In 2006, the 130-year-old American Association on Mental Retardation changed its name to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities because it recognized that within the culture of its membership opinion toward the term mental retardation had turned negative. In its press release, an official noted, “This new name is an idea whose time has come. Individuals with disabilities and family members do not like the term mental retardation and their advocacy is encouraging political and social change at national, state, and local levels. Our members demanded that we keep up with [the] times and they voted for this name change” (American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 2006).

Like the disabilities field, the field of addictions also relies on terms and labels to diagnose, treat, and intervene. One precaution in working in the field is to understand the controversy surrounding labeling, the effect of labeling on clients, and the influence of cultural context on labels. A consideration affecting assessment and treatment is the underlying model used to inform processes.

This week, you examine the implications of labeling in addictions assessment, and you explore the relationship between addiction models and assessment processes.


Students will:

  • Analyze implications of labeling in the addictions assessment process
  • Analyze influences of cultural context on labeling in the addictions assessment process
  • Analyze the relationship between models of addiction and assessment processes
  • Evaluate controversies associated with models of addiction


Required Resources

Note: To access this week’s required library resources, please click on the link to the Course Readings List, found in the Course Materials section of your Syllabus.


  • Gordis, E. (2009). Contributions of behavioral science to alcohol research: Understanding who is at risk and why. In G. A. Marlatt, & K. Witkiewitz (Eds.), Addictive behaviors: New readings on etiology, prevention, and treatment (pp. 19–32). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
    Addictive Behaviors: New Readings on Etiology, Prevention, and Treatment, 1st Edition by Marlatt, G. &Witkiewitz, K.  Copyright 2008 by American Psychological Association. Reprinted by permission of American Psychological Association via the Copyright Clearance Center.

    For your Assignment, focus on thevarious hypotheses that describe why some individuals develop addictions and how certain age groupings are affected by alcohol.

  • Miller, G. (2010). Learning the language of addiction counseling. New York, NY: Wiley.
    Learning the Language of Addiction Counseling [Third Edition] by Gerri Miller.  Copyright 2012 by John Wiley and Sons – Books. Reprinted by permission of John Wiley and Sons – Books via the Copyright Clearance Center

    • Chapter 1, “Introduction”

      For your Assignment, focus on the various models of addiction and how they might relate to assessment.

  • Allamani, A. (2008). Views and models about addiction: Differences between treatments for alcohol-dependent people and for illicit drug consumers in Italy. Substance Use & Misuse, 43(12/13), 1704–1728.
    Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

    Focus on the cultural context surrounding substance abuse and dependence and gambling.

  • Kroska, A., &Harkness, S. K. (2008). Exploring the role of diagnosis in the modified labeling theory of mental illness. Social Psychology Quarterly, 71(2), 193–208.
    Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

    Focus on the concept of consequences of labeling to the individual. Though this article is focused on mental illness, the concepts apply to the field of addictions.

  • Richard, A. J., Trevino, R. A., Baker, M., & Valdez, J. (2010). Negative reflected appraisal, negative self-perception, and drug use intentions in a sample of suburban high school students. Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse, 19(3), 193–209.
    Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

    Focus on how labeling might affect adolescents.

  • Van derAa, N., Overbeek, G., Engels, R. C. M. E., Scholte, R. H. J., Meerkerk, G-J.,& den Eijnden, R. J. J. M. (2009). Daily and compulsive internet use and well-being in adolescence: A diathesis-stress model based on Big Five personality traits. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 38(6), 765-776.
    Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

    For your Assignment, focus on how the diathesis-stress model is applied in assessing Internet addiction in adolescents. Pay particular attention to how this model was incorporated into the assessment of Dutch adolescents in order to study their behavior.

  • Young, R. S., & Joe, J. R. (2009).Some thoughts about the epidemiology of alcohol and drug use among American Indian/Alaska Native populations. Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, 8(3), 223–241.
    Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

    Focus on the cultural context of alcoholism in the Indian/Alaska Native populations. How might such labels as alcoholic and drinker differ in these populations as opposed to a different population in the United States?

  • Addiction Treatment Magazine. (2011). New definition of addiction causing controversy among doctors. Retrieved from

    Focus on
    how the new definition of addiction differs from definitions of years past. Why would this new definition be controversial? How would it affect treatment and practices?

Optional Resources


Implications of Labeling

Assessment starts out with the best of intentions. Addictions professionals apply labels associated with common presenting characteristics in order to provide an understanding of the type of help each person may require. This is the rationale behind the American Psychiatric Association’s classic Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), first published in 1952 to consolidate census and psychiatric hospital information. This resource crosses many fields, from medicine to psychiatry to psychology.

Despite the success of this text and the respect it has garnered in the field, a decades-long controversy has surrounded the use of labels in addictions. As the primary provider of labels, the DSM is at one end of the spectrum. At the other end are those who criticize labels as being too limiting for various reasons, including cultural considerations. (For the purposes of this course, culture goes beyond race and ethnicity to include other defining aspects, such as social group, neighborhood, sexual orientation, occupation, and others.) An individual’s behavior might be perceived as deviant by one culture but not by another. It is also important to remember that the DSM has undergone many revisions, the most recent in the DSM-5; it is important to stay abreast of the changes as they occur.

In this week’s Discussion, you will analyze the implications of labeling and cultural considerations in the addictions assessment process.

To prepare

Review the Learning Resources, including the following articles:

  • “Some Thoughts About the Epidemiology of Alcohol and Drug Use Among American Indian/Alaska Native Populations”
  • “Views and Models About Addiction: Differences Between Treatments for Alcohol-Dependent People and for Illicit Drug Consumers in Italy”

Post by Day 4 your response to the following:

What role, if any, should labeling play in the addictions assessment process? In your response, include implications and cultural considerations.



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