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View answers to frequently asked questions

Logging in as an Administrator

Question: I’m trying to login as an admin on CARS but it won’t accept the username and password that I made on the CARS website.Response: CARS comes with a pre-set administrator password that is separate from the login information that you used to sign up on the CARS website. The pre-set administrator password can be found in the “Site Registration” section of the User Manual.


Question: I got everything downloaded but it gives me a message, 'your site is not registered with the CARS Tool.' I already registered on the website, what do I do?Response: Registration on the CARS website is separate from the registration within the CARS software. The website registration allows the CARS Team to keep track of who our users are and helps us notify the CARS community about updates and bug fixes. The site registration within the CARS software tailors the user experience and is for data sharing purposes.


Question: When should I backup my data? And how do I backup my data?Response: You must backup your data before you update or reinstall a version of CARS. Additionally, we recommend that you backup you data on a regular basis. For detailed steps on how to backup your data please refer to the Quick Guides and/or chapter 3 of the User Manual.

Installing CARS

Question: After installing CARS I get the message, “Your site is not registered with the CARS Tool.” I already registered on the website.Response: Website registration is separate from site registration within the CARS tool. Website registration helps the CARS Team keep track of users and notify users about updates and bug fixes. Site registration within the CARS tool tailors the user experience and enables data sharing.
Question: What do I do if my virus software prevents me from downloading the CARS executable file from the website?Response:  If you have issues downloading the CARS executable file, please try downloading the Zip file. The Zip file is available as a separate link below the download button for Windows and macOS.
Question: What do I do if during installation I receive dialogue box from my computer’s virus protection software warning me about installing software from an unknown publisher?Response: If during the installation process you receive a dialogue box warning you about installing CARS, click “Yes,” “next,” or “run anyway” button to continue with the installation of CARS.
Question: I don’t see a validation email in my inbox.Response: The validation emails from CARS may take up to 5 minutes to send. Make sure you entered the correct email address, and check your spam folder. If you still don’t see an email, please contact us.
Question: Why am I being asked to save an update to CARS in a new directory?Response: If you attempt to install a CARS update and you get a pop-up dialogue box asking you to install it in a new directory, it is likely that the current version of CARS is still running in the background. Please restart your computer and attempt to install the update again. If you continue to experience issues with updating CARS, please Contact Us so we can help you resolve this issue.
Question: After setting up a network configuration, the program will not open on a second computer.Response: In a networked configuration, the main networked computer must to be running CARS for the secondary networked computer to be able to open CARS. If this is not possible, consider using multiple standalone configurations instead.


Question: Is data encrypted since it stores protected health information?Response: The CARS database is password protected and contains specific fields (i.e. zip code) that are encrypted. Backup files are completely encrypted until restored in the database.
Question: How do I delete data from previous sessions?Response: There is no way to delete data from individual sessions. However, reinstalling CARS without restoring data will effectively erase all previous data.

Conducting Sessions

Question: When trying to start a session, I receive the message, “No assigned modules.”Response: You are logged into the administrator account, which cannot run assessments. Log out of the administrator account, select New CARS Session again, and log in with a different user account.
Question: How do I go back to previous questions?Response: CARS does not allow users to return to previous questions in a session or change their answers.
Question: Can clients complete CARS assessments remotely?Response: There is currently no way to complete CARS assessments remotely. We are hoping to develop this feature in future versions of CARS. It is possible to administer CARS via video call (e.g., Skype) or over the phone.
Question: How can I view all of the questions in a module?Response: PDF versions of CARS modules are available here.


Question: Why aren’t any referrals appearing on the generated reports?Response: Diagnostic reports show referral sites that are matched to a client’s zip code. The default referral database is empty. To use this feature, users must add information about known mental health, substance use, and emergency treatment referrals in their area to the referral database.
Question: Why do I see referral agencies that I have not entered on diagnostic reports?Response: There are a small number of referral agencies that are pre-entered into the CARS referral database. These agencies were identified during our national pilot testing phase in 2016. 


Question: Why aren’t any referrals showing up on the generated reportsResponse: Generated reports show referral sites that are matched to a client’s zip code. The default referral database is incomplete and may not include referrals in your area. We recommend that users add information about known mental health, substance use, and emergency treatment referrals in their area to the referral database. For detailed information about how to add referrals please refer to the Quick Guides and/or chapter 4 of the User Manual.


Question: What qualifications are needed to administer CARS?Response: CARS is designed so that it can be administered by anyone, regardless of qualifications. However, we highly recommend reading the User Manual and running some practice sessions to familiarize yourself with the program before working with clients.
Question: How much will CARS cost to implement at my site?Response: CARS is completely free to download and use.
Question: Can children/adolescents use CARS?Response: CARS can be used with adolescents, but CARS is currently developed specifically for adults aged 18 and older.
Question: Is the CARS assessment the same for males and females?Response: CARS can be administered to anyone regardless of gender identity, and does not differentiate based on gender. CARS allows clients to identify as cisgender, transgender, or nonbinary.
Question: Does CARS have a Terms of Use or End-user License agreement?Response: Currently there is no license agreement for CARS. We encourage users to use CARS as they see fit for their needs.

These user manuals are for the latest version of CARS. Visit the resources archive to view user manuals for previous versions of CARS.

Below is a training video to help walk you through installing, setting up, and using CARS. If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can download it here. If you have other questions about using CARS, please post them in our CARS Community forum.

To view quick guides, select the type of installation you have, then select the tab for the quick guide you would like to view, and then select the thumbnail to view or download a PDF of the quick guide.

These quick guides are for the latest version of CARS. Visit the quick guides archive to view quick guides for previous versions of CARS.

Windows OS Standalone
Windows OS Network
macOS Standalone
macOS Network
  • Using a computer to conduct interviews will be a learning process for both staff members and clients. As you familiarize yourself with CARS, understand its technical directions, and incorporate it into your work with clients, it is important to remember that the efficiency of the intake process will depend on you and your client’s comfort level with the new process. In this document, we present you with a few tips focusing on the clinical aspects of interviewing using CARS. This section and the “Answering Client Questions” below should help you prepare for your interviews and anticipate difficult interview situations.
  • Similar to any mental health assessment, CARS can take a considerable amount of time to complete. Just as you would with any assessment, if you think that your client is becoming anxious or tired from the length of the interview and the depth or sensitivity of the questions, it might be a good idea to consider taking a break during the assessment.
  • Remember that, even with computer assistance, the assessment process is still a conversation between you and your client. You and your client should be able to converse naturally and comfortably, take breaks when necessary, and deviate from the planned interview sequence if a question (or an answer) suggests the need for additional clarification or further discussion (e.g., suicidality, abuse, anxiety, danger to others, etc). The presence of the computer should not dominate the interview situation. The computer’s role is to make the data collection easier, more efficient, and easier to aggregate.
  • We encourage individuals who will be administering these interviews to do mock interviews with other administrators before interviewing clients.
  • CARS will provide a report about each individual who completes the assessment. The reports from CARS or from the CARS screener will provide information about the mental health issues with which the client might be struggling and referrals for further information and treatment. These reports are a further opportunity to work with your clients. They are meant to be shared with the clients, reviewing the identified issues and discussing next steps. Clients should receive a copy of their report after discussing it.

Answering Client Questions

As you get accustomed to CARS and the changes that it will bring to your work, it is important to remember that the use of CARS will be new, maybe strange, and possibly distracting to your clients.

Some clients might express hesitation, discomfort, or resistance to participate in a computerized interview. Reasons for discomfort will vary among clients – some individuals might not understand the technology, others might suffer from paranoia or anxiety about the use of a computer, and still others might just feel that the presence of a computer is too distracting.

It’s useful to anticipate some of the questions that clients might ask so that you can react calmly to any disruptions during the assessment process.

Below we provide a table of possible questions that clients might ask when they first encounter CARS. If you can think of any other questions, or if you experience different situations when using CARS that you think would benefit other CARS users, please share them with the CARS team at

ClientExample Interviewer ResponsesNotes
What is this?This is a clinical interview that we will use to help us identify together any emotional or mental health concerns you have.
How long will this take?It is different for different people. [If completing CARS Screener] About 20 to 50 minutes. [If completing CARS] Not less than 20 minutes and not more than 2 hours; the average time is about 60 minutes.The timing will be dependent on the client and what version of CARS you use. You can get time estimates for the CARS Screener and for each CARS module on the Modules & Timing page under the “The System” tab.
Why are you using a computer?I am using the computer to standardize the interview process. Scientific literature shows that assessments are the most accurate when using a guided interview.You can show them the screen if they want to see it; establish trust by letting them know they can call Timeout anytime
Who is going to see my answers?Only the staff members who are associated with your case will be entitled to see your responses and know they are yours. If you would like this information shared with someone else, let us know.
Who developed this system? CARS was developed by the research team at the Division on Addiction in Boston. Their research focuses on addiction and other disorders.

Examples of Sensitive CARS Interview Questions

Below, we have included examples of sensitive questions included in the CARS modules so that you can be prepared for these questions.

Suicidal Ideation

  • Have you ever seriously thought about committing suicide?
  • Did you think about committing suicide?
  • Did you make a suicide plan?
  • Did you make a suicide attempt?
  • When answering the next questions, think about the period of several days/two weeks or more (refer to two weeks if client has indicated that his or her episodes lasted this long – refer to several days if client has indicated that his or her episodes did not last 2+ weeks) during that episode when your sadness/discouragement/loss of interest and other problems were most severe and frequent. During that period, did you ever think that it would be better if you were dead?


  • Have you ever had a traumatic or scary experience, which continued to bother you or affect your life for a period of time?
  • As a child, were you ever badly beaten by your parents or the people who raised you?
  • The next question is about sexual assault. We define this as an event during which one person touches another person inappropriately, or without that person’s consent. Did you ever have an experience like the one I just described?

Substance Use

  • During the past 6 months, how often did you inject drugs with a needle?
  • Have you ever used cocaine in any form, including powder, crack, freebase, or paste?

Mental Health

  • The next questions are about unusual things, like seeing visions or hearing voices. We believe that these things may be quite common, but we don’t know for sure because previous research has not done a good job asking people about them. So please take your time and think carefully before answering. The first thing is seeing a vision — that is, seeing something that other people who were there could not see. Did you ever see a vision that other people could not see?
  • Please think of an episode of being sad or discouraged or uninterested lasting several days/two weeks or more (refer to two weeks if client has indicated that his or her episodes lasted this long – refer to several days if client has indicated that his or her episodes did not last 2+ weeks) when you also had the largest number of these other problems at the same time. Is there one particular episode of this sort that stands out in your mind as the worst one you ever had?
  • Have you ever had a time in your life lasting several days or longer when most of the day you felt sad, empty or depressed?

Report a software bug

Thank you for your interest in CARS. You can help us improve CARS by reporting software bugs in the form below. We consider bugs to be any issues with the software that causes it to crash, operate incorrectly, or produce incorrect output.

Reporting a bug is separate from requests for help using CARS. If you have a specific question about using CARS or need to get in contact with us, please click the “Contact Us” tab.

CARS Forum

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The latest news and announcements from the CARS development team.


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If you have unanswered questions or suggestions for improving CARS, please share them on our Community Forum or Contact Us directly.