Getting your alcohol assessment or alcohol and drug evaluation done online sounds like a cool idea, but, how do you know the court will accept the assessment when you are done? In our experience courts (as well as employers and other authorities) are very open to accepting an online assessment if certain criteria are met.  In addition to our regular counseling services, New Directions (a subdivision of Directions Counseling Group) has successfully provided online assessments for courts, employers and other authorities for the past 10 years. This blog will break down what courts and authorities generally look for in a professional evaluation or assessment and how addresses these concerns.

In summary, there are the three main things that matter to the court when it comes to an alcohol evaluation, drug and alcohol assessment, mental health evaluation, or anger management assessment.

#1 – Was the assessment provided by a licensed or credentialed professional?
Mental health and substance abuse professionals are licensed, overseen, and regulated by state boards. If the evaluator you are speaking to does not hold a state license or specific credential to provide the type of assessment or evaluation you need, your evaluation will most likely not be accepted. Professionals should list their licenses and credentials on their website so you can verify these quickly by looking the individual up on the appropriate state licensing/credentialing website. Professionals should be licensed in the state where they reside. If the evaluator is licensed in a state other than the state where you live, or other than where the original incident occurred, there typically is no problem with acceptance of your evaluation. Two exceptions are New York and Illinois.  Both of these states often require that you use an evaluator who is licensed in their state. You can ask your attorney or court representative before proceeding to use an out-of-state evaluator. Also, if your assessment or evaluation is going to a motor vehicle bureau for license reinstatement, rules vary on a state-by-state basis. View our state map or call us at 800-671-8589 and we will be happy to advise you as to whether our service is appropriate for an assessment or evaluation for your state's licensing agency. 

#2 – Does the assessment or evaluation report contain enough clinical detail to indicate that standard professional questionnaires were administered and a thorough one-on-one interview was conducted?

Courts and employers are accustomed to reading alcohol, drug and mental health assessments. They  generally see two types come across their desk. One is a simple checklist that ends with a brief (canned) recommendation.  This report style often gives the appearance that the evaluator did not spend much time asking you questions in order to arrive at a fair and accurate conclusion about your use of alcohol, use of drugs, or the status of your mental health. The second type of assessment report is one that is more detailed and written to demonstrate a personal awareness of your situation. The report is clearly written in full sentences by a human being with first-hand knowledge and demonstrates an understanding of the language used in courts. When the reader reviews the report and sees a high-quality product, they typically have no concerns about whether the interview was done in person, over the phone, or on a webcam/video conference. Our assessment service strives to provide thorough and detailed reports to courts and employers because it is vital to establishing and maintaining our reputation as licensed professionals.

#3 – Does the assessment or evaluation report contain a diagnosis (or explanation for why a diagnosis does not exist) and a well-reasoned conclusion using language the court is accustomed to seeing.

Courts, probation officers, employers, and authorities are looking for two main things in the report itself:  1) does the individual have a mental health or substance use diagnosis? and 2) is there a recommendation from the evaluator that the individual seeks further services to correct a problem or potential problem.

With regard to a diagnosis, the standard guide is the DSM-5 manual. Only state licensed or credentialed professionals may provide you with a diagnosis from the DSM-5 manual. If no diagnosis exists, the report should establish why this was concluded. If a diagnosis does exist, the evaluator will make an appropriate recommendation to treat the condition. Treatment recommendations will vary but they must be logical and supported by the facts and circumstances around the individual’s situation.

On the off chance that an authority or court challenges or denies your assessment, don’t panic. First ask them what the reason is and make notes on who you spoke with, the date and time, phone number and email address.  A call from the evaluator may resolve any concerns.  If this isn’t possible, ask your evaluator for a refund.  Most evaluators don’t offer a refund once the professional service has been provided. New Directions will refund some or all fees for most unaccepted court related reports (see all refund terms and conditions) with the exception of custody related cases. 

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