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Your practice with young people

Values, bias and perspectives

You will need to check your values, bias and assumptions. Ask yourself:

  • How do I feel about young people who smoke or use alcohol and other drugs?
  • What feelings come up for me about working with young people who use?
  • What was my own experience as a young person with alcohol and other drugs? How does this influence my thoughts and perceptions now?
  • How has alcohol and other drugs impacted on my life?
  • What values and beliefs do I have about:
    • legal or illicit drugs?
    • young people who use particular types of drugs?
    • a pregnant young woman who uses alcohol or drugs?
    • a young person who uses alcohol and other drugs and is aggressive or violent?
    • what does this mean for the way I work with certain young people or in certain situations?
  • How do I check in about my practice, thinking and decisions?
  • How does it make me feel when a young person does not respond to me or refuses to talk with me about their alcohol and other drugs use?
  • How do I continue to be an ally when it is hard?
  • How do I not give up on a young person when it feels hard?
  • What would I do if a young person in my personal life had problematic alcohol and other drugs use?
  • How do I link the personal and professional in this area of practice?
  • What do I say if a young person asks me if I have used illicit drugs?
  • What aspects of discussing alcohol and other drugs issues am I comfortable with? Uncomfortable with?
  • Who can I contact when I want to learn more about effectively supporting a young person who smokes or uses alcohol or drugs?
  • How do I see the problem? How do I express it?
  • How do I understand the lived experience of the young person I am working with?
  • What needs do I think young people have?
  • How would I describe the young people I work with in terms of age, cultural connection, gender and sexual identity, connection to family, education and work?
  • How involved do I think young people should be in deciding what interventions to use and how will I promote their participation?

In supervision

Use one of the following activities in supervision to explore how values and perspectives impact on casework and on making decisions for young people who use alcohol or drugs.

Discussing practice values—take one of the following statements and brainstorm how relevant you think it is to youth alcohol and other drugs practice:

  • Families should always be involved in treatment.
  • Young people become adults at age 18.
  • Drugs take away people’s ability to make choices for themselves.
  • Substance use is always wrong.
  • Substance use is usually a sign of an underlying mental health problem.
  • The person must want to change, to engage in treatment.
  • Young people usually know what’s best for them.
  • People have the right to decide what they do with their own body.
  • Drug use is a moral problem.
  • Parents are usually responsible for how their children turn out.
  • Problematic alcohol and other drugs use is a part of adolescent risk-taking.

Same, same but different:

  1. Think of as many terms as you can to describe: ‘young people’ and then ‘people who use drugs’.
  2. Consider how many of these terms are positive, negative or neutral.
  3. Consider the context of how each term tends to be used, for example, in the media, in health services and elsewhere.
  4. Where does the young person or group of young people you work with fit?
  5. What does this mean for how they are seen by you and others?
  6. What can you do to shift this?

Allocate roles—of the young person, parents, family and caseworker to explore all perspectives about the young person’s alcohol and other drugs use:

  • What am I thinking, feeling, worried or scared about?
  • What is my perception of other people and what is happening?
  • What have I found helpful and unhelpful?
  • What do I need from others to help me or to support the young person?
  • What have others missed about me?
  • What would make a difference for me right now?

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