As anyone has experienced in the field of drug addiction and
substance abuse will attest, sobriety is the main goal for clients, but much more lies beneath the surface. The more reputable treatment centers are dual diagnosis programs. Without addressing the basis of the substance abuse, the rate of relapse becomes much higher. Identifying the root causes of the addiction and drug abuse plays an integral role in the individual’s recovery and long-term success. However, these causes are not as obvious and apparent as the drug use itself. Identifying a person as ‘drunk’ or ‘high’ may not be that difficult, but identifying a characterological flaw (often labeled a personality disorder), a processing deficit, or poor ego strength as an underlying cause of substance abuse and drug addiction often takes a considerable amount of detective work. Enter the psychological assessment.
A Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) or any other counselor working with the addicted population has to develop a treatment plan that addresses the individual’s specific needs. The proficient treating therapist uses all information available in combination to assist and guide.
It is not enough to simply administer and score the psychological instruments. When performed by an experienced psychologist able to crochet information from the various instruments of the psychological assessment, the information gleaned from these assessments becomes an integral part of the foundation of treatment. Without this information, neither the patient nor the treating therapist has a clear blueprint for success. While such psychological assessments are not a guarantee of success, their absence virtually assures the patient will stumble from sobriety.
It should be emphasized that psychological assessments are not a panacea for all that is wrong for those with drug addiction and substance abuse problems but are rather a piece of a puzzle that requires a high level of professional expertise. Today’s technological advances, such as the DESA (Digital EEG Spectral Analysis), fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), and SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography), offer an objective look at the brain’s altered functioning from drugs. They are invaluable tools in the hands of competent clinicians with which to assist in finding underlying causes of drug addiction and substance abuse.
In addition to data, these technologies can produce clear, computer-simulated pictures of the addicted brain and compare it in pictures to a normal brain. These technologies offer new meaning to the statement “This is your brain, and this is your brain on drugs.” When a patient with cannabis-induced psychosis was able to see his brain on and off drugs, the result was a dramatic shift in his behavior.
When traditional psychological assessment instruments are coupled with technological advances, the results are dramatically enhanced. Those with drug addiction and substance abuse difficulties require and deserve all that psychology and therapy have to offer in the way of help. The disciplines are now equipped to offer more and better help than ever before.
Dr. Andrew Yellen is a parent, former educator, and clinical and sports psychologist in private practice. He is also the co-founder along with his wife Heidi Yellen, M.A., B.C.E.T., of Yellen & Associates (http://www.yellenandassociates.com), a southern California firm providing psychological, educational, speech, and language services.
Currently pioneering advances in the field of Brain Electrical Activity Mapping, Dr. Yellen has augmented the accuracy of psychological assessments by offering the latest technological advances of Digital EEG Spectral Analysis (DESA) to schools, rehab clinics, attorneys, sports organizations, and our injured veterans.