Michigan Substance Abuse Evaluations for Teens and Young Adults

Michigan Teenagers who drink can sometimes find themselves on the wrong side of the law.  This includes being charged with crimes like MIP (minor in possession) and Minor BAC (which is under age drunk driving , also known as zero tolerance), among others.

Many courts in Michigan treat underage drinking very seriously.  Some judges have a track record that includes jail time for crimes involving underage drinking, but most judges understand that severe punishment for these kinds of crimes is not appropriate.  Instead, many courts look at teenage drinking crimes as an opportunity to assess whether or not the teenage offender is at risk for problematic drinking, and then to order that the offender become involved in treatment.  To assure compliance, the court will also order monitoring like daily or random PBTs (preliminary breath tests).

In order to be proactive, and to help the teenage offender and his/her family determine if an alcohol problem does exist, or might be brewing, some lawyers in Michigan will refer their client for a private substance abuse evaluation.  This substance abuse evaluation can be used as a baseline to begin treatment, and it can also be used by the lawyer to help with plea negotiations and sentencing.

Substance abuse evaluations for crimes like MIP and Minor BAC as the same as substance abuse evaluations for “adult” crimes like drunk driving.   As such, the substance abuse evaluation will include an interview and the administration of usually two or three different psychometric tests, the purpose of which is to help the therapist determine if there is a drug or alcohol abuse problem, and then to recommend an appropriate treatment plan.

The evaluator, usually a clinical psychologist or other highly trained mental health/substance abuse professional, will determine from both the tests administered and the interview if the patient meets the criteria for the DMSV 5 diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder.  This diagnosis is one of the factors used in determining the treatment plan with the client. Oftentimes clients will follow up for treatment by using their health insurance plan; however, evaluations that are legal in nature are not covered by health insurance policies. The treatment portion of the evaluation, if recommended, is covered as long as it has not been ordered by the courts. This is another reason for a youth to be evaluated prior to sentencing in the courts. Besides the financial and legal incentive for an independent substance abuse evaluation, the client benefits from early intervention by an evaluator in order to receive guidance and direction toward a healthy relationship with alcohol in the future.

Many times youth will not in need of follow-up treatment, and the evaluation can assist the lawyer in the advocacy of the client in terms of suggesting a lighter sentence. However, when treatment is warranted, early intervention not only assists the youth’s developmental trajectory and well-being, but assists in the planning purposes and shows prior cooperation on the part of the youth at sentencing time.


How to Find the Right Therapist

Once you have made the decision to seek treatment for your psychological and/or addiction concern, the next thing you will need to decide is with whom to treat.  You will also need to make this decision as you look for someone to prepare you substance abuse evaluation for your Michigan Driver License Restoration Hearing.

One thing to consider is the specialized background of your particular therapist.  It is also important for you to have a good professional relationship with the person you choose.

Keep in mind that the area of addiction medicine is very complex and does require specialization.  Also, and I know this is confusing to the public, training levels of professionals vary widely and the term “therapist” tells you very little about the person’s education level.

Master Degree Therapists:

People that have obtained master’s degree level training often call themselves counselors, therapists, psychotherapists, social workers or limited-licensed psychologists.  By Michigan law they may not call themselves “clinical psychologists” because this title is reserved exclusively for PhD level training.

Most master’s degree therapists have anywhere from 1 ½ to 3 years of graduate training after the college degree. You should also be aware that there are health care workers who do not have any or very minimal formal college training who can call themselves counselors.

Clinical Psychologist:

To add to the confusion, there are different kinds of clinical psychologists which depend on the type of specialized training.  Some PhD level psychologists have training that is geared toward research only while others such as myself have PhD training that is geared toward research and treatment.

Typically, clinical psychologists have over 10 years of higher education.  Clinical psychologists must complete a doctoral dissertation or independent full-scale research project as a requirement for the degree. Many clinical psychologists continue research and continue publishing research throughout their careers. At the early part of my career I did research and publishing in the area of cognitive behavioral therapy and addiction and treatment of addiction.  I now devote my practice solely to seeing patients.

After completing their “formal” training, clinical psychologists also must work in the field for one year in internship before being granted the final degree. Then they must pass a grueling state licensing exam which they cannot even take until they have been practicing in the field for two years after receiving their PhDs. In addition, many psychologists like myself, undergo even more training, such as my additional two year post-doctoral fellowship and year-long training for certification in cognitive therapy through the Academy of Cognitive Therapy in Philadelphia.

Finally, once they jump through all these hoops and can finally practice independently (whereas most other counselors, incidentally, can never can practice independently, but must always be supervised), PhDs generally partake in continued education to stay up-to-date on research and techniques to keep them on top of the field.

Because of all this dual training clinical psychologists are true “scientists-practitioners,” and the best always keep their pulse on the cutting edge of biological and psychosocial treatment research, while bringing the developments of science to you in the treatment office. Many clinical psychologists also serve as faculty members at major colleges and universities.

Knowing the background of your evaluator and/or therapist can help you make an informed choice of the best person to meet your needs, and can make a big difference in your treatment outcome.

Rule 13 Makes License Restoration Difficult

When I prepare a substance abuse evaluation I am doing so because you have been convicted for multiple drunk driving cases and your license has been revoked.  Under these cirumstances the rules from the Secretary of State require that you present a substance abuse evaluation before you can regain your license.

The rule also requires that in order to regain your license, you must present clear and convincing evidence, which I understand to be a very high standard, just below the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.  Your experienced driver license restoration lawyer can explain these various standards to you.

According to rule 13, your substance abuse evaluation must help you establish by clear and convincing evidence:

  • That any alcohol or substance abuse problems you have are under control and likely to remain under control.
  • You are at low or minimal risk of relapse.
  • You have the ability and motivation to drive safely.
  • You must also demonstrate complete abstinence from alcohol and/or controlled substances for at least six months but usually for one year.

 When I perform my substance abuse evaluation these factors are some of the things that I will be looking at and thinking about and I will cover them in your evaluation.

 If I believe that I cannot help your attorney make out your burden of proof, then I may recommend further treatment and/or a longer period of abstinence.

You can find more information about Michigan driver license restoration at the Win Back Your Life web site.