Chemical Health Assessments...
Information you need to know before making your
If you've been ordered by the courts to get a chemical
health assessment (or chemical health evaluation), or requested by your
employer, or out of your own personal concern, there are
things you must know when seeking a
chemical health evaluation in order to avoid a
misdiagnosis and inappropriate recommendation
which could lead to negative outcomes effecting you for
years (financial, professional, legal, etc.).
Chemical health assessments are also
known as chemical health evaluations, chemical
dependency assessments, alcohol and drug assessments
more. Many places provide chemical
health assessments: hospitals, treatment centers,
government agencies, and private, independent chemical
Below are four things you should know before
scheduling an appointment for your chemical assessment.
I was contacted by an
individual who felt he had been
misdiagnosed. He wanted another
assessment to serve as a second opinion.
The original diagnosis was Chemically
Dependent with the recommendation that
he complete an outpatient treatment
program. As a result of this
assessment he was out of work (no pay and no
benefits - except COBRA) until he completed
an outpatient treatment program.
Issue #1 - No collateral
contacts were made as part of the first
Issue #2 - I completed an
evaluation for this client with the client
reporting occasional drug use (marijuana
once every four to six months). Upon
completion of the evaluation, including
collateral contacts, I found nothing
(according to the mandated diagnostic
criteria for problem pattern use) to
indicate dependency issues. This
person may have been making a few bad
decisions which caused some problems, but he
was not Chemically Dependent.
important if someone is diagnosed with
patterns consistent with chemical
dependence or chemical
abuse, they receive the proper referral and help
It's equally important for a person to be
diagnosed correctly with a proper
recommendation provided. As in the
case above, the misdiagnosis cost this
person his livelihood.
How Experienced is the Evaluator?
Do they have a license to conduct
chemical health evaluations? Is the person conducting the
evaluation fresh out of school? How many years
have they been conducting assessments? Choose an
experienced evaluator who has worked with many clients
through a broad spectrum of situations. Evaluators who
have limited experience or have only worked in one area
of service may not be your best choice to serve your
Note: Interviewing skills are imperative to the
assessment process and the correct diagnosis. An
experienced, skilled interviewer starts with a clean
slate and asks appropriate questions in order to gather
enough information to thoroughly understand the client's
history and current situation. An
evaluator's interview with you should consist of much
more than simply reading questions from a standard form.
For example, an evaluator at a treatment center may
utilize an assessment tool for determining level of care
for treatment services. This type of assessment tool
may not be appropriate for all clients since not all
clients need treatment services. A skilled,
understands there are limitations to these types of
tools and will ask additional qualifying questions in
order to thoroughly understand a client’s situation and
make appropriate recommendations.
It is also important that the evaluator understands the
client's legal right to the least restrictive diagnosis as
mandated by law through DSM-IV-TR* criteria
concerning diagnosis and referral.
#2. What's Included in an Evaluation and How Much Time Does It
Where does the interview take place?
It's critical that the
interview is conducted during a face-to-face
in a private setting in
order to assess a client appropriately.
The evaluation consists of
an in-depth interview which takes about 2 hours.
It takes time to conduct a quality interview and to
understand and document your whole story.
use will be reviewed along with the impact of that use
on your daily life and
relationships during the interview.
Collateral information should be gathered during
the interview. You will be asked to bring in names and
contact information of people who you know and know your
situation. They will serve as your
collateral contacts to provide additional information in
the evaluation process. There may be a few
situations where collateral contacts aren't necessary,
but that's the rare exception, not the rule.
called me for advice. She recently completed a chemical health
evaluation conducted by another evaluator. She
had received a DUI (her first) and wanted an
independent assessment completed prior to
going to court. The diagnosis
from the evaluation was Alcohol Abuse
and the recommendation was a 12 hour
education course to support her recovery
Issue #1 -
The recommendation included in the original
evaluation wasn't appropriate for the
Issue #2 -
The summary provided to the client was brief
and didn't offer any information or
explanation as to the
reason for the diagnostic impression.
Issue #3 -
I completed an evaluation for this client
and I found nothing to substantiate the
diagnosis of Alcohol Abuse.
damaging effects from a misdiagnosis can be
hard to correct.
#3. What Will You Be Receiving After the Evaluation?
The information should provide more than one or two
brief paragraphs. You should receive a detailed
summary of the evaluation with the diagnosis and
recommendations The summary should provide specific,
documented, itemized information which justifies the
diagnosis and clearly communicates to the client how and
why the clinician arrived at their diagnostic
I prefer to present my evaluations in a narrative
format. This format allows the flexibility to present
the client's situation and my findings in a manner that
is detailed, thorough and understandable. This
format has proven to be very effective for my clients,
particularly in providing supportive information for a
client's court case.
is the Cost?
The average cost is $250.00.
What's more important than cost is the value of the
service provided. Receiving the wrong service at a
low price can end up being very costly to you.
Make sure you are receiving the right service at
the right price.
Note: If a person is seeking chemical dependency
services and needs public funding to pay for the
treatment, the State of Minnesota provides financial
help to those who qualify. More information can be