Supporting best practice for sexual and gender minority AOD clients

ACON’s Substance Support Service provides individual, outpatient counselling to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people experiencing problems with alcohol and other drug (AOD) use. The service is one of few AOD services in Australia that is specifically designed for LGBTI people.

This evaluation examined the impact of the service on clients’ substance use and psychosocial wellbeing, and whether clients of the service reported different treatment outcomes to clients attending mainstream services that are not specifically tailored to LGBTI people. The evaluation also included in-depth interviews with clients, staff and key stakeholders to explore experiences of treatment, perspectives on the benefits and limitations of the service, and how service delivery could be improved. The findings showed that clients of ACON's service reported significant reductions in the use of principal drugs of concern, improvements in quality of life and reductions in psychological distress. It was not possible to compare ACON clients with LGBTI clients from mainstream services, due to the absence of data on gender and sexuality at mainstream services. Interviewees generally appreciated the quality of the ACON services, but recommended a number of improvements, including increasing the visibility of the service and improving referral pathways.

Research Centre

Centre for Social Research in Health

Research Area

Health Promotion

Lea, T., Brener, L., Lambert, S., Whitlam, G., & Holt, M. (2021). Treatment outcomes of a LGBTQ alcohol and other drug counselling service in Australia: a retrospective analysis of client records. Drug and Alcohol Review, 40(7), 1358-68.

Evaluation of ACON’s Substance Support Service

This presentation will report findings from a mixed-methods evaluation of ACON’s Substance Support Service, an outpatient AOD counselling service for LGBTIQ people. It will examine treatment outcomes among ACON clients and compare their treatment experiences with clients of comparable mainstream services. Download presentation [PDF].

Presenters: Prof. Martin Holt and Dr Loren Brener
Researchers: Dr Toby Lea, Dr Loren Brener, Dr Rebecca Gray, Ms Genevieve Whitlam, Ms Sarah Lambert and Prof. Martin Holt.

NSW Health


  • Sarah Lambert
  • James Gray
  • Johann Kolstee 


  • Robert Stirling
  • Suzie Hudson 

Related people

Professor, Research Director (Compliance and Capacity Building) Martin Holt
Professor, Research Director (Compliance and Capacity Building)