Psychological Evaluations

What Is a Psychological Evaluation?


A psychological evaluation is a helpful tool for drug courts and professionals working with patients with substance use. The evaluation helps the drug court probation officers better understand the patient’s history, experiences, symptoms, and patterns of behavior. Often participants entering drug court come with complex histories of trauma and mental illness that can interfere with their ability to engage in programming. Using clinical interviews and standardized tests, a psychologist assesses the participants, thoughts, emotions, behaviors with the goal of identifyin


g the patient’s diagnoses, treatment needs, and best pathways forward in the drug court program. The evaluation can help you identify your participant’s treatment needs, and strategies for helping the participant thrive within their program.


What happens when you get a psychological evaluation?

The participant will sit down with a psychologist to undergo the psychosocial interview. This interview will ask the participant about their experiences growing up, educational experiences, medical history, mental health history, and substance use both past and current. The participant will also be asked about their emotional wellbeing, stressors in their life, and trauma history, and their reasons for seeking treatment.



Based on the referral question, the psychologist will ask the participant to take a series of tests. Some of these tests may be self-report and ask the patient about their experiences and behaviors over a specified period of time. The psychologist may ask the participants to take a series of tests asking them to engage in activities that looks at their thinking and memory. These tests can be short or can take a few hours; the psychologist will provide a time estimate prior to testing beginning.


After the psychologist fin


ishes the evaluation, a report will be written. This report will provide mental health diagnoses and will directly address the original question. The psychologist will help the participant and the drug court treatment team understand the participant’s experiences and behaviors and strategies for helping them achieve their treatment goals.


Addictions and Psychological Evaluations

Substance use disorders and the treatment of these disorders is complicated not only due to the nature of drugs and dependence, but also due to the co-occurring mental illness, traumatic brain injuries, and trauma patients with SUD bring to addictions treatment.


The National Association of Drug Court Professionals highlights the importance of addressing the need for complementary treatment and social services to address mental health, trauma, educational needs, and life needs in order to help participants make positive progress. A psychological evaluation can help illuminate how past brain injuries or learning disabilities could be impacting a patient’s performance or ability to understand materials. Illumination of a history of trauma or mental illness can help the counselor understand why a patient may be resistant to change or struggling with parts of treatment. Addiction is one of the most complex mental health, brain, and behavioral disorders. Understanding these factors using psychological evaluations can help patients and addictions professional implement more individualized treatment plans.


Common questions a psychological evaluation can answer:

What stage of change is my participant in?

Is the participant ready for treatment?

Does my participant have a learning disability or traumatic brain injury that will impact his or her participation in treatment?

Does my participant have a mental illness that will impact participation in addictions treatment?

What complementary treatments and social services do they need?

Why is my participant struggling in treatment?


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