Two Nice Tips for Uncovering a More Valid History of Substance Use

Mar 07, 2017

“We have found ourselves in the ice of the ether bright with stars.”

Herman Hesse
Novelist

Two Nice Tips for Uncovering a More Valid History of Substance Use

TISA Description of the Problem: As we have seen many times in the annals of our interviewing tips, a single word can often make a telling difference. The following useful clinical interviewing tip was provided by Tiffany Brown, who attended one of my recent workshops in San Francisco at the annual meeting of the American Association of Suicidology. It demonstrates the power of a single work quite nicely.

Tip: When asking about substance use/abuse, I use the word “try” versus “use,” for the word use sometimes implies “frequent use” to clients, who then deny it. On the other hand the word try is more likely to pick up single usage or experimentation as with:

“What other drugs have you tried?”

I will also then subsequently list off various substances, then ask if there are any that I may have forgotten. With this invitation for help, it is surprising how often a client will then tell me other drugs they have used.

TISA Follow-up: There are actually two nice tips in the above illustrations. Both provide yet again, new methods of approaching old conundrums – in this case eliciting a valid substance use history. They are valuable tips for both clinical practice and to relay when teaching clinical interviewing.

Tip provided by:

Tiffany Brown, Ph.D.
TKBrown@bop.gov