Worker on laptop

Building mental health capability in the alcohol and other drug workforce

4 April 2023
Developing the third edition of the Guidelines
The third edition of the Guidelines on co-occurring alcohol and other drug and mental health conditions aim to address a critical and longstanding workforce development need.

Co-occurring alcohol and other drug (AOD) and mental disorders are two of the most common and burdensome health conditions in Australia, with one in five Australians meeting criteria for an AOD or mental disorder each year. In AOD treatment settings, co-occurring mental health conditions are the rule rather than the exception. Nearly half of people seeking AOD treatment are estimated to have a co-occurring mental health condition, and those with co-occurring conditions are at a higher risk of treatment non-completion and relapse. 

It is critical that AOD workers have the capacity to provide high-quality, evidence-based care. Yet despite the high prevalence and impact of co-occurring conditions, AOD workforce surveys, strategies and government reports have continued to identify co-occurring conditions as a priority workforce development need for over 30 years.  

3rd edition of the Guidelines

What are the Guidelines and who are they for?

In 2020, the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care funded researchers from the Matilda Centre (led by Guidelines team Dr Christina Marel, Professor Katherine Mills and PhD candidate Erin Madden) to develop the third edition of the Guidelines on the management of co-occurring alcohol and other drug and mental health conditions in alcohol and other drug treatment settings (the Guidelines). 

The Guidelines were developed in consultation with families and carers, people with lived experience of mental health and substance use, clinicians and AOD workers, academics, researchers, and policy makers. The Guidelines have three key aims: 

  1. Increase the knowledge and awareness of co-occurring mental health conditions;
  2. Improve the confidence and skills of AOD workers;
  3. Increase the uptake of evidence-based care.

In parallel, the existing Guidelines website and online training program were also updated, to facilitate the translation of the Guidelines into practice. The online training has been developed for the continuing professional development of practitioners, as well as those in training, who work in the AOD sector.  

screenshot of the Guidelines homepage

The third edition of the Guidelines builds on the highly utilised first and second editions, which at the time of third edition release, had been disseminated to more than 37,800 AOD workers and students worldwide. Similarly, the updated website and online training program builds on an expansive workforce userbase, which as of January 2023 totalled over 3.6 million page views, >494,000 web sessions and 8,700 online training users. Moreover, the vast majority of participants reported that the online training program had increased their knowledge, confidence and capacity to address co-occurring mental health conditions in their practice; 85% reported using what they had learnt in their clinical practice, and almost two-thirds reported improved client outcomes following their completion of the training program.

What resources are available for workers?

The Guidelines, website and online training program can be freely accessed via the Guidelines website ( More details about the Guidelines and accompanying resources can be found below.


The Guidelines on the management of co-occurring alcohol and other drug and mental conditions in alcohol and other drug treatment settings (3rd edition) are available in the following formats:


The online training program has been developed to assist AOD workers who work with clients experiencing co-occurring mental health conditions and is based on the Guidelines on co-occurring conditions.

  • Cost: FREE

  • Length: 12 training modules that can be completed at your own pace in any order

  • Suitable for: There are no prerequisites to enrol in the training program; however, it is assumed that participants will have an understanding of AOD use. 

  • Outcomes:

  • Increased knowledge and awareness of mental health conditions;

    • Improved confidence in working with clients with co-occurring mental health conditions;

    • Improved ability to identify mental health conditions; 

    • Improved ability to recognise and respond to physical health comorbidities;

    • Understand delivery of a coordinated care approach to clients with co-occurring mental health conditions;

    • Understand management and treatment of co-occurring mental health conditions;

    • Improved ability to manage worker self-care. 

Further information and access to training modules is available via the Guidelines website.

The Guidelines on co-occurring conditions has additional resources to help clinicians, including:

  • Client worksheets

  • Screeners

  • Assessments

  • Evidence-based practice webinars

  • Cognitive behavioural techniques

  • Anxiety management techniques

  • Referral pro-forma

  • Links to useful resources, guidelines, research and information organisations

Visit the Guidelines website to access these resources.

For further information contact about the Guidelines contact

Erin Madden

Research Officer
  • Level 6 Jane Foss Russell Building G02

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