October 2022

Our Young People: Life-Changing Stories
All Stories

Sally is a 16 year old Aboriginal young person from Queanbeyan. Sally had been struggling with her AOD use for a number of years, primarily methamphetamine and cannabis. She had previously completed a brief assessment with one of our outreach counsellors when she was 14 years old, however, declined treatment at that stage.

Sally’s AOD use had increased significantly over the past year, escalating to daily use of methamphetamine and cannabis. She was committing crimes (breaking and entering) to get enough money to fund her substance misuse. Her grandmother was finding it increasingly difficult to have her live in the house, as her behaviour was becoming more extreme each week. Sally would also spend a period of months couch surfing with friends and drug dealers.
While Sally’s mental health was suffering and she reported increasing symptoms consistent with depression, her motivation for AOD change remained low.

Sally first entered the Adolescent Drug Withdrawal Unit (ADWU)program. She was supported with sleep hygiene, received a general health check-up and assistance with the early stages of safety and routine. During her first week, Sally reported that her physical withdrawal symptoms had subsided and that she had been speaking with other young people in the PALM program and felt this was something she would like to consider. The next day, Sally spoke with one of the counsellors and was admitted into PALM.

Sally spent the first two weeks of PALM adapting to the program routine, continuing to detox and building rapport with her counsellor and the rest of the therapeutic community. After two weeks, Sally completed a mini case review where her grandmother was invited in to give feedback and see how she had changed. With the help of her counsellor, Sally set a range of new goals for herself in her action plan. These included exploring the reasons behind her increased AOD use, developing a comprehensive relapse prevention plan, exploring her criminality, improving her mental health, developing a positive view of herself and getting back into school.
Sally spent the next 6 weeks working on these goals through a counselling program involving motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioural therapy. She participated well in the house but found that she often got into conflict with other residents. Sally learnt to manage her relationships with others by participating in mediations and learning how to be assertive.
Sally identified through counselling that her AOD use had increased due to her low moods throughout the COVID lockdowns in 2021 and that the isolation she felt had made it hard for her to deal with her childhood trauma. Sally stated that she felt that all she could do to manage the feelings of sadness and anger was to use drugs and alcohol. She noted her thoughts about doing crime had decreased with the lack of need to use drugs.
Sally completed a number of relapse prevention plans and had some success and some lapses while out on day and weekend leaves. By the end of her stay, Sally was very motivated to no longer use methamphetamines and cannabis, but was planning to drink alcohol with her friends on weekends. Many plans were made around problem solving and how this might and might not work.
Family work was conducted with her grandmother and extended family to rebuild relationships which had been strained over the last few years. While Sally and her grandmother were able to reconcile some of their conflicts, both agreed that Sally finding independent housing was important to them maintaining this relationship. Sally applied for a number of refuges and homelessness support programs.

Sally was connected with Centrelink and was enjoying budgeting her money each fortnight. Sally got part-time work during her second month doing casual reception work. She also enrolled herself in an ACT college and started year 11 in term 2.
Sally completed PALM after 2 ½ months and moved into our independent housing program as she was finding it extremely difficult to access housing support options in the ACT or NSW.
Sally has since been supported through our aftercare (CALM) and outreach programs (COOP). The CALM team worked with Sally while in PALM to get her the part-time work and re-enrol her in education.
Sally is still linked with the counselling service, and her sessions are now fortnightly. Sally reports occasional cannabis use, and still struggles to limit her drinking at times, but has not had any further significant use of methamphetamines. Sally also reports no further crime since starting ADWU/PALM. Sally reports that her mental health is much more manageable, and that she has a range of strategies and supports for when she starts to feel this slipping.