Substance Use Disorders

Abstract:

Basic competencies in assessing and treating substance use disorders should be core to the training of any clinical psychologist, because of the high frequency of risky or problematic substance use in the community, and its high co-occurrence with other problems. Skills in establishing trust and a therapeutic alliance are particularly important in addiction, given the stigma and potential for legal sanctions that surround it. The knowledge and skills of all clinical practitioners should be sufficient to allow valid screening and diagnosis of substance use disorders, accurate estimation of consumption and a basic functional analysis. Practitioners should also be able to undertake brief interventions including motivational interviews, and appropriately apply generic interventions such as problem solving or goal setting to addiction. Furthermore, clinical psychologists should have an understanding of the nature, evidence base and indications for biochemical assays, pharmacotherapies and other medical treatments, and ways these can be integrated with psychological practice.

Specialists in addiction should have more sophisticated competencies in each of these areas. They need to have a detailed understating of current addiction theories and basic and applied research, be able to undertake and report on a detailed psychological assessment, and display expert competence in addiction treatment. These skills should include an ability to assess and manage complex or co-occurring problems, to adapt interventions to the needs of different groups, and to assist people who have not responded to basic treatments. They should also be able to provide consultation to others, undertake evaluations of their practice, and monitor and evaluate emerging research data in the field.