Tag: SASSI-4

Research Update: New Publication in Women’s Health

The SASSI Institute recently published an article in Women’s Health on early intervention and resources for expectant mothers with substance use problems and service shortages in the present age. Within it, we discuss the need for more research and collaboration in regards to substance use disorder  and criminal Justice, especially to assist women avoid the stigmatization and ostracizing they may experience; many simply by virtue of having experienced the disease of addiction. When combined with the criminalization of drug use, society inevitably finds itself entrapping these women in a revolving door fed by the “drug-crime” connection, but now also including newborns. Babies should NOT be born in prison, especially sick babies; however, when they are, quality prenatal care, early intervention, and community support upon release from prison are imperative to help those babies and their mothers have positive long-term outcomes. Please consider this a call to action, we welcome your interest in collaborative efforts.

Pre-employment Screening / A Profile Review on the Proper Use of the SASSI-4

A recent caller wanted help in interpreting a profile completed by a 33-year-old male. He was instructed to complete the FVA/FVOD side of the questionnaire for the last 12 months. The administrator revealed during the call that the assessment was a pre-employment screening for the Department of Transportation. The helpline does receive regular calls from counselors who administer the SASSI-4 for the Department of Transportation after a driver has failed a drug or alcohol test for substances, but not for pre-employment screening.

In review, the client comes up with a high probability of a substance use disorder based on Rules 2,5,6 and 9. The RAP is 0 and the Rx Prescription Drug Scale is 0.

The FVA is below average use, the FVOD is on the 50th percentile. The SYM scale of 7 is above the 85th percentile, considered elevated and thus Rule 2 meets the criteria of a High Probability of a Substance Use Disorder. The rest of the scale scores are within the norm (between 15-85th percentiles) so clinically are not significant but are significant in meeting the criteria of a Substance Use Disorder if accounting for the additional rules of # 5, 6 and 9. The SAT of 5, being in the norm indicates the client was not in denial about his usage.

Considerations

Although the results do not account for current or actual use, further assessment may include urine screens that would give a more accurate representation of current use of substances. He does come up with a high probability of a Substance Use Disorder, so deeper inquiry is necessary.

The administration of this SASSI was part of a pre-employment screening and our position on the proper use of the SASSI in this regard, is very explicit:

From our User’s Guide and Manual: *

“The purpose of the SASSI is to help identify people who are likely to have substance use disorders so that early intervention and treatment can be initiated when appropriate.”

“To use the SASSI to discriminate against individuals violates the intent of the authors and may even violate the law.”

“SASSI results should not be used to abridge the rights of individuals or to disqualify applicants for positions, such as jobs or benefits, such as public assistance programs.”

Thus, it is extremely important to use the results in the most therapeutic way possible with the best intentions of helping individuals with a substance use disorder.

If you have any questions, please contact the Clinical Director, Kristin S. Kimmell, LCSW, LCAC at kristin@sassi.com.

*SASSI -4 User Guide & Manual – Chapter 1 (overview), pg.7
SASSI-4 Online User Guide – Proper Use of the SASSI. pg. 8

FREE LIVE Clinical Q&A Registration Open

As discussed in a prior blog, we are expanding our free clinical phone service by offering free live clinical Q&A sessions online. These Q&A sessions are open to everyone. The Q&A will be hosted by our Clinical Director, Kristin Kimmell, LCSW, LCAC, and will last one-hour. We invite you to ask questions or share experiences regarding unusual or difficult profiles you may have come across, but all questions are welcome. You can also join just to listen to the group discussion.

Our first free Q&A session is scheduled for Tuesday, October 4th from 1-2 pm ET. Click here to register today. Due to time restraints, the session will be limited to the first 25 registrants. As new dates are added we will post them to our blog or you can check the registration page via the link above in this blog.

Note that this Q&A does not provide CEUs and is not a substitute for SASSI Training.

We hope you will join us!

Coming Soon: LIVE Clinical Q&A Sessions

Since the release of the original SASSI in the late 80’s we have had the pleasure of providing free clinical consultation and support for those using our instruments via our toll-free phone line. Our clinicians have enjoyed speaking with professionals about SASSI results and strive to make it a useful and pleasant experience. We are planning to expand on this service by offering free live clinical Q&A sessions online. We invite users of our instruments, those considering implementing our instruments, and students, to join our Clinical Director, Kristin Kimmell, LCSW, LCAC, for these FREE live one-hour sessions. Here you will be able to ask questions or share experiences regarding unusual or difficult profiles you may have come across, but all questions are welcome. You can also join in simply to listen to the group discussion and are not required to ask questions.

We hope this will be a useful expansion of our clinical service and look forward to having engaging group discussions. We believe we can learn from you as well and these discussions will help us be sure that our research is up to date with current concerns in the field of SUD. We will be announcing the date, time and registration information for our first Clinical Q&A next month on our Blog so be on the lookout for it!

LGBTQA issues: What side of the Profile Sheet to use in cases where gender is in question?

We receive regular phone inquiries regarding which side of the Profile Sheet to use in scoring either the Adolescent or Adult SASSI when the client identifies as transgender or neither male nor female. This comes up whether one is using the paper and pencil or the online version.

To affirm one’s self-identity can be powerful and empowering so a discussion with a client who is either questioning their gender identification or sexual orientation or is very clear about either one can be a very supportive encounter. The message given is one of sensitivity, respect, and validation for their choices.

As a way of addressing this issue the adult SASSI-4, adolescent SASSI-A3, and Spanish SASSI ask for ‘gender’ in the demographics rather than ‘sex.’ This allows the client to indicate their self-identity. What side of the profile sheet used for scoring purposes should either (1) conform most closely to what the client indicates or (2) after discussion with the client, what they feel most comfortable with given the gender limitations of M/F on the SASSI.  The research is based on binary identification and as such, we are limited in adding additional categories. Future research will undoubtedly be more inclusive. Regardless, the results are valid. The overall goal of the inventory is to give both the administrator and the client a compass to follow with useful information regarding the extent that substance use may or may not be a problem.

To be clear, score the side of the profile sheet that the transgender client self-identifies with. Not when or if they started hormones, or in a current state of transitioning, or they identified as a different gender when the legal offense happened.

A client may express a preference to not identify in any way and decline any gender identification. In that case, the administrator may want to score both sides of the SASSI to see if there is any difference in the result. More often than not, the result will be the same. The primary differences in M/F are in the FVA/FVOD scales which impact Rule 1 and Rule 10 in SASSI-4. There are no differences in the SASSI-A3.

The following is a list of LGBTQA terminology and definitions provided from the Prism Youth Community, part of Bloomington PRIDE here in Indiana:

These definitions were borrowed and adapted from several sources including the University of California- LA LGBT Campus Resource Center, the University of California Berkeley Gender Equity Resource Center, the University of Michigan Spectrum Center, and the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee LGBT Resource Center.

Definitions may vary with location, era, and culture. It is very important to respect people’s desired self-identifications. One should never assume another person’s identity based on that person’s appearance. It is always best to ask people how they identify, including what pronouns they prefer and to respect their wishes.

Ally – Typically any non-LGBT person who supports and stands up for the rights of LGBT people, though LGBT people can be allies, such as a lesbian who is an ally to a transgender person.

Androgyne A person appearing and/or identifying as neither man nor woman, presenting a gender either mixed or neutral.

Asexual – A person who is not sexually attracted to any gender or does not have a sexual orientation. Asexuality is not the same as celibacy.

Bisexual or Bi – A person emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to males/men and females/women. This attraction does not have to be equally split between genders and there may be a preference for one gender over others.

Cisgender – A person who feels comfortable with the gender identify and gender expression expectations assigned to them based on their physical sex.

Gender Expression – The way in which a person expresses their gender identity through clothing, behavior, posture, mannerisms, speech patterns, activities, and more.

Gender Identity – A person’s sense of being masculine, feminine, or other gendered.

Genderqueer A gender variant person whose gender identity is neither male nor female, is between or beyond genders, or is some combination of genders.

Homosexual or Gay – A person primarily emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to members of the same sex.

Intersex – A person whose sexual anatomy or chromosomes do not fit with the traditional markers of “female” and “male”. For example: people born with both “female” and “male” anatomy (penis, testicles, vagina, uterus); people born with XXY.

Lesbian – A female-identified person attracted emotionally, physically, and /or sexually to other female-identified people.

LGBTIQA+  – Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual or ally, and other identities.

Pansexual – A person who is sexually attracted to all or many gender expressions.

Partner – A significant other in an intimate relationship; a gender-neutral alternative to boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, or other binary-based relationships terms.

Queer – 1. An umbrella term for people who are not heterosexual or cisgender. 2. A reclaimed word that was formerly used solely as a slur but that has been semantically overturned by some members of the LGBTIQA+ community, who use it as a term of defiant pride.

Sex – A medical term designating a certain combination of gonads, chromosomes, external gender organs, secondary sex characteristics and hormonal balances.

Sexual Orientation – The desire for intimate emotional and/or sexual relationships with people of the same gender/sex, another gender/sex, or multiple genders/sexes.

Sexuality – A person’s exploration of sexual acts, sexual orientation, sexual pleasure, and desire.

Trans – An abbreviation that is sometimes used to refer to a gender variant person. This use allows a person to state a gender variant identity without having to disclose hormonal or surgical status/intentions.

This term is sometimes used to refer to the gender variant community as a whole.

Transgender – An umbrella term for a person whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth.

SASSI Online Tips and Tricks: Volume 2 | Delivery Options

In this edition of SASSI Online Tips and Tricks we highlight setting up a questionnaire and the delivery options. When administering a questionnaire, you have six options. This volume will cover the first five in depth. The last one, SASSI to Go, will get its own volume, so watch for that!

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SASSl-4 Profile Analysis – DOT Client

We frequently receive calls requesting clinical interpretation of profiles done on Department of Transportation (DOT) clients. These clients have failed their drug/alcohol screening and their license to drive has been suspended pending an evaluation. In this particular case, the client is a 68-year-old female whose alcohol level registered above the DOT threshold. Her SASSI result indicated a high probability of a substance use disorder based on Rule 9. As you see on the graph, most of the scale’s clinical results fall within the norm. DEF, at 11, is above the 98th percentile and FAM, at 12 is above the 85th percentile. The OAT score of 1 falls in the 15th percentile. The high-DEF score is not unusual in DOT evaluations. It is incumbent on the evaluator to determine what the defensiveness is about. The SAM scale is no help in this case because it is not elevated. An elevated DEF coupled with an elevated SAM indicates the defensiveness is related to substance use. The elevated FAM score indicates someone who is not comfortable looking at their own issues. And the low OAT score indicates someone who has difficulty acknowledging their personal limitations and shortcomings. The combination of these three scales provides information to the evaluator that most likely, this client is not going to be forthcoming in disclosing issues or problems. During the evaluation, another piece of information disclosed was the client’s admission of trying to manage or monitor her drinking to try to stay below DOT’s threshold of alcohol use. That certainly may be a red flag.

Since the SASSI is a screening inventory and does not diagnose, the evaluator needs to reference the DSM-5 to determine if, indeed, the client meets the criteria for a substance use disorder and if so, what level – mild, moderate, or severe. Based on that, the evaluator has a couple of options to consider. If possible, work individually or refer to an individual substance abuse counselor to establish rapport and work to get the defensiveness down. Motivational Interviewing is a good asset to pull out in this case. Another option is to refer her to an outpatient group setting with the goal of connecting her to other clients and also have access to individual counseling as well. Regardless, outpatient treatment seems to be the most likely intervention.

It would be helpful to acknowledge the financial impact on the client that suspension of driving privileges is having on her. That certainly could be triggering the extreme defensiveness we see in the results and the consequences for the client could be significant.

We hope these reviews are helpful and whether you are a new user or a very experienced one,

clinicians are here to help with any questions you might have. Clinicians are available M-F, 11-5 (EST). Call us at 800-726-0526 or 888-297-2774.

PDF Version Available for Download

Addressing the Ethical Issues of Mandated Client

This sample profile is about a 27-year-old, Sally, who is a single mother of two small children. Sally was ordered by the court to report for a substance abuse assessment following an arrest for illegal possession of a controlled substance. Sally is also being investigated by the county’s Child Protective Services Agency, who has placed her children into foster care pending the outcome of the case.

An initial review of Sally’s scores indicates that, although she apparently understood the SASSI items and most likely responded in a meaningful way (RAP=1), there is evidence of significant defensive responding (DEF=9). Despite her defensiveness, the results indicate that she has a high probability of having a substance use disorder (SUD) based on Decision Rule 8 and 9. To put it another way, there is a 93% chance that Sally will meet the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for having a substance use disorder once a more comprehensive evaluation is completed.

For now, however, the SASSI has provided us with important information concerning Sally’s illegal act; her behavior is likely to be related to a serious addiction problem. In this light, we can now shift to looking for additional features on her profile that might help us to understand Sally better and develop a more empathic point of view. Learning more about her perspective and how she is dealing with this entire process, including the new information from the SASSI, certainly is one way to provide supportive and effective care to her during a mandated process of evaluation.

A prominent aspect of Sally’s SASSI results reflects her similarity to people with SUDs who were instructed to conceal and minimize any evidence of their substance use problems (DEF=9, SAM=12). In addition, an elevated DEF coupled with an elevated SAM indicates her defensiveness is related to her substance use.  One inference that can be drawn from this is that she is likely to have significant difficulty in disclosing personal information about her misuse of substances, as well as other problematic behaviors. Other SASSI scale scores may be reflecting this mind set. For example, she does acknowledge some misuse of alcohol and other drugs but no more so than the average person in the general population (FVA=5, FVOD=7). Her SYM score of 2 is also average, indicating no significant similarity to people with substance use disorders who do report experiencing many of the behaviors correlated with addictions. However, given that each of these scales is derived from face valid items that can be easily manipulated, it would be reasonable to suspect that Sally may be underreporting or misrepresenting problems in each of these areas.

It is easy to imagine that Sally may harbor some resentment towards the evaluation process and the practitioners involved. After all, she stands to lose not only her freedom but her two children as well. Underlying the overt anger and resistance may be an extreme sense of fear, apprehension and powerlessness in the face of feeling helpless to influence decisions that will undoubtedly affect the rest of Sally’s life. When viewed from her standpoint, it then becomes easy to see Sally’s defensiveness as a somewhat natural response to the threat she must be feeling. It’s no wonder that she is having difficulty acknowledging her substance use problems.

If further diagnostic evaluation for substance use disorder does indicate that Sally has an SUD, the following treatment approaches may prove useful based on insight gained from Sally’s SASSI scores. Despite Sally’s lack of ability and willingness to recognize the impact of her substance use on her life, it is our ethical responsibility as counselors to use our knowledge, skills and experience to lead her to an accurate understanding of the nature of her substance use disorder. This should be accomplished in a climate of respect and acknowledgement of the pressures that she is currently facing. An attitude of respect is particularly important when attempting to build a therapeutic alliance with clients like Sally that are mandated for assessment and treatment.

One way to engender open communication in a respectful way is to invite Sally to join you in a process of reviewing her responses on the SASSI face valid items. Acknowledging that it is important for you to understand her point of view, perhaps asking for further clarification or details as you actively listen is one way to cultivate trust and rapport. This communicates genuine concern and interest that may help Sally feel supported and empowered as she describes her experiences. Empathic responses that demonstrate a good understanding of the difficulties she is facing while helping her to gain insight regarding the nature of her substance use problems would be useful in making her an active partner in creating a treatment plan that she can accept.

Another effective way to increase Sally’s awareness of her substance use problems while maintaining a respectful relationship is to provide cognitively based educational programming. Didactic presentations of alcohol and drug information generally are viewed by clients as less threatening and often tend to elicit a more favorable response. Sally may particularly benefit from content that describes the impact of substance abuse on families and how, with proper treatment and aftercare, recovering individuals are often able to be reunited with their children and other family members.

PDF Version Available for Download

SASSI Online Tips and Tricks: Volume 1 | Support Materials

In this edition of SASSI Online Tips and Tricks we highlight the documents located under the Support Materials page.  Access the Support Materials through the Account Dashboard’s, My Clients tab. The Support Materials button is to the right of the Administer button. There are four quadrants on the Support Materials page, the top left is for Adult SASSI-4 documents, the top right contains the Adolescent SASSI-A3 materials, and the bottom left is for the Spanish SASSI. The bottom right section provides general information.

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Profile Configurations: When the OAT is higher than the SAT vs when the SAT is higher than the OAT     

One question we field often on the clinical helpline is what does it mean when either the OAT (Obvious Attributes) is higher than the SAT (Subtle Attributes) or when the SAT is higher than the OAT when both are elevated above the 85th percentile?

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