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The Role of Psych Evaluation Tests in Addiction Treatment

Psych evaluations serve an important role in helping mental health and addiction treatment professionals correctly identify and treat a client’s problems. Psychological tests are used as tools to accurately assess a person’s challenges, as well as strengths—both of which are important to know for effective treatment to occur.

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Regarding addiction treatment, psych testing helps to provide insight into the interaction between a person’s substance use disorder (SUD) and the other areas of their life. Understanding that connection is essential for establishing a comprehensive and effective treatment plan to support long-term sobriety and health across all aspects of a person’s life. 

Psychological interventions are an essential piece of addiction treatment. Beginning treatment with a comprehension psych evaluation helps to determine what therapies and possible medications should be utilized. Psych evaluations must be conducted on a case-by-case basis to properly assess the unique needs of the individual. [1]

Types of Evaluation & Testing Typically Performed

Many types of evaluations and tests are available to assess the impact, severity, and types of substance misuse an individual is facing. Below is an outline of tests typically performed as part of addiction treatment:

Screening Tools

At the start of treatment, examiners often utilize a variety of screening tools to assess the severity of substance abuse. Questions focus on past use, most recent use, how much people have been using, and what types of substances have been misused. 

Examples of addiction screening tools include the following:[2]

  • Brief Screener for Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs (BSTAD)
  • Tobacco, Alcohol, Prescription medication, and other Substance use (TAPS)
  • Opioid Risk Tool – Opioid Use Disorder (ORT-OUD)
  • Drug Abuse Screen Test (DAST)

Standardized Assessments

Standardized assessments take a more in-depth look into a person’s patterns of substance use that cannot be achieved via screenings alone. Psych assessments for addiction evaluate many factors, including these:[4]

  • Social factors possibly leading to substance use
  • Personal vulnerabilities making one more likely to use substances 
  • Thoughts and expectations about substance use
  • Motivation for change 
  • Impacts of substance use on various areas of the individual’s life 

Examples of Assessment Tools

There are many tools available to assess for substance abuse. Treatment providers must use their professional experience and intuition to select the most appropriate tests for their clients. Examples of psych tests used for addiction treatment include the following:[4]

  • Obsessive Compulsive Drinking Scale (OCDS)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Drug Use Scale (OCDUS)
  • Desire for Drug Questionnaire (DDQ)
  • Alcohol Craving Questionnaire (ACQ-NOW)
  • Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS)
  • Alcohol Expectancy Questionnaire (AEQ)
  • Cannabis Expectancy Questionnaire (CEQ)
  • Alcohol Abstinence and Self Efficacy Scale (AASE)
  • Drug Avoidance Self Efficacy Scale (DASES)
  • Alcohol and Drug Consequences Questionnaire (ADCQ)
  • Brief Situational Confidence Questionnaire (BSCQ)
  • Stages of Change Readiness and Treatment Eagerness Scale (SOCRATES)
  • University of Rhode Island Change Assessment Scale (URICA)
  • WHO Quality of Life Assessment (WHO-QOL)
  • Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF)
  • Personal and Social Performance Scale (PSPS)

Most of the above assessments are self-report measures of substance use and its impact on the individual’s life. The more honest and open the individual is about their history of substance use, the better informed treatment planning can be.  

For people whose history of substance use appears to have affected their neuropsychological functioning, additional standardized tests are available. Neuropsychologists can assess for co-occurring psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and more. Any mental health conditions are then treated alongside the substance use disorder. 

Furthermore, deficits in cognitive functioning, such as general mental functioning, attention, memory, decision making, executive functioning, and communication skills, can also be assessed. Such tests can be used to achieve a baseline understanding of the person’s current levels of functioning across all areas of their life. Targeted treatment can then support any cognitive deficits. 

What to Expect During Psych Evaluations 

During a psych evaluation, you can expect all aspects of your life to be looked at, using a variety of techniques. The evaluator will gather information from as many sources as possible, to form the most complete picture of your life and history of substance use. 

Information is typically gathered from the following sources:[3]

  • Medical, educational, legal, and employment records that can provide helpful information about the individual’s health and functioning 
  • Clinical interview between the client and the examiner to explore personal and family history, patterns of substance use, and motivation for change
  • Interviews from additional relevant people, such as other health providers, family members, or friends 

Once background information is collected via the above sources, formal psychological testing can occur. Standardized procedures are then used to assess the client’s current levels of functioning across various areas of their life.[3]

How Psych Evaluations Impact Addiction Treatment 

Psych evaluations impact addiction treatment by helping to identify the true issues that may be driving substance use. By accurately identifying those problems, appropriate treatment plans can be designed to meet the unique needs of the individual in treatment. 

Screening and assessment tools can be used to identify psycho-social weaknesses that may have made the individual vulnerable to a substance use disorder. Once identified, those weaknesses can be targeted and strengthened, to improve treatment outcomes.[4]

It’s important to remember that there are no right or wrong answers in psych evaluations and testing. You don’t need to prepare for these assessments or worry about them ahead of time. The goal of psych testing is to get an accurate evaluation of current levels of functioning, so the most effective treatment can be accessed.

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Medically Reviewed By Dr. Alison Tarlow

Dr. Alison Tarlow is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the States of Florida and Pennsylvania, and a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She has been a practicing psychologist for over 15 years. Sh... Read More

Updated February 16, 2024
  1. The relevance of the psychological evaluation in drug dependence. Popescu, G., Negrei, C., Balalau, D., Ciobanu, AM., and Baconi, D. Journal of Medicine and Life. 2014;7(3):120-122.
  2. Screening and assessment tools chart. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published January 6, 2023. Accessed January 30, 2024.
  3. Overview of psychological testing. Psychological Testing in the Service of Disability Determination. 2015.
  4. Assessment tools for screening and clinical evaluation of psychosocial aspects in addictive disorders. Lal, R. and Singh, S. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 2018;60(4):444-450.
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