Assessment Session Protocol

The counselor welcomes the client and provides an overview of the session. In this session, the counselor assesses the client’s marijuana use while laying the foundation for a positive client–counselor relationship.

Build Rapport and Give an Overview of the Assessment Process

To build rapport and engage the client during the assessment session, the counselor informs the client about the sequence of events for this session and what to expect in the overall treatment approach. Introducing session topics, providing information, and responding to client concerns are the primary tasks during this part of the session. The counselor could begin the first session of BMDC with the following introduction:

Counselor (C): Let’s talk about what we’d like to accomplish in the assessment session. We need a clear description of your marijuana use—how much marijuana you use, how often you use it, and what types of problems marijuana might be causing you. I’ll ask you detailed questions about your marijuana and other drug and alcohol use, and I’ll also ask you questions about how marijuana use has affected your daily life.

I’ll summarize this information in the Personal Feedback Report that I’ll give you during our next session. We’ll use the PFR to compare your marijuana consumption with national averages and to get an idea about how to set your treatment goals. The session will take about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Some questions may be difficult to answer and a real test of your memory; just do your best to be honest and patient! Remember that the information is confidential and is used only to help you accomplish your therapy goals.

Conduct an Overview Assessment Using Open-Ended and Summary Questions

Most assessment tools, including a few presented later in the session, use closed-ended questions (How many days in the past month did you smoke marijuana?), but the counselor starts the session by using open-ended questions to engage the client (Tell me about your marijuana use pattern over the last month) before transitioning to more detailed tasks. Open-ended questions allow the counselor to establish a dialog with the client and build rapport by

• Showing genuine interest

• Conveying a nonjudgmental and accepting attitude

• Demonstrating the ability to track accurately what the client is saying

• Expressing empathy with the client.

The dialog might go as follows:

C: How did you hear about this program?

Shirley (S): I’ve seen the ads in the paper for several weeks. Originally my husband left one on the kitchen table for me.

C: You’ve worked with your husband to get here, and the two of you have given this a great deal of thought. Have you tried to quit on your own?

S: I try to quit almost every day, or at least I think about it. I’m going to be an elementary school teacher; in fact, I’m doing my student teaching now. I feel that quitting is the right thing to do—to be a good example to the kids. But nothing ever changes.

C: But you keep trying. What brings you here today?

S: Well, I know someday I will quit, and I’ve been looking at the ad for this program. I never thought anyone would offer treatment for pot smokers!

C: This was the opportunity you were waiting for. What would you like to see happen as a result of coming to treatment?

S: I guess I thought I’d get help on how to quit. But I realize that ultimately it’s up to me, and it’s way past time to do something.

C: You understand that it’s your decision on what to do, but you also think that being here might help you. How confident are you at this point that you’ll succeed?