Support Services for Families
There are lots of Government funded support services for families affected by someone's alcohol, other drug use or mental health challenges. Click on the pages below to find out where you can get help.
Victoria is opening eight new Mental Health and Wellbeing Connect services (formerly known as Family and Carer-led Centres) to provide support for families and carers.
Click here to find out more information about the Mental Health and Wellbeing Connect services in Victoria, or click on the Connect service in your region below:
- Barwon South Western: Wellways Australia (lead) with Satellite Foundation and Bethany Community Support
- Gippsland: Wellways Australia (lead) with Satellite Foundation
- Grampians: Mind Australia (lead) with Ballarat Community Health and Grampians Community Health
- Hume: Gateway Health
- Loddon Mallee: Mind Australia (lead) with Mallee Family Care
- South East (metro): Better Health Network
- North East (metro): Access Health and Community (lead) with with Self Help Addiction Recovery Centre (SHARC), healthAbility, and Inspiro (partners)
- Western (metro): Jesuit Social Services
Family alcohol and other drug counselling is for people affected by a family member’s alcohol or other drug use. It is available for individuals, couples and families. Counselling can take place with or without the person who is using alcohol or other drugs, but it often works better if the whole family can go together.
Family alcohol and other drug counsellors have experience in both family counselling as well as in alcohol and other drug treatment – so it’s more specialised than other types of family or relationship counselling.
What happens in family counselling sessions?
At your first family appointment you will be able to talk about your concerns and what you would like to focus on in the sessions. This might include improving communication, reducing stress, developing coping strategies and supporting each other. Your counsellor will ask some questions about what’s been happening in your family and help you to make a plan together. They will work with you on your goals, and link you in with other support services if you need. The counsellor can also give you information about alcohol or other drug use and help your family to navigate the treatment system. During the counselling sessions, It’s common to talk about a range of issues that the family may be experiencing, such as anxiety, fear, guilt, worry or family conflict – as well as the alcohol or other drug use of your family member.
How much does it cost?
Family alcohol and other drug counselling is funded by the State and Federal Governments, and provided at no cost to you. You do not need a GP referral to access family alcohol and other drug counselling. Usually, you can get an appointment with a counsellor within 1-3 weeks of contacting the service.
How often do families come to counselling?
Some families go to counselling for just one session – this can be a good chance to talk about what’s going on, get some information and make a plan together. Other families might decide to come to counselling for a longer period, which might last for a few weeks or months. It’s different for each family. Most people attend weekly or fortnightly counselling sessions to begin with, but you might change how often you come depending on what’s going on for you and your family.
How do I find a family alcohol and other drug counsellor?
For detailed information on how to refer to family counselling, see the section above on ‘Where can I find family support services?’.
- To find family counselling services in Victoria, contact DirectLine on 1800 888 236.
- You can also contact your local intake service and ask about family alcohol and drug counselling and support.
- You can find a full list of Victorian Alcohol and Other Drug Intake numbers in a downloadable PDF here.
Where can I find more information?
Click on the video below by Connect4Health to find out more about how family alcohol and other drug counselling can help you and your family.
Family support groups let you meet with other families with in a safe and supportive space to share your experiences and learn from each other. Knowing that you’re not alone and talking to others with similar experiences can be really helpful. Families who attend the support groups often say they feel more connected, listened to and supported.
These support groups are usually free or low cost, and you often don’t need a referral or appointment to join a group.
Family Drug and Gambling Help
Family Drug and Gambling Help run free support groups across Victoria for families affected by someone’s gambling, alcohol or drug use. Each group has a different topic or theme, and there is often a guest speaker who comes to talk about this topic in the first half of the group. The second half of the group provides time for families to share experiences and support each other.
Family Drug and Gambling Help also run a free ‘grief and bereavement support group’ for people who have lost a family member because of alcohol or other drug use.
For more information on these groups, call Family Drug and Gambling Help on 1300 660 068 or visit their website here.
Family Drug Support
Family Drug Support run family support meetings across Australia. These meetings are run by trained workers who usually have their own experiences as a family member affected by alcohol or other drugs. The groups focus on sharing experiences and supporting each other. You can find out more about the Family Drug Support meetings on their website here.
Al-Anon Family Groups Australia
Al-Anon run family support group for people concerned about a friend or family member’s alcohol use. Their program is based on the Alcoholics Anonymous program and uses the ‘Twelve Steps’ model. It includes ‘Alateen’ which is a support group for teenagers affected by a friend or family member’s alcohol use. Al-Anon run a number of weekly groups in the Inner East and other areas of Victoria and Australia. You can find the full list of meetings on their website here.
ADAVIC (Anxiety Disorders Victoria)
ADAVIC run a range of different support groups where people can express their feelings and discuss topics relating to anxiety. Carers and family members are welcome to attend these support groups to learn more about living with anxiety. A list of the different groups can be found here.
There are telephone support services for families which you can phone at any time to get advice, information or support. It can really help to have someone to talk to, and you can phone anonymously (without giving your name and details) if you like.
Family Drug Help and Family Drug Support
Family Drug and Gambling Help and Family Drug Support both run 24 hour telephone support lines for families which are run by trained volunteers who have experienced alcohol or other drug use in their family. You can call these support lines at any time to speak to someone about what’s going on in your family, get advice or find out more about support services in your local area.
Family Drug and Gambling Help is run by SHARC (Self Help Addiction Resource Centre) and is available to anyone in Victoria. You can contact Family Drug and Gambling Help on 1300 660 068 (24hrs) or visit their website here.
Tandem Support and Referral Line
The Tandem Carers Support and Referral Line provides support, information and referral to the family members, friends and carers of people living with mental health concerns. The Support and Referral Line is answered by people with their own experience caring for a family member with mental health concerns. You can call Tandem on 1800 314 325 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm) or visit their website here.
What is family violence?
Family violence is any type of abusive, threatening, controlling or violent behaviour between family members. Family violence can happen in any type of family relationship, such as between partners, ex-partners, siblings, parents, children or grandparents.
Sometimes it can be hard to recognize family violence when it’s happening in your family. If you feel unsafe in your home or threatened by a family member, then you may be experiencing family violence. Family violence includes a partner making threats to hurt their ex-partner. It also includes a son or daughter who punches holes in the wall at home and yells or swears at their parents.
Where can I get help for family violence?
There are lots of services to support people affected by family violence. If you feel at risk or unsafe, contact 000 immediately.
There are specialist family violence services across Victoria and Australia which you can access:
- The Orange Door provides a range of different family violence related services for adults, children, young people and families. The Orange Door has locations across Victoria, click here to find a service near you.
- Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre offers services to women and children experiencing family violence. Visit their website here for more information, or call them on 1800 015 188 (24hrs).
- 1800 RESPECT is a national family violence counselling and telephone support service. You can contact them on 1800 737 732 (24hrs) or visit their website here.
- Men’s Behaviour Change is a group program for men who are using family violence. Men’s Behaviour Change groups are run at several different organisations. In the Inner East Region of Melbourne, there are groups run by Relationships Australia in Kew (phone 03 9261 8700) and Link Health and Community in Glen Waverley (phone 1300 552 509). You can find out more about the program on the Men’s Referral Service website here.
- Men’s Referral Service provide counselling and support for men affected by family violence, including men who are victims of family violence and men who are using violence against others. You can call them on 1300 766 491 or visit their website here.
- MensLine Australia is a national telephone and online support service that can provide support for men experiencing relationship problems. Visit their website here for more information or call 1300 78 99 78 (24 hours).
Family Drug Support have a brochure called ‘Walking The Tightrope’ which provides helpful information about alcohol and other drug-related violence in the family, including tips on communication and staying safe. You can see the brochure by clicking here.
Making a safety plan
If you feel unsafe in your home and are worried about the risk of violence, you might want to develop a safety plan. This can include a list of people and crisis services you can call, safe places you can go and what you might need to take with you.
- For more information on creating a safety plan, please visit the Safe Steps website here or the 1800RESPECT website here.
Family Intervention Orders
A ‘family violence intervention order’ is a legal order which can be made by the Court to stop someone from using family violence or from contacting their partner, ex-partner or family member. Anyone who is experiencing family violence can apply for a family violence intervention order at their local Magistrate’s Court. If you need protection straight away, you can apply for an ‘interim intervention order’ which starts immediately. The police can also apply for a family violence intervention order on your behalf. If you need protection straight away, they can apply for an interim intervention order.
- For information about how to apply for a family violence intervention order in Victoria, please visit the Magistrate’s Court website here or the Victorian Legal Aid website here.
- To contact your local Magistrate’s Court, click here to find your local court.
- To find your local Community Legal Centre, please click here.
- You can click on the video below by the Eastern Community Legal Centre which explains what a family violence intervention order is and how you can apply for one. You can also watch this video in other languages from their website here.
Support Services for Siblings
It can be really tough when your brother, sister or sibling has a problem with alcohol, other drugs or mental health. Siblings might feel worried, anxious, guilty, or angry, especially when a lot of the family’s attention is on their sibling.
Siblings Australia is a national organisation that provides support for siblings of children and adults with chronic conditions, including mental illness and disability. To read more about the programs that Siblings Australia provide, click here.
Siblings Australia provides support across the following five categories:
- Direct support to siblings
- Offering education for parents to support their children.
- Working with service providers to assist them in providing more informed support to siblings.
- Undertaking advocacy for greater recognition of siblings in government policy and community.
- Promoting and undertaking research on issues related to siblings and their families.
If you are interested in reading more about Siblings Australia, you can view their website by clicking here.
There are different workshops and courses available for families who might want to learn more about alcohol or other drug use or mental health.
Family Drug and Gambling Help: InFocus Education Program
InFocus is an education program by Family Drug and Gambling Help through SHARC. If offers practical information, coping strategies, life skills and an opportunity to connect with people with shared experiences. It covers topics such as ‘stages of change’, guilt and worry, setting boundaries, and planning for the future.
- To book into InFocus, phone Family Drug and Gambling Help at SHARC on 1300 660 068.
- For more information about InFocus, visit the Family Drug and Gambling Help website
Family Drug Support: Stepping Stones
Stepping Stones is a four day workshop by Family Drug Support which is usually run over two weekends at different locations across Australia. The workshop focusses on helping families develop coping skills and communication strategies, and includes a program workbook. To book into a Stepping Stones workshop, contact Family Drug Support on 1300 368 186 or visit the website here.
Family Drug Support: Stepping Forward
Stepping Forward is a three part information session run by Family Drug Support at different locations across Australia. Each session runs for around two hours. The sessions include information on ‘stages of change’, alcohol and other drug use and good communication. To book into a Stepping Forward session, contact Family Drug Support on 1300 368 186 or visit their website here.
BreakThrough for Families: Workshops to Help Families Understand Addiction:
BreakThrough offers workshops to families and friends impacted by someone’s drug use. It supports family members to get the facts, develop strategies and find out where to access help and support.
To find out more about BreakThrough and how it can help you, call the Family Drug and Gambling Helpline on 1300 660 068 or visit the BreakThrough website.
To register for upcoming local and online workshops, click here
Wellways Australia: ‘Wellways Discovery Peer Learning’
Wellways Australia runs the ‘Wellways Discovery Peer Learning’ program which is for people who experience mental health challenges, or carers, families and friends. The program runs over five weeks and provides an opportunity for people to share and learn about mental health and recovery. The sessions are held in a group setting or one-to-one and led by people with lived experience.
For more information or to find out when the next program starts in your local area, contact Wellways on 1300 111 400 or visit their website here.
Spectrum – Borderline Personality Disorder Workshops
Spectrum is a specialist service for people with personality disorders and complex trauma. Spectrum run workshops every two months for families and friends who want to learn about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and how to support someone with this diagnosis. You can find details of upcoming workshops on the Spectrum Eventbrite page here and or click here to read more about these workshops.
Eating Disorders Victoria – Carer Courses
Eating Disorders Victoria run two courses for families supporting someone with a restrictive eating disorder (such as anorexia nervosa). This includes the UPSKILL Course and the RENEW Course. You can find out more about these free courses on their website here.