WHY HAVE A PROFESSIONAL ASSESSMENT?

If you are concerned about your own or someone else's drinking or drug use, the screening questionnaires on this website offer the opportunity to do a Self-Assessment which will help confirm whether or not you have a problem.

Being aware that you have a drinking or drug problem is one thing; doing something about it is another altogether. Sometimes people are reluctant to admit they have a drug problem even in the face of overwhelming evidence; or they may know all too well there is a problem but feel they don't have the willpower, or inner strength to deal with it.

An interview with a professional alcohol & drug counsellor can help get the process started by:

  • Helping to raise the user's awareness of the need to make a change
  • Helping the user believe that with support, they can actually deal with the problem
  • Motivating the user to take action

THE DRUG & ALCOHOL PRACTIONERS ASSOCIATION

In New Zealand, support for alcohol and drug practitioners is provided by the Drug & Alcohol Practitioners Association of New Zealand (DAPAANZ) which monitors the competency and ethical processes of it's members. Please ensure that any alcohol & drug counsellor you choose is a registered member of DAPAANZ. There are a number of students in training and other A&D counsellors who are not actually registered.

The DAPAANZ website maintains a list of active and current registered Practitioners.

DRUG USE AND MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS

When the mental health of the drug user is being affected by their drug use, assessment by a professional is essential. In the past, when treating someone with both a substance use problem and a mental health issue, such clients have sometimes fallen through the cracks in the system. The mental health professionals may have said "we can't help this person until they stop taking drugs", and the addiction specialists may have said "we can't help them until their mental illness is under control".

The research suggests that treating one problem or disorder but not the other is unlikely to produce a good outcome. If someone is trying to cut back on drinking for instance, but there is an underlying or primary depression, their chances of successfully gaining control of it are not great. The depression will need to be treated at the same time, and this requires professional intervention.

Such clients are said to have a dual diagnosis or co-morbid disorders; hopefully these days there is a better understanding that such clients require treatment for both problems simultaneously - preferably from a team working together in an integrated manner.

COURT IMPOSED ASSESSMENTS

Often it is not until someone commits an offence under the influence of alcohol or drugs and ends up in Court that they have to face up to the impact that drinking or drug use is having on their life. Sometimes the judge will order that an A&D assessment be done before he decides what sentence to impose.

In the current political climate in New Zealand (favouring "public safety" and longer sentences), the fact that offending may be driven by alcohol or drug dependence does not mean the judge will not send the offender to prison. In the case of drink driving offences for instance, judges often do not order an A&D assessment until the person has offended for the fourth or fifth time. Because of the seriousness with which drink driving is regarded by the Courts (especially after the third offence), judges have little choice at this stage but to send the offender to prison.

Also in the current political climate, there is very little rehabilitation available in our prisons, and the likelihood that you will receive A&D education or "treatment" in prison is very small. Out of a prison muster of approximately 7,500 inmates in 2006, there are only 174 places available in drug treatment units in New Zealand prisons.

THE ASSESSMENT PROCESS

1) Without Legal Issues:

If you do not have any Court or legal issues and want an A&D assessment, your counsellor will ask questions about your alcohol and drug history, and your personal circumstances and look at the issues underlying and sustaining your substance use. A written report can be helpful, but is not necessary. However you may need to see the counsellor once a week for a few weeks while you work on making changes in your life with his/her support.

If your substance use is serious enough to justify your going to a residential programme (rehab), then a written report will probably be required which the treatment centre will use to decide whether or not you are suitable for their programme.

2) With Legal Issues:

If the Court orders an alcohol & drug assessment, you should be told by the Court or the Corrections department (or even your lawyer) where you should go for the assessment. Alternatively the A&D agency which has been asked to do the assessment by the Court may contact you to set up an appointment.

Depending on the amount of information required, an assessment interview may take from one to two hours. A written report is produced which hopefully provides a clear picture of your history of alcohol or drug use and identifies the underlying issues which may have initiated and now sustain it.

This report may be used in the following ways:

  • by your lawyer to argue on your behalf that the sentence should include A&D counselling or treatment
  • by the judge to impose conditions on your sentence (such as attending counselling)
  • it may also be used by the counselling agency you eventually go to as the basis for the treatment they provide.

COST OF PROFESSIONAL ASSESSMENT

Court Ordered Assessments:

If you are ordered by the Court to have an alcohol and drug assessment, the Court pays the agency that carries out the assessment. There is normally no charge to the client under this circumstance.

Public Health Service:

In New Zealand most alcohol and drug agencies are funded by District Health Boards and you will not have to pay for assessment or treatment. However depending on where you go, the quality of assessments (which are sometimes done by students in training) varies enormously. It is important to check that the counsellor you see is a member of DAPAANZ, the Drug & Alcohol Practioners Association.

Private Agencies:

ADAC is a private company with qualified and experienced counsellors. Assessments done by ADAC counsellors are very comprehensive, and attempt to identify all the relevant background issues which contributed to the start of substance use by a particular client and the factors which maintain their on-going vulnerability.

ADAC is not funded by the District Health Board and fees are charged for our service. Phone (04) 475 9420 to enquire about the fees.