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Ask An Expert: Fiona (Clinical Manager)

July 20th, 2022 Interviews

Hands together

Today’s expert is Fiona, the Clinical Manager of CareNZ addiction treatment service in Wellington.


Mrs D: What services does Care NZ provide?

Fiona: CareNZ provides talking therapy to those struggling with problematic alcohol and other drug use, this is through one on one counselling and group work.

Mrs D: What is Care NZ’s general approach when helping people with addiction issues?

Fiona: CareNZ works within a harm reduction framework. We work alongside the individual to help them achieve their own recovery goals.

Mrs D: Is alcohol the main substance you see people struggling with?

Fiona: Yes, by a long way.

Mrs D: How big a part do you see our alcohol saturated environment playing in the difficulties people have with this drug?

Fiona: Each drug (alcohol included) has its own difficulties in trying to manage problematic use however the availability of alcohol definitely plays a big part. Having to negotiate your way through the weekly supermarket shop, driving past billboard advertising alcohol, even afterwork drinks. It’s impossible to avoid triggers so having good strategies and support in place is key to recovery.

Mrs D: Does abstinence have to be the end result? What other harm reduction results can be experienced?

Fiona: If someone is drinking daily I would recommend a time of abstinence to reset and think about what they want their future drinking to look like. It’s not unheard of for people to be able to drink within healthy guidelines and stick to their own imposed limits but it can be hard work. The important thing is knowing what is okay for you, how to measure that, and have a plan to reach out for support before things escalate.

Mrs D: Why does coming together as a group work so well for your clients? Are people reluctant to open up in front of others at first?

Fiona: It is empowering to share with others that are going through or have been through similar experiences, it helps build healthy relationships and can cut through feelings of isolation and shame. We work with our clients to get them ready for a group, no one is forced to share and even those that are reluctant at first will open up when they feel safe. I am often blown away by the power of intensive group work and the changes that can happen in a (relatively) short time.

Mrs D: How do people access your services?

Fiona: The easiest way to access our service is to call us on 0800 385 151. We also accept referrals from GPs or other agencies.

Mrs D: What do you love most about your job?

Fiona: The people! I have an amazing team and still get to hang out with our clients when I can.

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