What does Turning Point do? And what is your role with Turning Point?
Turning Point is a national addiction treatment centre, dedicated to providing high quality, evidence-based treatment to people adversely affected by alcohol, drugs and gambling, integrated with world-leading research, training and education. My role as Head of Research and Workforce development is to oversee a program of training and research activity which aims to identify at risk populations and emerging trends, empower workforces to respond and treat addiction and evaluate novel interventions that optimise health and well-being. The program has a heavy focus on generating solutions that transform policy, practice and community attitudes.
How does SMART Recovery fit in? And what do you / Turning Point value about the program?
I have long been a strong advocate for peer support having witnessed in both my professional and personal life, the pivotal role it has played in helping people overcome addictive behaviours. Turning Point was one of the first places to run SMART Recovery groups in Victoria when it first came to Australia. Being a strengths-based program where people set their own goals, and one which embraces harm-reduction principles, it offers a complementary form of aftercare which harmonises with the client-centred and holistic approach adopted in the Victorian AOD treatment system.
How has COVID affected things and how have you had to adapt?
Like most services, we had to transition from face-to-face to online meetings which have steadily grown over time. Turning Point currently runs two weekly online groups and the online format means that we have a diverse group of people with alcohol, drug and sex addiction problems, with regular and new attenders from all over Australia. The encouragement, support and ideas shared between members and the knowledge and Peer-to-peer accountability around goals members set themselves each week, keeps people on track and provides a sense of belonging and connection which has been critical during the COVID-19 lockdown isolation period.
Can you tell us about some of the research / studies you’re doing there related to SMART Recovery?
We have been funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services to implement and evaluate SMART Recovery in 3 different AOD treatment settings (Turning Point, Odyssey House and Ballarat Community Health), which includes programs targeting people with offending histories and those in metro and regional Victoria. As part of the project, clinicians and peers completed SMART Recovery training, and then promoted and ran a weekly group for clients at their service. Researchers have been conducting qualitative interviews with SR facilitators and peer group members and will examine the attendance rates and benefits of SR reported in a brief post-meeting survey.
Where would you like to take things next for Turning Point in relation to the SMART Recovery program?
The results of the will shed light on the barriers and facilitators to embedding SR groups in AOD treatment and will hopefully demonstrate the multiple ways in which clients benefit from attending. We hope that this will encourage others services to follow-suit, resulting in an expansion in the number of SMART Recovery groups for clients and non-treatment seekers across Australia. Turning Point are planning to offer both closed and open groups and a women’s group in the future. On the research side we hope to secure funding to measure the effectiveness of SMART Recovery on reducing harm from addictive behaviours and improving health and well-being using methodologically robust research designs.
A/Prof Victoria Manning is a member of both the SMART Recovery International Advisory Research Committee and SMART Recovery Australia’s Research Advisory Committee.