seeking help and what you’re hoping to achieve from attending counselling. The counsellor will get you to fill out some paperwork and provide you with information about the counselling process at ACON.


Subsequent appointments provide an opportunity for you to focus more deeply on the issues important to you and to process your experiences. Just like the initial appointment, the counsellor will be guided by you regarding what you feel comfortable talking about and how much you wish to disclose. Counselling can look very different depending on the person and the issues being focused on. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ description as to what will happen in a session, so the counsellor will support you in a way that works for you.


How do I find the right counsellor for me?

Counsellors are people, and just as you don’t click with everyone you meet, it may take a few goes before you to find the right counsellor for you. However, you can increase your chances of finding the right counsellor by considering some of the following things.

  1. Gender – Do you have a preference for a male or female identifying counsellor?
  2. Age – Do you have a preference how old your counsellor is? Would you feel more comfortable talking to someone older or younger than you, or to someone around the same age as you?
  3. Cultural Background – Is it important to speak to someone from the same cultural background as you?
  4. Personality – what types of personality are you more drawn to?
  5. Philosophical and religious orientation
  6. Therapeutic approach. Some counsellors use very specific approaches while others use a mixture. Some approaches focus on addressing the immediate problems, while others focus more on the root causes of the problems. It can be useful to think about what your priorities are in coming to counselling.
  7. Specialist areas – some counsellors specialise in working with certain issues, while others are able to work with a range of issues. It can be useful to ask beforehand what types of issues the counsellor helps people with.
  8. Availability – Can the counsellor see you at a time and place that suits your schedule?

Most importantly you need to feel comfortable talking openly with your counsellor, and you need to have a sense that the counsellor can help you to address your difficulties. When it’s a good match you will feel like the counsellor ‘gets you’ and is there for you. Some of the best advice I can give is to trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right for any reason then they are probably not the person for you. If this is the case then don’t feel bad about letting the counsellor know. A good counsellor will understand and respect this.


How long should I see a counsellor for?

At ACON we are able to offer 12 free sessions to each person. Some people find they need only a few sessions, while others benefit from using all 12 sessions. The number of and frequency of appointments needed is entirely dependent on the individual. This is something you can discuss with your counsellor.


What else do I need to know?

Substance support counselling at ACON is FREE

Appointments usually last for 1 hour; however allow 90 minutes for the initial appointment

Substance support counselling is available at ACON’s Sydney Office and ACON’s regional offices in Lismore and the Hunter and phone/skype counselling is also available across NSW.

ACON has male and female identifying counsellors and if you have a preference who you speak to, we will do our best to meet this.



To get in contact with Substance Support at ACON Sydney call 02 9206 2000


To get in contact with Substance Support at ACON Lismore call 02 6622 1555


To get in contact with Substance Support at ACON Hunter call 02 4962 7700