Perhaps you or a loved one is concerned about your drinking, but you are not sure if you really have a problem. Or perhaps you are clear that you have a drinking problem, but are not sure how serious it is. Equally important, you may be uncertain about how to determine what treatment options are available if you are assessed to have a problem.
How do I know if I have a drinking problem?
Alcohol problems can be hidden or minimized by therapists
Often, even if you are in on-going therapy, your therapist may not be in a position to adequately assess your drinking. This can happen if your therapist, while skilled in many areas, is lacking specific expertise regarding alcohol abuse. Or it can also happen if your drinking problem has not come into clear enough focus (perhaps you have not been comfortable being fully forthcoming about details of your drinking or about your concerns).
Get consultation from a professional with specific expertise in assessing alcohol issues
To obtain a useful assessment, the first step is to find a consultant with special expertise in assessing alcohol problems who is also knowledgeable about a range of resources for addressing these problems. A therapist certified in addictions is most likely to be qualified to do this.
What is involved in a competent alcohol assessment?
A competent assessment will include a history of your alcohol use, describing quantity, frequency, and consequences of drinking at various stages of your life. Special attention will be given to recent patterns of use, and concerns about the consequences of your drinking — your own concerns as well as your awareness of the concerns of others (partners, family members, friends, and colleagues).
What tests may be involved?
Often the alcohol consultant will use standardized paper and pencil tests to augment the in-depth interview assessment. Two measures that are commonly used are the Michigan Alcohol Screening Test and the Alcohol Use Inventory. Your scores can be compared to norms for each measure to help determine where along the drinking continuum (from problem drinking to alcoholism) your drinking falls. This can provide feedback that can be helpful in deciding what treatment goals (abstinence or moderation) may be most appropriate for you, and what treatment resources can be most useful in helping you to achieve these goals.
What Treatment Options May be Considered?
A skilled and knowledgeable alcohol consultant will be able to help you tailor the treatment to your specific situation – not only the severity of your alcohol problem, but also other aspects of your life situation, available supports, and treatment preferences in a manner that feels right for you.
Outpatient treatment options may be adequate for your particular problem.
If more intensive treatment is indicated, the consultant may recommend a detox, a day or evening program or a rehab and should be able to discuss specific facilities that may be good choices for you.
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Dr. Marsha Vannicelli is an internationally recognized author and lecturer who has written highly acclaimed books and articles along with scores of workshops and lectures about her work with those with alcohol problems.