- A Blog By Bill Cosgrove, LADC, BCCR


Before You Make Your Appointment for a
Chemical Health Assessment
You Must Read This!

The Truth About Chemical Health Assessments...
Information you need to know before making your appointment.

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 and moreMany places provide chemical health assessments: hospitals, treatment centers, government agencies, and private, independent chemical health evaluators.

Below are four things you should know before scheduling an appointment for your chemical assessment.

Case Study...

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 evaluation. 

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.

Note:  It's important if someone is diagnosed with patterns consistent with chemical dependence or chemical abuse, they receive the proper referral and help they need. 

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.

#1. 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 needs.

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, experienced evaluator 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 Take? 
Where does the interview take place? It's critical that the interview is conducted during a face-to-face confidential meeting, 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.  Your chemical 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.

Case Study...

A woman 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 efforts. 


Issue #1 - The recommendation included in the original evaluation wasn't appropriate for the diagnosis. 


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


The 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 impression.

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.

#4. What 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 found here.

*American Psychiatric Association - Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Access Behavioral Change, a division of Rehab Continuums, Inc.

Conducting independent chemical health evaluations since 1989.

To schedule an appointment, call 612-282-5576


7040 Lakeland Ave. N, Suite 203
Brooklyn Park, MN 55428


2233 University Ave., Suite 341
St. Paul, MN 55114



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