So your loved one has finally agreed to get help for problems with alcohol and other drugs, but when you call their youth worker and ask for information about how they are going, it feels like you are getting the run around.


Privacy is important but surely parents have a right to know what’s going on?

It is absolutely understandable that you want to be involved in your child’s care and know as much as possible. You especially need to know if they are at risk of harm and probably want to know how long they will be in treatment and how they are progressing.

Research suggests that young people will engage and do better in treatment if they know they can share their story without being judged and that their information is being kept private. Think about it, would you open up to a counsellor or youth worker about what is really going on for you if you thought that information might be leaked to other family members or the police?

Youth AOD workers are skilled in building trusting relationships with young people so they can (with time) feel free to open up and talk about their substance use in an honest and reflective way. 

This is at the heart of effective drug and alcohol treatment and your support and understanding of this approach will give your loved one space to start to make changes. It is also important to remember that if a young person gives consent then they can choose to share whatever info they want with you or others. This can be some measure of progress when a family is able to be more involved in treatment.

your support and understanding of this approach will give your loved one space to start to make changes.


Drug and alcohol workers are also trained to always be on the lookout for potential dangers that the young person might be exposing themselves to and give them education and support to stay as safe as possible. This approach, called harm minimisation has a lot of research backing it up.

Though it is against the law for a health service to break the confidentiality of a young person, in an extreme instance where a young person is considering harming themselves or others, this privacy can be broken in order to get the support and treatment the person needs at the time.

Understanding a young persons need for a safe and private space to work through their drug and alcohol issues and putting aside your own need to ‘know everything’ is a powerful way that parents and loved ones can support a young person in overcoming drug and alcohol issues.