SASSI Use and Training Requirements

We are often asked if there are clinical or psychometric prerequisites to using the SASSI and which sessions of SASSI training are needed/required. The answer depends on the wide range of activities under the umbrella of “using the SASSI.”

SASSI training is not required for human service professionals whose professional certification includes assessment (e.g., psychologist, LCSW, LCDC, etc.) Individuals who do not have this professional training can administer the instrument if they have appropriate professional supervision by someone who does; therefore, they are not required to complete SASSI training. However, we suggest that those individuals possess good people skills, the ability to pay careful attention to detail, and understanding of professional and ethical confidentiality issues. If supervision is not available, then the individual needs to complete Session I (Administration & Scoring) of training; this will allow them to score a questionnaire and use the decision rules to identify individuals as high or low probability of having an SUD. Even in settings where supervision is available, we suggest completing Session I so they know the accuracy of the instrument and understand how to present the questionnaire to the client and how to address questions that may arise.

Interpreting SASSI scale scores requires an understanding of percentiles and norms, as well as knowledge of the scales and the impact of defensiveness. Session II (Clinical Interpretation) covers these essential topics and using the scale scores for a more extensive interpretation. Completing Session II is not required, but we highly recommend that individuals providing feedback on the results to clients and/or writing reports complete it. Since the level of interpretation can vary immensely, the degree of psychometric and clinical training needed to interpret the SASSI is not easily summarized. For example, when interpreting a low DEF score of 2 an interpreter can say with complete accuracy that the person who got this score is not responding to DEF items in a similar manner to those individuals who are deliberately trying to minimize or conceal their substance use. If one understands the scale, one can, with a small inferential step report, that this person, while completing the questionnaire, generally agreed with more negative self-statements, and disagreed with more positive self-statements than the average person. Rephrasing this as similarity to individuals who are self-critical in responding to the questions adds a little more inference. Assuming that the person is likely to be self-critical in other areas (such as in an interview) or one who consistently puts themselves down is a larger inferential step. An even bigger leap would be to conclude that the person may be depressed, feel hopeless, and have a greater than average risk of suicidal thoughts and a history of abuse. An understanding of the differences between defensiveness as a clinical trait and a reaction to a situational context is also important.

In general, the greater the level of inference, and the more the clinical information is limited to just the SASSI scores, the more such relationships between score patterns and clinical syndromes should be treated as hypotheses to be further investigated rather than firm conclusions. A counselor who wants to report the presence of depression and a higher risk of suicide should do a more comprehensive assessment and have the clinical background to know the difference between depression as a state, trait, and disorder and the psychometric background on the concept of base rates to understand that a higher risk of suicidal thoughts than the average client can still mean a low rate of this symptom.

Additionally, we recommend you contact your state or provincial government about the laws regulating assessment and testing in your area.

For information on registering for SASSI training, please visit Also remember that FREE assistance with scoring and interpreting the SASSI is available by calling 800-726.0526 option 2.