Alcohol and Drug Interventions:What Is An Intervention?
Understanding the work of an addiction interventionist, and the various styles they employ is not something familiar to most people. An intervention itself is a misunderstood process. Somehow, it conjures up visions of dragging someone off to a treatment center, kicking and screaming. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a true expression of love and, if done correctly, can truly honor the loved one, who by this point must be feeling a great deal of pain and loneliness. For me, being an addiction interventionist, with many years of experience, is one of the greatest expressions of love that one can give.
There are as many intervention styles as there are addiction interventionists. However, in all cases, alcohol and drug interventions can be a statement of love, and done with kindness and respect. Some addiction interventionists use the invitational approach, that is to say, they invite the addict to meet with the family and friends to discuss the problem. I have used that method in some cases, it really depends on the individual situation, whether or not, the person accepts the Invite.
I prefer the Surprise Party. I believe that part of the "power of the intervention" is in seeing everyone in the same room. Usually the addicted person will have told different stories to members at various times, often lies or half truths, so the Team has shared information with each other, and now have a somewhat clearer picture of the situation. I call it the “United We Stand" approach.
There are four parts to an alcohol and drug intervention:
- The Assessment of the situation:
- The gathering of information, i.e. who is going to be involved. Who is the financially responsible member, is there insurance? What treatment center is appropriate, etc?
- Availability of members, and where to meet for the pre-intervention meeting, and most important, it is vital that WORD DOES NOT LEAK OUT to the person being intervened on, if we are doing the surprise approach. Yes, we do use deception.
- I usually instruct the team to write letters to the loved one, stating what they love about that person, what they miss about that person, and what their lives would be like without that person.
- The group then picks a person from the team that is most likely to defuse a situation such as the person bolting, or becoming angry. There is always one such member of the team that has a calming effect on the person being intervened on; this is also the person who will escort the patient to treatment.
- And finally, we decide in what order we will sit and speak. It's like a dress rehearsal to a play.
- The Intervention Meeting. First, we either have the person meet one of the team members somewhere safe and quiet, (usually someone's home), or we go to the person's home. I then introduce myself and ask that they please just "hear everyone out". The process begins. Remember, you only have one chance at this; however, there is no such thing as a failed intervention, even if the person refuses to go into a treatment center at that moment, he/she will often reflect on what's been said and decide to enter treatment at a later time, but just as important, the friends and family get the opportunity to express their feelings, AND TO BEGIN THE PROCESS OF LETTING GO. Remember, this is a family problem. The intervention is for everyone involved. Too often, family members and friends provide financial support to the addict. This is called enabling or "care taking". There is a saying in Al-Anon, "You can love a person to death". It is vital that the team set firm "boundaries" with the addict. This often can make the difference between whether or not the addict enters treatment.
- Assuming the person agrees to get help, we then try and get them on their way as soon as possible. I have seen, situations deteriorate if too much time goes by.
If the person refuses to go, we must accept what seems like the unacceptable, and finally let go.
- There is a post intervention meeting, so the team can decompress. Remember, alcohol and drug interventions are very emotional processes that can leave the team feeling drained, or spent. Drug and alcohol addictions are a progressive disease and often results in death. The intervention is a final statement, or plea to the person in trouble to get some help. It is very important that the Interventionist's Team work together, with the goal of and alcohol and drug intervention being; To get the addict into treatment, as well as helping the family and friends start their own healing process.
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