What are the different types of community orders that forensic clients may be on when they are referred for treatment, and how do they differ?

There are different community-based sanctions depending on the seriousness of the offences and the point in the sentencing process (e.g. pre-sentencing, post-sentencing or post-imprisonment). The following Orders can all have an AOD treatment condition attached to them.

• People on bail may be subject to treatment conditions attached to a Court Integrated Services Program (CISP) which is monitored by a CISP case manager (rather than Community Corrections). All the other Orders listed below are supervised by Community Corrections.

• At sentencing, individuals may receive a Community Corrections Order (CCO) or a combined sentence of Imprisonment (up to 1 year) with a CCO.

• Victorian Drug Courts (which are a division of the Magistrates’ Courts currently in Melbourne and Dandenong) can also impose a Drug Treatment Order for a period of two years, which includes a community AOD treatment and supervision component, and a custodial component. If offenders successfully comply with the treatment and supervision component, they can avoid serving the period of imprisonment.

• Some clients may be released from prison to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community via a Parole Order (provided their sentence allows for it).

• Serious Violent or Sexual Offenders who are perceived to present an ongoing risk to the community may receive a Supervision Order of up to 15 years which can include an AOD treatment condition.

For more information about the different orders see the Information Sheet on this website entitled Understanding Community-based Sanctions.

If a client discloses current substance use to me, am I required to report it?

There are several factors that need to be considered when determining whether it’s necessary to report substance use to Corrections Victoria. The Collaborative Practice Framework identifies circumstances where it is required to disclose substance use to Corrections Victoria to ensure risk is appropriately managed. For clients subject to Parole Orders any substance use must be reported to CCS. For clients subject to CCO’s any significant substance use is to be reported to CCS. It’s important to discuss these reporting obligations with your client when you start treatment.

When in doubt, refer to the Collaborative Practice Guidelines and use your clinical judgement to determine what needs to be reported, in what circumstances, and when. Remember to raise these issues in supervision to determine how best to assist your client and manage the treatment moving forward.

I find it difficult to find the right balance between the needs of my client and the requirements of the Department. How do you balance these?

This is a common challenge for clinicians working in the forensic sector who may feel uncomfortable reporting on their client’s behavior to the Community Corrections office, particularly where they are concerned that it may result in a breach of the client’s Order and a return to prison.

It is important to keep in mind that working collaboratively with CCS often achieves better outcomes for the client than keeping information from them. By identifying concerning behavior early you are able to work with the CCS case manager to intervene early to avoid a breach of the Order and to manage any risks posed by the client’s behaviour. Case managers can decide to work more intensively with clients who are presenting with risky behaviours, and can work to address the client’s needs in other areas of their life such as mental health, housing, employment, financial support and referrals to other treatment services.

It is also important, however, to ensure that you maintain an open, trusting relationship with your client. Ensure that you are clear with the client from the start of treatment what information is confidential and what information you are likely to be sharing with their CCS case manager. If you are planning to disclose information to the case manager it is generally advisable to discuss this first with your client and explain the reasons for doing so.

If you are unsure about whether to disclose information about your client, seek clinical supervision or discuss the issue with your manager before proceeding.

We are so busy seeing clients, there really isn’t time for clinical supervision. Does this matter?

Unfortunately, agencies are often very busy with high workloads, and clinical supervision becomes a lower priority or stops altogether. When this happens, time with your supervisor or team leader can tend to focus on the management aspects of supervision rather than providing an opportunity and safe space for reflective practice.

Working with forensic clients (and other AOD clients) presents daily challenges, and without the support of clinical or reflective supervision it is easy to burn out and to stop doing your best work. Clinical supervision and reflective practice are also very important for developing your therapeutic skills and problem-solving the challenges and complexities in your client work.

Clinical supervision can occur on an individual basis, or alternatively many agencies find that group supervision provides a valuable opportunity to share knowledge and reflect on practice with your peers. If you are not receiving clinical supervision in your workplace, discuss opportunities for clinical supervision with your supervisor or team leader.
For more tips about this topic, review the Information on this website entitled Clinical Supervision.

How can I learn more about working with forensic clients?

In addition to the Forensic Fundamentals half-day training, the Department of Health and Human Services will also be offering a full-day Advanced AOD Forensic Training in 2019, delivered by Caraniche. Caraniche have been a key provider of forensic AOD treatment to offenders in the Victorian justice system for the past 20 years, and have been providing Forensic AOD Training courses since 2013.

The Advanced AOD Forensic training is suited to more experienced clinicians and will cover topics including working with violent and sexual offenders, shared care of clients with acute mental illness, working with acquired brain injury, and trauma-informed practice strategies, as well as further exploration of topics covered in the Forensic Fundamentals training. Your agency will be informed when this training commences in 2019.