Making multiple ‘online counsellings’ through policy practice: an evidence-making intervention approach

Michael Savic, Ella Dilkes-Frayne, Adrian Carter, Renata Kokanovic, Victoria Manning, Simone N. Rodda, Dan I. Lubman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Online counselling services for a range of health conditions have proliferated in recent years. However, there is ambiguity and tension around their role and function. It is often unclear whether online counselling services are intended to provide only a brief intervention, the provision of information or referral, or constitute an alternative to face-to-face treatment. In line with recent analyses of alcohol and other drug (AOD) policy and interventions that draw on a critical social science perspective, we take an evidence-making intervention approach to examine how online counselling in the AOD field is made in policy and through processes of local implementation. In this article, we analyse how online AOD counselling interventions and knowledges are enacted in Australia's AOD policy, and compare these enactments with an analysis of information about Australia's national online AOD counselling service, Counselling Online, and transcripts of counselling sessions with clients of Counselling Online. We suggest that while the policy enacts online counselling as a brief intervention targeting AOD use, and as an avenue to facilitate referral to face-to-face treatment services, in its implementation in practice online counselling is enacted in more varied ways. These include online counselling as attempting to attend to AOD use and interconnected psychosocial concerns, as a potential form of treatment in its own right, and as supplementing face-to-face AOD treatment services. Rather than viewing online counselling as a singular and stable intervention object, we suggest that multiple ‘online counsellings’ emerge in practice through local implementation practices and knowledges. We argue that the frictions that arise between policy and practice enactments need to be considered by policy makers, funders, clinicians and researchers as they affect how the concerns of those targeted by the intervention are attended to.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-82
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Alcohol and other drugs
  • Implementation science
  • Online counselling
  • Policy
  • Treatment

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