Annual Appeal 2023
Part of our approach at Odyssey House that makes our programs so effective is our employment of individuals with their own lived experience of addiction and recovery, or of being a family member of someone who has experienced Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) related harm.
Lived experience workers have unique knowledge, abilities and attributes. They draw on their own life-changing experiences, their use of AOD services, and their journey of recovery and healing to support others seeking help. They understand the critical need for credible and meaningful connections, and utilise their own achievements and expertise to inspire others to find hope.
People with lived experience have been there themselves, understand what families have gone through, and they can relate to how they are feeling. As peers who are further along the journey, they play an important role in creating safe, welcoming and non-judgemental services that successfully engage people in AOD treatment. Research has also shown that the use of peers and peer support (including from family members) make positive treatment outcomes more likely.
People with lived experience can:
help clients understand and tell their story
help people to access the right services
support navigation through health and welfare systems
identify issues early to prevent them escalating further
help to reduce stigma and offer support as an equal
build genuine connections and positive relationships
support families to develop helpful and supportive strategies
make change possible by sharing their personal experiences to inspire hope
These workers use their real-life experience, coupled with skills learned through additional training, to support and represent people impacted by drug use.
Making the transition from a service user to a staff member, however, requires training, guidance and support. Often lived experience staff have had difficult experiences with education and may not have the necessary skills in areas of professional practice such as taking case notes, writing court reports, delivering psychoeducational programs and other more clinical practices.
To help aid this transition for staff, Odyssey House provide all of our staff with access to the Certificate IV or Diploma of AOD through our Registered Training Organisation and we have some dedicated staff members who are specifically employed to provide extra support, training and mentoring to our lived experience staff members. The mentoring program matches existing staff with a new lived experience staff member to help navigate day-to-day questions and help build their knowledge in organisational processes such as policies and procedures as well as supporting their clinical knowledge. The existing staff member can also support them progressing from resident to staff and help them to navigate new boundaries due to their changing professional relationships.
“I felt like the staff who had lived experience really spoke the same language as me”
The training element of our support is individual to each person, and we work together with them to assess where we need to increase their skills, to invest in developing their capacity and support their career choice. All of our clinical staff in our residential services are required to complete an AOD skill set course which provides valuable skills and AOD-specific capabilities for providing services to clients with AOD issues.
We have many staff who work with us who have made this transition and are now health professionals, where their lived experience is only a part of who they are and what they do.