Substance Abuse Professionals at Thriveworks in Cambridge, Mass.


If your job falls under the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) guidelines, there are certain policies and regulations that must be followed. In the hiring process for this position, you were asked to submit to a drug and alcohol screening. After you are on the job, you are also subject to random screenings. In addition, if an accident occurs on the job, you may also be screened for drugs and alcohol as part of the investigation process.

If you have come across this page because you are trying to determine what to do after you failed a random screening, Thriveworks Cambridge’s Substance Abuse Professionals (SAP) are knowledgeable about the guidelines of the DOT and are qualified to evaluate employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation. The SAP makes the recommendations concerning the education, treatment, follow-up testing and aftercare of the employee.

Substance Abuse Professionals represent the major decision point (and, in some cases, the only decision point) an employer may have in choosing whether or not to place an employee behind the steering wheel of a school bus, in the cockpit of a plane, at the helm of an oil tanker, at the throttle of a train, in the engineer compartment of a subway car, or at the emergency control valves of a natural gas pipeline, according to the U.S. DOT.

At Thriveworks Cambridge, we realize the role of the SAP is as a “gatekeeper” of the process by providing a crucial service to the employee, the employer and the millions of people that travel throughout the nation. The SAP has a responsibility to the public that is monumental. The SAP is the individual who ensures that the employee has successfully complied–or has not complied–with the SAP recommendation.

As an employee who performs safety-sensitive functions in the transportation industry, employees are responsible for providing a safe work environment for their co-workers and the traveling public. The U.S. DOT states: “Creating a safe work environment not only means following established work rules, but also following the DOT’s rules on drug use and alcohol misuse.”

The Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance

The Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance advises the Secretary on national and international drug testing and control issues and is the principal advisor to the Secretary on rules related to the drug and alcohol testing of safety-sensitive transportation employees in:

  • Aviation
  • Trucking
  • Railroads
  • Mass transit
  • Pipelines
  • Other Transportation industries

Thriveworks SAPs

At Thriveworks Cambridge, the SAPs are professionally licensed and knowledgeable of the DOT guidelines. They have:

  • Clinical experience in the diagnosis of substance abuse-related disorders.
  • An understanding of how the SAP role relates to the responsibilities employers have for ensuring the safety of the traveling public.
  • Meet all SAP standards and training requirements.
  • Hold qualifications and credentials to fill the role of SAP.
  • Regularly attend continuing education activities.
  • Knowledge and understanding of reporting that the employee has or has not complied with the SAP’s recommendation.
  • Have a passing score on the examination for the role of SAP.
  • Understanding of the U.S. DOT’s expanded and revised drug use and alcohol misuse prevention rules for the commercial transportation industries.
  • Possess the background and reasoning of the DOT’s drug and alcohol testing program.
  • Knowledge the DOT’s drug and alcohol testing rules.
  • Knowledge of DOT drug testing requirements, such as laboratory testing and collections.
  • Understanding of the role of the SAP in the initial employee evaluation, referrals for education and/or treatment, the follow-up evaluation, continuing treatment recommendation and the follow-up testing plan.
  • Knowledge of reporting and record-keeping requirements.

What Must I do to Return to Duty?

SAPs do not make a “fitness for duty” determination as part of the re-evaluation (unless required to do so under an applicable DOT agency regulation). The employer (the DOT) decides whether the employee should be placed back to work in a safety-sensitive position. In short, the SAP is the person who verifies if the employee has successfully complied with his initial recommendation.

What Do SAPs Do?

According to DOT regulations, a SAP must:

  • Conduct an initial face-to-face employee evaluation and clinical assessment to determine the level of assistance necessary for an employee who is identified as having alcohol and/or drug-associated problems.
  • Recommend and refer the employee to an appropriate education and/or treatment program.
  • Monitor the employee’s progress in the education and/or treatment process through regular contact with the treatment provider to check on the employee’s progress and to determine if the recommendation needs to be adjusted or changed. The next contact the SAP has with the employee will be for a follow-up evaluation at the completion of education and/or treatment.
  • Provide the Designated Employer Representative with the follow-up evaluation of the employee and a drug and/or alcohol-testing plan for the employee.

It is important to note that the SAP does not provide counseling of the employee. Instead, the SAP is the professional who makes the recommendations for the appropriate education and/or treatment, follow-up tests and aftercare.

What Credentials are Necessary to be a SAP?

Credentials are mandatory to act as a SAP. In order to fill this vital role, an individual must possess one of the following credentials.

  • Licensed physician (Doctor of Medicine or Osteopathy).
  • Licensed or certified social worker.
  • Licensed or certified psychologist.
  • Licensed or certified employee assistance professional.
  • State-licensed marriage and family therapist.
  • A drug and alcohol counselor certified by the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors Certification Commission; or by the International Certification Reciprocity Consortium/Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse; or by the National Board for certified Counselors, Inc. and Affiliates/Master Addictions Counselor.

What Knowledge Does a SAP Need?

An individual cannot be a SAP unless he has the knowledge of and clinical experience in the diagnosis and treatment of substance abuse-related disorders. The SAP must understand how the SAP relates to the special responsibilities employers have for ensuring the safety of the traveling public. In addition, for an individual to be considered a SAP, he has to be well informed about Part 40, pertinent DOT agency regulations, the SAP guidelines and any significant changes to them.

SAPs and Continuing Education

To be considered a SAP, continuing education is a critical component of eligibility. During each three-year period from the date which an individual satisfactorily completes the examination, he must complete continuing education that includes at least 12 professional development hours relevant to performing SAP functions.

How Soon Can I Get an Appointment With the SAP?

Thriveworks Cambridge SAPs typically schedule initial evaluations within five business days. In addition, the SAP’s recommendation about appropriate education and/or treatment program is dependent on your specific needs, which includes the presence of and, if identified, severity of your drug or alcohol problem. The SAP will identify the level of drug and/or alcohol use in order to make the recommendation about education and/or treatment.


Cambridge Locations

Thriveworks Boston Counseling and Psychotherapy
872 Massachusetts Ave, Ste 2-2
Cambridge, MA 02139
617-395-5806

You can also request an appointment online:

Request a Session

Thriveworks Counseling
929 Massachusetts Ave., Suite 103
Cambridge, MA 02139
617-553-4653

You can also request an appointment online:

Request a Session