What is an Intervention?

If you are reading this there is a chance that you are concerned about someone you care about who is abusing substances and/or engaging in behaviors that are destructive to themselves and others. Watching someone you love spiraling down into his or her addiction can be devastatingly painful.

You have most likely tried everything you can think of to help your friend, family member, or employee. You may feel powerless, frustrated, frightened, sad and angry. You too deserve help dealing with your feelings and behavior.

Since addiction to substances and behaviors affect those who are involved with the addicted person, I utilize my years of experience as a family systems therapist to work with all who are experiencing difficulties. The process of intervention is for all who are concerned about the person with the addiction, not just the addict.

I will guide you to greater understanding about what you can do to care for yourself even if an intervention is not recommended. I employ several models of intervention in conjunction with my experience and skills as a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT) and certified addiction specialist (CAS). I customize each intervention to the specific needs of the clients.

Not All Interventions Are The Same

In the “one size fits no one” society we live in, it is important to respect that each individual, family, and group will not respond to the same intervention style.

The word intervention is sometimes thought of as being synonymous with confrontation. An intervention does not have to be confrontational or have the element of surprise.

Interventions can also be effective when the person of concern is invited to the intervention. In this type of intervention the team works together with my guidance to clarify their own issues with the addict/alcoholic in their life.

The physical and emotional safety of all who are involved with the one who is addicted is of primary concern. It is also essential that the person of concern feels the love and compassion that is motivating the intervention.

To Intervene Or Not

Intervention is a powerful, life altering process that can promote tremendous growth for all who participate. There is more to the process of intervention than getting the person of concern into treatment. Sometimes living arrangements and terms of employment must be modified.

Not all situations are amenable to an intervention. I gather extensive information, converse with you, and carefully consider if an intervention will be helpful in your situation. In some cases an intervention can actually be harmful. This is especially true if the person of concern is suffering from psychosis and paranoid thought disorders.

How It Works

There are six stages to an intervention.

  1. The first is the initial phone call made by a concerned friend, employer or loved one. During this initial discussion I gather enough information to discuss if an intervention will be helpful in your specific situation.
  2. Once the decision to intervene is made, we discuss who will be effective members of the intervention team.
  3. The intervention team meets together so I can provide education regarding addiction and its effects on all members of the team. The team leaves with instructions to write a letter to the person of concern. The letter is to come from a place of love, compassion and concern regarding the addict’s self-destructive behavior, and how his or her behavior affects others.
    During this session we also decide who will be checking into treatment programs and insurance. We agree on treatment options that we will present to the person of concern at the intervention.
  4. The intervention team meets again to read their letters. This can be an emotional session in which healing occurs. Even if intervention for some reason doesn’t occur, all members of the teams greatly benefit from this experience. During this session the teams also decides if the person of concern will be invited to the intervention, or if the intervention will be a surprise.
    There are many combinations of treatment options available, depending on the needs of each individual and team members. I work to tailor treatment with the needs and resources available.
    In some cases the goal is to get the person of concern into inpatient treatment immediately. They may need a medical detox and monitoring during a stay in a well vetted recovery center.
    In other situations the most useful plan may be a combination of intensive outpatient (IOP), partial hospitalization programs (PHP), addiction specific therapy, and participation in 12-Step and other addiction support programs.
  5. Whether the person of concern is invited or not, the intervention team meets prior to the intervention. We go over our plan and adapt to any changes that may have occurred. If the person of concern is invited, we try to meet at a neutral home or office. If the intervention is a surprise, we plan a time and place where we will find the person we are concerned about.
    As the interventionist I tell the person of concern that their family and friends are here because they are worried and concerned about their (drinking, drug use, disordered eating, and or behavioral addiction.) I ask them to have a seat and listen to the letters their loved ones have written. I let the person of concern know that ultimately they make the decision to go to treatment or not. I ask that they listen without interruption, and tell them that they will have their uninterrupted time to respond to everything that has been said.
    I am responsible for determining who starts the process, and I am responsible for guiding and creating safety for everyone in the room. I often leave the most powerful letters for last. Letters from children, even if the child is not present can break the last threads of denial.
    Each letter has suggested the same course of treatment. As a team we have previously agreed upon two two treatment options, Plan A and plan B.
    Plan A is the most comprehensive treatment, and depending on the individual’s needs may involve medical detox followed by 4-6 weeks inpatient treatment, followed by several months in a sober living environment. Other ongoing additional treatment includes aftercare groups, therapy and participation in 12-Step or other recovery groups. This we might call the Gold Standard.
    The person of concern does not know there is a plan B. I use Plan B, only to negotiate if there is adamant resistance to Plan A.
    Plan B may be less intensive yet still effective treatment. Plan B is also based on the treatment needs of the person of concern. Plan B may start with a medical detox if warranted followed by, a 4-6 week inpatient treatment program with outpatient aftercare groups, therapy, and regular participation in 12-Step and other recovery programs.
    Treatment needs are different for each person and family. For some individuals an effective treatment program may include an intensive outpatient program (IOP) or partial hospitalization  program (PHP) with aftercare groups, therapy and participation in 12-Step or other recovery group.
  6. After the intervention is complete the intervention team meets to process their feeling and experience of their intervention. This is a time to discuss the changes that will be happening regardless of whether the person of concern goes to treatment or not.
    As you can see my style of intervention is to attend to the needs of all parties involved.


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