“We want people to know that we’re here, and that they can contact us any time if they’re worried they have a problem with alcohol, drugs or tobacco,” says Brian Pringle, general manager of the West Lothian Drug and Alcohol Service (WLDAS).
Operating out of community centres, health centres and other venues across West Lothian, a team of qualified and experienced counsellors dispense hope and help regularly to hundreds of people in WestLothian who are struggling with problems and dependencies. “We have a good rate of success at helping people move on,” says Brian, “and some of our service users come back to help others.”
Alcohol is still the biggest problem here in West Lothian, but the service also covers tobacco and all drugs thanks to the multi-skilled team of counsellors. The charity’s origin, around 30 years ago, was a group of Livingston residents who wanted to offer help to solvent mis-users. It grew from there, and 70% of the staff and board are still local people providing a caring and confidential service for members of their community struggling with addictions or who are at risk of addiction. “We’re not the usual drug and alcohol group such as you see in movies and soap operas,” Brian explains. “We work mostly on an individual basis, where you will see a counsellor for a series of sessions on a one to one basis.” With a background as a psychiatric nurse, Brian has extensive experience in helping people with all manner of mental health conditions and counselling work, which he loves doing - although nowadays as manager of the WLDAS his time is spent ensuring ongoing funding for the service and developing the services they offer. Misuse of drugs or alcohol is often traceable to a root cause or trauma in people’s lives, so Brian was keen to offer psychological services to help people address some of these root causes, where applicable, and prevent relapses. So WLDAS now employs a psychologist. There is also a specialist counselling service for young people who have experienced a sudden bereavement- again, an initiative to address root causes and to prevent dependency problems from developing in the first place.
The first step to getting help can be the hardest, so WLDAS are happy to take a call from a family member or friend in the first instance, so long as they have the consent of the person involved. The fastest way into the service is via the daily drop-in centres, where you can call in with no appointment and find out what you might expect from the service if you do want to make an appointment and start the journey. Drop-in sessions are held at different venues in West Lothian every day, so if you call the service they can tell you where the drop-ins are for the week. The counselling services though are provided via appointments rather than drop-in, and are held at various locations in West Lothian; all of the appointment venues are places where you could be going for any purpose, such as community centres and health centres.
A member of WLDAS staff attends local police stations every morning to see who has been in overnight with an offence for which alcohol or drugs may have been a factor, and to offer help. Likewise, they have someone based at A&E at St Johns Hospital to offer help where drugs or alcohol was a factor in the attendance.
This remarkable organisation provides a host of other services. Brian explains, “One problem with services in the health sector can be people being passed from pillar to post. We offer many relevant services within the “family” so to speak, and on the occasions where we do need to pass on to another organisation, your regular counsellor will be involved in the hand over, take you to the first appointment or whatever is appropriate to ensure continuity of service.” Services run by WLDAS itself include support groups for depression and anxiety; cooking classes in the cafe kitchen at Almondbank Centre; a walking group; a computer group to help navigate the benefits system; taking people to the gym, helping them re-engage with things they used to do, or to try new activities; help with steps back to employment or college; cognitive behavioural therapy, and many other services.
Confidential support and counselling to individuals affected by misuse of drugs and/or alcohol
Dedicated counselling service for young people
Bereavement counselling – Grief Matters - for young people (partially funded by Children in Need)
Dedicated service for young people who want to address their smoking
Dedicated service for offenders and vulnerable adults
Choice of venues in West Lothian offering easier access for clients
Support and counselling to partners, family members and carers
Support and advocacy
Improving health and well-being
Access to further education and voluntary work
Sign-posting to other services
Education and Prevention
Professional Training and Policy Development
8am-6pm Mon – Fri and 9am to 12.30pm Saturday for queries or advice on drugs, alcohol, tobacco and related issues, or to make an appointment to see a counsellor.
The WLDAS counselling services is registered with COSCA, Scotland’s professional body for counselling and psychotherapy.
First published in Konect December 2016
Author: Helen-Jane Shearer