What to Expect in a Substance Abuse Evaluation


Don’t worry.

Attending a clinical substance abuse evaluation can be intimidating when you don’t know what to expect. How long will it take? Who am I going to meet? What will we talk about?

These are common questions but the one you’re probably most concerned with is: what’s going to happen with me?

At Project Courage, we strive to facilitate a comfortable environment where the individual feels at ease and supported. Our purpose in evaluating each person is to make sure that individual is given the best care – whatever the situation. Each evaluation is done by a clinician so that well-informed, educated decisions are made.

How long does the evaluation take?

An evaluation typically lasts two hours from start to finish. We always encourage a spouse, guardian, or close family member to visit as well; one of our family clinicians will meet with them while the client performs the substance use evaluation.

Upon entering the building, the individual and family are greeted by a staff member and introduced to a member of the billing department. Together, they review information such as the program’s financial agreement, which discusses the cost of services and insurance plan. The financial piece takes about 15 minutes.

After discussing the financial piece, the individual and family will be given a tour of the facility, where they can view the offices, group rooms, gym, and library. The tour takes about 15 minutes.

At this point, the individual and family members go with different clinicians – individuals seeking services will perform the substance use evaluation while the family will do an important assessment of their own. 

What will be discussed?

For individuals

The beginning of the assessment reviews documents like the client handbook, releases of information, and policies and procedures.

Once this is finished, a structured interview takes place, where questions about the histories of drug use, mental health, family, and medical will be asked. We understand that disclosing these details is challenging, but also believes they are necessary as each person is the expert on their own experience.

Part of the assessment includes completing a genogram, which goes through the family relationships and history of substance use and mental illness. The genogram helps our clinicians understand hereditary factors that might contribute to substance abuse.

At some point in the evaluation, the individual is asked to render a urinalysis and breathalyzer to assist in the assessment process. The purpose of this is to establish a baseline to work from as we move forward.

To conclude the evaluation, the individual will be asked to fill out four reliable assessment tools. The four surveys are: How I see my Drug Use, Quality of Life, University of Rhode Island Change Assessment, and What I Want from Counseling.

For the family

Substance abuse effects the entire family and research has shown that family involvement greatly increases positive outcomes of treatment. We take the evaluation time to begin working with the family, opening up discussion about how substance abuse has affected them, what resources they are currently using, and what other resources are available.

What happens after the evaluation?

Evaluations help determine the appropriate level of care for the individual, which you can read more about in our previous blog. Once the clinical supervisor reviews the paperwork, a recommendation for care is made within 24 hours. From there, the decision is up to the individual or family, though it is important for treatment outcomes that the recommendations are followed.

From our experience, most individuals who complete an evaluation report a “sense of ease,” acknowledging that it wasn’t so bad. More information about substance evaluations and our services can be found here.


By: Erin Puzycki