Screening & Assessments

Why are screening and assessments necessary?

The aim of screening is to identify as many potential or actual abusers as early in their use or abuse history as possible so appropriate intervention services can be provided. Thus, the process is twofold. Individuals are screened to identify the potential presence of an alcohol- or drug-related problem, while the assessment stage takes the process a step further and confirms the existence of a problem, identifies the nature of the problem(s), and suggests appropriate avenues of treatment.

Clinicians, counselors, family physicians, coworkers, families, friends, and even addicts themselves can do screenings. This initial step, as mentioned above, identifies a person as a possible drug abuser. It is important to recognize the importance of this step. For drug abusers, screening is often the first step toward recovery. To that end, professionals, as opposed to untrained individuals, may be the best individuals to conduct such evaluations.
When the screening indicates a likely problem, a clinician, counselor, or family physician will want to use a diagnostic interview to determine whether and to what extent the individual’s drug use satisfies established criteria for abuse.

There are two types of interviews that can be utilized during the assessment phase – structured and semi-structured. Structured interviews provide a prearranged sequence of questions that permit untrained individuals to assess reliably. Semi-structured interviews are designed to guide trained mental health professionals in conducting detailed examinations of patients. Although structured interviews yield reliable diagnoses, they do not provide as much information for treatment planning as do semi-structured interviews, which rely more heavily on the interviewer’s expertise and professional training and experience.

Source:  U.S. Department of Labor, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy www.dol.gov./asp

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