When Is It Time to Hire a Professional Interventionist?Anna Ciulla
Intervention—a formally arranged group confrontation to convince someone to get addiction treatment—can be the spur needed to stop chemical dependence before it does irreversible damage. Or it can be the blow that pushes someone even deeper into denial and leaves them bitterly alienated from their loved ones.
One way to improve the odds of positive results is to hire a professional interventionist—someone trained and certified in helping families plan how to approach the confrontation. Yet despite the advantages involved—and the fact that your family will eventually need some form of group therapy anyway, if you’re serious about seeing your loved one get better—the thought can be daunting. Early in the “time to do something about this” stage, many families still hope they can solve the problem themselves, without the embarrassment of explaining it to outsiders. Plus, intervention services (unlike addiction treatment) are rarely covered by health insurance—and rarely come with money-back-if-you-aren’t-satisfied guarantees—so expenses can be a concern as well.
So, how badly does your family need a “real” interventionist?
DO YOU REALLY NEED HELP TO HANDLE THIS?
Be honest with yourself when considering this question. If you let pride get in the way of sound thinking, you’re likely to convince yourselves everything will be fine if you just “talk to” your loved one—perhaps doing without planning as well as without professional advice. The results may be disastrous: long pointless arguments, emotional outbursts, and interveners winding up alienated not only from the addicted party but from each other as well.
You may be able to manage the intervention within the family if:
- There are at least two or three of you who are well-practiced in handling differences of opinion, without letting personal defensiveness or determination to “win” get in the way.
- You have an overall good relationship with the addicted person.
- The addiction has taken hold only recently. (The longer it’s been a problem, the more deeply toxic behavior patterns will be ingrained on all sides.)
- Your loved one has already shown signs of realizing the addiction is an addiction.
You definitely should consider employing a professional interventionist if:
- An earlier, family-only intervention has already been tried without positive results.
- You have strong addiction-enablement tendencies or are easily swayed by arguments and pleading.
- Your addicted loved one has major communication issues (as may be the case if they have mental illness or autism, common in people with addiction disorders).
- You have serious doubts that anyone in your family—including yourself—can be trusted to handle an intervention without getting defensive or letting reason give way to emotion.
- The addicted party has any history of violence toward self or others.
FINDING THE RIGHT INTERVENTIONIST
Of course, once you’ve admitted you need a professional interventionist, you don’t want to hire the first person who claims that title. There are people who call themselves interventionists but are incompetent, overbearing or in it for the money—and hiring one of those could result in an even worse fiasco than a poorly managed in-the-family intervention.
Points to consider in finding the best interventionist for your family:
- Is the interventionist a formally Certified Intervention Professional (CIP) and a member of a recognized organization, such as the Association of Intervention Specialists or the Network of Independent Interventionists?
- What method or methods does this interventionist employ? What method is your loved one likeliest to respond to? Contrary to popular belief, a “surprise” confrontation isn’t the only way: there are other common intervention approaches comprising therapy-style meetings, where the addicted party has at least some advance idea what’s going on.
- How much experience does the interventionist have? Look for someone with multiple years in the field and a proven track record.
- Has the interventionist worked specifically with families whose addiction issues correspond to yours?
- Can the interventionist recommend specific addiction-treatment centers? A referral from an experienced professional can save you time-consuming advance research (but do check out all recommended centers personally, to avoid any possible issues with centers that pay endorsement “kickbacks” or simply prove poor fits for your loved one).
- What are the pre-intervention requirements? A good interventionist will organize advance planning sessions to map out specifics and confirm that every participant is ready.
- Do you get an overall positive feeling during initial interviews with the interventionist?
BASIC PRINCIPLES OF ANY INTERVENTION
However an intervention is handled, key points to remember are:
- Always plan in advance how you will approach your loved one and what you will say.
- Don’t let “what if” worries weigh you down. Focus on what you will do and how things can get better.
- Stage the intervention at a time when your loved one is likely to be sober and in a reasonable mood.
- Be firm, but not accusatory. And emphasize “we’re concerned about you and will do whatever it takes to help,” instead of focusing on “what you’ve put us” Most people with addictions have deep-running “no one understands … no one cares” issues, and feeding such thoughts can only encourage further retreat into toxic dependence.
- Always stay calm and reasonable, no matter how unreasonable the addicted person gets. And do listen (without being sidetracked or talked into backing down) to whatever he or she says: there are points worthy of serious consideration in almost every argument.
- Have predetermined consequences (“We’re not ‘loaning’ you any more ‘emergency’ money … You’ll have to move out”) ready in case your loved one refuses to get treatment even after intervention—and stick to these consequences even when it hurts terribly.
- If an intervention doesn’t get the results you’d hoped for, don’t give up, and don’t conclude you’ll have to wait for your loved one to “hit bottom.” Review what happened and what might have gone wrong (with the help of your professional interventionist, if you used one), and decide on your next step. Get counseling yourself to work out personal issues that may be enabling the addiction. And hold firm to the knowledge that there’s always hope!
If you are looking for professional to help with your family’s intervention, please reach out to our helpful admissions team. They can help answer any questions or find the help you need. Call or contact us today.
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