What You Can Do If You Want to Make a Difference

Clinical psychologists with no specific training or experience in the treatment of substance use disorders are sometimes unsure how to get involved. Here are some suggestions about where to begin.

12/21/20221 min read

Educate yourself on the fundamentals and stay up to date as new treatment options emerge as a result of research. Treatment for opioid addiction is always changing.

Regardless of their appearance or reason for seeking treatment, all patients should be asked about their history of opioid and other substance abuse. Don't know what to ask? Inquire about their favorite substances.

Provide advice to patients about safe medication storage and disposal so that prescription opioids do not end up in the hands of adolescents or others who could abuse them.

To let physicians know you're available for referrals or willing to provide behavioral treatment as part of a team, reach out to those who provide medical management for opioid use disorder.

If you're not sure how to treat opioid use disorder, find professionals who are and refer patients to them as needed.

Assist clients with opioid use disorder and their families in determining which treatments are scientifically proven.

Find out how to best support family members of those who have a substance abuse problem.

Encourage psychology students and trainees to look for opportunities to work with people who have substance use disorders.

Participate in local or national advocacy campaigns. (For further information, see Changing Opioid Policies and Practices.) Take a deep breath and then jump right in. "You have to get in there and do it to feel competent working with a new population," says R. Kathryn McHugh, PhD, a drug use researcher. "It's best to get started as soon as possible."