An intervention is a tool that can help families and loved ones motivate an individual to seek and enter treatment for problematic drug or alcohol abuse and addiction. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) publishes that, in 2016, more than 20 million people in the United States struggled with addiction. One of the components of addiction is denial, and a person battling the disease commonly has difficulties recognizing that professional help is necessary. An intervention can show them that their actions and behaviors are causing problems for their loved ones and detrimental to their health and well-being.
An interventionist is a trained professional who can help families and loved ones to have these difficult conversations and guide them in planning and carrying out an intervention. The Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS) explains that a professional interventionist should provide education, support, guidance, training, and direction as well as help to carry out the actual intervention and offer follow-up care. Interventionists work with families, often without the knowledge of the loved one, to design an intervention and decide what might work best. Each family dynamic is different, and various methods can be worked through to determine what might be optimal for each situation. An interventionist can help with this process and also lead the actual intervention to keep things on track. Interventionists also work with families to get loved ones into a treatment program and provide ongoing support into recovery.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) reports that the majority of interventions hosted with the help of a trained professional end with a person committing to getting help.
Components of a Quality Intervention
A good intervention needs to be well designed. Going into the actual intervention meeting with a good plan in place is essential. An interventionist can help loved ones to come up with a plan of action and decide how best to carry it out.
The first step in a successful intervention is putting together the members of the “intervention team.” This group should include family members, loved ones, coworkers, neighbors, teammates, and anyone else who is an important part of the person’s life. Team members care about the individual and are determined to work together to help them get into a treatment program. The interventionist can head up the team and organize the members, doling out roles and responsibilities.
Members of the intervention team often meet several times before the scheduled intervention to make sure everything is lined up and ready to go. The more effort spent on organizing the actual intervention meeting, the more smoothly it is likely to go. The intervention should be scheduled for a time when the person is apt to be the most susceptible to listen, which means when they are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol or coming down from their effects. Members of the team are typically asked to write down instances when a person’s drug or alcohol use has negatively affected them. This can be in the form of a letter. Team members should stick to actual events and how they made the loved one feel. The use of “I” statements, rather than accusatory statements, is recommended.
The goal of an intervention is to help a person to see that their drug and/or alcohol use affects those around them and to then decide they want to make a positive change in the form of participation in a specialized addiction treatment program. The conversation should be positive, coming from a place of love, and free from judgment.
Treatment options should be researched ahead of time, so the individual can head directly into a program if they choose to do so. Members of the intervention team also need to have a contingency plan in place if the person decides not to seek professional help after the meeting. Family members and loved ones need to set clear boundaries with outlined consequences for not going into a treatment program. This can mean they will no longer offer financial support or allow them to see their children, for example.
It is vital to set consequences that can be maintained and to be open and honest about what these are. An interventionist can help the team come up with guidelines and work with families on follow-through as well.
Finding and Choosing the Right Interventionist
A trained interventionist can be helpful during the entire planning, implementation, and aftercare processes for any intervention. There are certain cases where a trained professional is absolutely essential, Mayo Clinic explains, such as when:
- A person has a history of violence or aggressive behaviors.
- The individual is using more than one drug at a time or using drugs and alcohol together.
- Mental illness is also a factor.
- There is a history of self-harming or suicidal behaviors or ideations.
Just as treatment programs are individualized, it is also helpful to choose an interventionist who fits with the needs and circumstances of the family and those hosting the intervention. A good interventionist will be willing to work with the family in a way that makes them feel comfortable. Flexibility and good listening skills are a must.
There are many different models and types of interventions. An experienced interventionist will be knowledgeable about these and able to help families and loved ones to make an informed decision regarding which one will be the most beneficial. Interventionists should try to get a feel for the family and the individual so that they can choose the best style and method to use.
Mental health, medical, and substance abuse treatment providers can often offer referrals and resources to find a trained interventionist. AIS also hosts a member directory that individuals can use to find local interventionists who are credentialed. Interventionists can also obtain board certification as a Certified Intervention Professional (CIP), which marks them as a trained professional committed to a high standard of excellence.
Interventionists are committed to helping families and loved ones from the very beginning. They can assist from the point of recognizing a problem with addiction exists, all the way through into treatment and ongoing recovery. An experienced interventionist can be a helpful tool in the recovery process, offering suggestions, education, guidance, and support for families every step of the way.