Maybe you’ve struggled to find the right words to express your concerns to someone about his or her substance abuse. Or each time you try to bring it up, there’s conflict and anger.
Talking to a friend or loved one about problem behavior is never easy.
He or she may be in denial. It’s twice as difficult when you’re not certain the person is sober, clear headed, and stable enough to understand your worries. This miscommunication often results in emotional confrontations that don’t accomplish the primary goal: helping someone you care for get critical treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, mental health issues, or behavioral health disorders.
You’re probably many things to this person, but you’re not an addiction specialist. You also have to stay mindful of your caregiver boundaries to maintain personal wellbeing. So, if you’re caught between a rock and a proverbial hard place, it might be time to ask a professional interventionist for help.
What an Interventionist Can Do
For substance use disorders, an intervention is a structured process involving family members, friends, or co-workers united for one goal: to help someone with a particular problem agree to enter some form of treatment and start a journey of recovery. A board-certified intervention professional (CIP) is someone trained to lead an intervention. CIPs typically have a degree in a field related to mental healthcare, such as social work, substance abuse counseling, psychology, or psychiatry.
One role of a CIP is to act as host and moderator of the intervention. This may sound simple at first, as if anyone can do it. However, take a moment to consider your conversations with your friend or loved one about substance abuse. How successful were they? Usually someone who cares for a person with addiction is too close to make persuasive points, or doesn’t know the proper resources to present options with clarity.
The Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS) trains CIPs in a variety of intervention techniques, because each person in trouble needs an individualized approach. There’s extensive behind-the-scenes work before an intervention to make certain planning and execution go well. A CIP also has the expertise to provide ballast in the whirlwind of inevitable emotions and reactions. This skill is essential to help people on both sides avoid resentment, blame, threats, or shame, which often result in an intervention’s failure to achieve the primary goal of helping someone seek treatment.
Most importantly, an interventionist can follow up at the end of the session with details regarding medical solutions, such as inpatient rehabilitation facility care, intensive outpatient treatment, or addiction counseling. He or she may also be able to provide aftercare support.
What to Ask an Interventionist
To find a CIP or another intervention professional, talk with a mental health specialist or a physician, or contact a 12-Step program for resources. Also review the following:
Be as forthright as possible with a prospective interventionist. If you’re not comfortable with this person, it’s unlikely your friend or loved one will be. Ask questions such as:
- What are your credentials and intervention methods?
- How do you get to know everyone involved and plan for the intervention?
- What’s the time frame for this process, and how do we go about it?
- Please share some success stories of people agreeing to treatment after an intervention.
- What is your experience with this particular substance and/or co-occurring disorder?
- How do you plan for contingencies, such as no-shows or violent behavior?
- What treatment facilities and other resources do you recommend and why?
- Why did you choose to become an interventionist?
- What should I expect to pay for various services?
An Example of the Process
Here are some basic steps leading up to an intervention:
- Planning. You and other family members and friends suggest an intervention and find a qualified professional.
- Information gathering. You and the planning group work with the interventionist to learn more about your loved one and potential treatment programs.
- Team assembly. An interventionist will help you decide which individuals should attend the intervention—usually a mix of both family and non-family members to provide balance.
- Outline specific consequences. It’s important to be prepared for every potential outcome, including the consequences for refusing to seek treatment.
- Draft notes. Knowing what to say and how best to say it ahead of time helps everyone stick to the facts and not be reactionary.
- Have an intervention. You and the planning group arrange the date, time, and place in advance. The individual with substance abuse problems is asked to the meeting without knowing why.
- Treatment follow up. If the intervention is successful, your friend or loved one will be in treatment shortly thereafter. It’s critical to maintain support during this time.
WebMD provides a detailed outline of a typical intervention process.
Willingway’s Whole Person Family Care
At Willingway, we believe addiction is a family illness. Fortunately, through recovery, families are able to heal together from substance abuse. Our treatment center was founded by a family 50 years ago. Our expert staff provides every resource to help you and your loved ones have meaningful, healthful lives. Let us help you find a solution.