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Service approach

Our principles

Guthrie House’s guiding principles inform the organisation’s approach and underpin our programs and services. Our guiding principles include:

  1. Providing a safe space that operates with integrity and fairness for women to maintain a drug and alcohol free lifestyle.
  2. Designing services that are culturally inclusive of people from a culturally and linguistically diverse background and the Aboriginal community, and which reflect dignity, respect, and diversity.
  3. Working with the strengths of the individual and help clients build on existing knowledge and skills while developing new ones.

Our service and treatment approaches

All Guthrie House interventions are informed by best practice evidence. We acknowledged that the strength of the therapeutic alliance and relationship between staff and clients is predictive of positive outcomes, including engagement and retention of clients in the treatment process and that the link between the therapeutic alliance and outcomes is independent of the type of intervention used.

Guthrie House provides services based on the following treatment philosophies and approaches:

Length of residential treatment

The most common predictor of successful outcomes for individuals in residential treatment programs has been length of stay in treatment (Ernst & Young 1996). The appropriate duration for an individual depends on her current circumstances and needs however research indicates thresholds of significant improvement are reached at about three months. The Guthrie House residential program includes strategies to engage and keep residents in treatment for a period of three months. (Drug and alcohol treatment guidelines for residential settings, NSW Health)

A gender-responsive approach

To provide a specialist women’s only residential environment with, programs, groups and services facilitated by women to address issues experienced by women. This includes substance use and dependence shaped by gender; how the criminal justice system impacts on the lives of women specifically, gender inequality and issues prevalent among women such as financial, physical, emotional and sexual abuse.


Abstinence-based approaches aim to support clients to live a drug-free lifestyle. Guthrie House uses the abstinence based approached with intensive clinical psychological services to address underlying mental health issues and complex needs and to address issues of disadvantage affecting individuals in their present lives.

Strength-based approach

Strength based approach focuses on finding strengths and identifying positives within the individual and their networks and encompasses theories and broader ideas such as empowerment and wellness. It informs proposed interventions in such a way as thinking about how language is used, how programs are run and client consultation.

Trauma informed care

Women involved in the criminal justice system with AOD issues have a higher likelihood of past experience of traumatic events, including sexual assault and physical violence. Impacts of even severe trauma can be resolved or managed using the five core principles of safety (physical and emotional), trustworthiness through relationships with workers, choice, collaboration and empowerment.

Case management

Case management is the process of coordinating the acquisition and delivery of services to meet individual client needs, providing a holistic and client-centered approach. This approach recognises that clients with multiple and complex needs access services from a range of providers and that working in partnership with these providers and the client will improve care planning, service facilitation, outcome monitoring and advocacy, as well as reducing duplication of services.

Evidence based interventions – Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)

CBT is a structured therapy that aims at adjusting thoughts and behaviours that control problematic behaviours. CBT focuses on the cognitions, or interpretations of events that lead to actions and emotions incorporating strategies such as skills rehearsals and relapse prevention.

Evidence based interventions – Motivational interviewing (MI)

Motivational interviewing is a person-centred, guiding method of communication for eliciting and strengthening internal motivation for change (Miller, Rollnick, 2009). MI seeks to increase the perceived importance of making change and increase the person’s belief that change is possible.

Family inclusive practice

Family inclusive practice includes providing meaningful support and appropriate referrals for families, as well as their involvement and participation in the planning, care and treatment of clients. Working with family and carers is an essential part of a comprehensive response to working with people with drug and alcohol problems. Guthrie House supports and encourages individuals to accept support and have access to family while in the program.

Health promotion

Health promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over their health and its determinants, and thereby improving their health status. Health promotion not only embraces actions directed at strengthening the skills and capabilities of individuals, but also actions directed towards changing social, environmental, political and economic conditions to alleviate their impact on populations and individual health.


Extended and continuing care or aftercare is provided following exit from the residential service. The primary aims of this service are: supporting the client to continue their lifestyle changes, maintaining health, coping with stressors, managing crisis and preventing relapses while reintegrating into the community. Contact with clients through extended care can be used to prompt a step-up or step-down from treatment when needed.

Client/consumer participation

Consumer participation is the process of involving clients in decision-making about service planning, policy development, setting priorities and qualities issues in the delivery of services.