Many people in alcohol and other drug treatment are clients of other services, however there is limited consideration of the combinations and sequences of services and systems that they use. We used data visualization to analyze and re-present findings from a large research project on clients’ service use and referral sources in the year preceding alcohol treatment entry. Data were from 16 “high-end” service users with alcohol problems and analysis involved constructing individual text and timeline summaries and a visual encoding system to show service type and referral source. Three distinct service use pathways were identified and a visual model of alcohol treatment, other service use and continuity in treatment was constructed. Timelining was a useful means of developing a creative and illuminating perspective during analysis. Although there is a risk of over-simplification, data visualization appears useful for focusing on and communicating the diversity of people’s service use pathways.


Visual Representation, Timelining, Qualitative Analysis, Alcohol, Treatment Access

Author Bio(s)

Lynda Berends is the Director of TRACE Research, an independent consultancy, and a Senior Visiting Fellow at the University of New South Wales, Australia. She has a PhD from Monash University. Lynda specialises in the study of community-based alcohol and other drug services and systems, working with practitioners and policy writers to develop service delivery models that support service accessibility and effectiveness. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: lynda@traceresearch.com.au.

Michael Savic is a Research Fellow (Addiction Studies) in the Eastern Health Clinical School at Monash University, and at Turning Point in Melbourne, Australia. He has a PhD in Public Health from the University of Adelaide. Michael has led multiple alcohol and other drug treatment evaluation and implementation research projects and he is particularly interested in qualitative and critical approaches to the examination of clinical tools, programs and interventions. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: michaels@turningpoint.org.au.


The original research was funded by the Australian Government, Commonwealth Department of Health. We appreciate the considerable contribution from participants and the support for the research that has been provided by alcohol and other drug services in Victoria and Western Australia. Thanks also to the researchers involved in undertaking interviews and data entry for the project.

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