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Communicating within your service

There is overwhelming evidence to support the implementation of universal communication practices in drug and alcohol services.

Reviewing your service's communication practices

Practice Tips for Workers outlines a range of strategies that can support you with your communication practices. For implementation to be consistent and the impact of changes measurable for clients and staff, there needs to be an organisation-wide approach to changing communication practices that is supported by management.

Many modifications can be implemented at little or no cost. Reviewing all communication practices may seem overwhelming, but breaking down the task into realistic timeframes will make it manageable. Services could consider reviewing one area of communication at a time over 12 months as part of their quality improvement cycle. The following questions provide a brief guide to what to consider when assessing organisational communication practices:

  • Is all service information that's available to the public clear, concise and an accurate reflection of the service and its practices?
  • Is plain English used in all documents provided to the public and clients?
  • Is Easy English used (including images) when appropriate?
  • Does the service environment have clear, concise and appropriate signage?
  • Are clients involved in developing resources that are designed for them?
  • Is all information provided to clients both verbally and in written form to maximise the person's understanding?
  • Are alternative options to written program elements available for clients with cognitive impairment or low literacy?
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Reviewing your service's environment

Although service facilities are not often purpose built, minor alterations can be made to the physical environment for little or no cost to support people with complex needs.

For example, some people with cognitive impairment can be overstimulated by the environment, impacting on the way they're able to engage and interact in activities, such as group work and counselling. People who've recently exited prison may feel uncomfortable in surroundings that replicate the prison environment (e.g. bars on windows). Reviewing the surroundings, adapting them to reduce the possibility of distractions and decrease the feeling of being institutionalised will help provide a more conducive environment for treatment for people with complex needs.

The following questions provide a brief guide to what to consider when reviewing your service environment:

  • How many and what types of images, information, posters and resources are on the walls and doors?
  • Do these hide important signs (e.g. room numbers or names)?
  • Is there a computer on in the background during group, assessment, intake or counselling sessions? Is the screensaver visible to clients and potentially distracting?
  • Is there any excess noise that may be distracting or frustrating?
  • Is the lighting appropriate?
  • Is there a quiet, calm, safe space available for clients who may need time out from an intensive program activity?
  • Is there an outdoor space where clients can spend time?
  • Does the environment feel institutionalised (e.g. ex-hospital building)? If so, how can this addressed for all clients and particularly for those with a history of contact with institutions?

The Service Communications Audit Template provides a starting point for reviewing service practice and includes questions relating to three key communication areas.

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Find out more

Practice Tips for Workers can guide you in adapting current communication practices.

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