Wellbeing and coping strategies of alcohol and other drug therapeutic community workers: A qualitative study

December 2018
Butler, M., Savic, M., Best, D. W., Manning, M., Mills, K. L., & Lubman, D. I. (2018): The International Journal of Therapeutic Communities, 39, ( 3), 118-128. doi: 10.1108/TC-08-2017-0024


The purpose of this paper is to examine the strategies utilised to facilitate the wellbeing of workers of an alcohol and other drug (AOD) therapeutic community (TC).


This paper reports on the findings of a qualitative study that involved in-depth interviews with 11 workers from an Australian AOD TC organisation that provides both a residential TC program and an outreach program. Interviews were analysed using thematic analysis.


Three main interconnected themes emerged through analysis of the data: the challenges of working in an AOD TC organisation, including vicarious trauma, the isolation and safety of outreach workers and a lack of connection between teams; individual strategies for coping and facilitating wellbeing, such as family, friend and partner support and self-care practices; organisational facilitators of worker wellbeing, including staff supervision, employment conditions and the ability to communicate openly about stress. The analysis also revealed cross-cutting themes including the unique challenges and wellbeing support needs of outreach and lived experience workers.

Research limitations/implications

Rather than just preventing burnout, AOD TC organisations can also play a role in facilitating worker wellbeing.

Discussion and conclusion

This paper discusses a number of practical suggestions and indicates that additional strategies targeted at “at risk” teams or groups of workers may be needed alongside organisation-wide strategies.