Chemical Dependency Evaluation sounds like an ominous phrase. Knowing that it is a very formal and specific process can create anxiety, which can prevent people from seeking help.
In this article, I offer resources that can help you know what to do if you have been court ordered for an evaluation, what to do if you have received a DUI, or what to do if you have been required or encouraged to receive an evaluation that is not court- or law-related.
What is a Chemical Dependency Professional?
Washington State offers a certification for professionals who have completed coursework and supervision specifically focused on chemical dependency. The Chemical Dependency Professional (CDP) can be employed by addiction recovery centers, mental health agencies, and private practices. Sometimes these professionals are also Licensed Mental Health Counselors, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, or even Marriage and Family Therapists. However, just because a person is qualified to provide mental health services, does not mean that they are certified by the state to provide assessments and therapy for chemical dependency. This is important to note because of the nature of state certification and how that factors into quality assurance and legal issues. If you are looking for a Chemical Dependency Evaluation, be sure that the evaluation is administered by a Chemical Dependency Professional.
Court Ordered Evaluations and DUI Assessments
When assessment and recovery becomes intertwined with the law, one encounters an additional layer of difficulty. If you have been charged and/or convicted of a drug or alcohol related crime, the first step would be to talk with a lawyer about your options and what is best in your circumstances. Drug and alcohol counselors cannot provide you with legal information or counsel. Finding a state-approved agency or counselor is a crucial part of the chemical dependency evaluation, especially when dealing with the legality of criminal charges. The directory of certified chemical dependency services can be found here.
Chemical Dependency Assessments
Assessments for chemical dependency are fairly straightforward and take the form of question and answer. The CDP will gather data regarding the use of drugs and alcohol as it pertains to the individual. Some questions that you may be asked include: How often do you drink alcohol or use drugs? Do you have a family history of alcohol or drug addiction? Have you ever been arrested or charged in connection with a drug or alcohol related crime? Considerable information is needed to conduct a thorough assessment, and many of the questions can be personal. Sometimes the assessments include more formal questionnaires, and potentially also a urine drug screen and/or breathalyzer. These are typically only used during a court-mandated assessment or DUI assessment as required by state regulations. In other circumstances, administration of the test instruments is at the discretion of the CDP.
Feedback on the Evaluation
After the evaluation is completed, the CDP typically provides a diagnosis and offers treatment recommendations to the client. The thought of getting an official diagnosis can be overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you navigate this portion of the process.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is your right to know your diagnosis.
- Get as much information as possible regarding what the diagnosis means, how it will affect you, and what to do in order to move forward.
- Ask about your treatment options and why the recommended treatment is the best course of action for your particular situation.
- Know that your evaluation is protected under the same HIPAA laws as any other medical record. Your record and results therefore cannot be disclosed without your written consent.
The process of getting a chemical dependency assessment can take between one and two hours. Costs will vary depending on the agency or practice in which you choose to be evaluated. Most insurance companies offer at least partial coverage for the assessment, depending on the specific medical plan. Out of network providers can offer the paperwork for you to submit to your insurance company.
The Difference with Private Practice
In my practice, I have attained referrals from local schools as well as from people who are concerned that their drug or alcohol use has gone too far. The assessment process in my practice is slightly less formal than in community mental health settings and court-related processes. I will ask pointed questions, and gather data and information as mentioned above, but I try to make the process more conversation friendly. I find it helpful to know as much background as possible, in addition to the recent circumstances that have factored into getting a chemical dependency evaluation. The process in private practice may involve the same testing instruments that I previously mentioned, but this is at the clinical discretion of the Chemical Dependency Professional. Knowing that this process provokes anxiety for most people, I try to be very sensitive to the person coming in and explain as much about the process as I can. I welcome questions and discussion as well as family members or friends who would like to be involved in the process.
Christian Counseling and Chemical Dependency Evaluation
As a Christian counselor who is also a Chemical Dependency Professional, I encourage you to reach out to me if you have any questions about getting a chemical dependency evaluation.
“A drunk man’s gaze,” courtesy of YuMaNuMa, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Being a patient is involuntary . . ” courtesy of Ted Eytan, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0)