If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, you’ve probably tried talking to them directly about getting help. Maybe past conversations have ended with desperate promises to seek help that never came true. Or maybe they have ended in shouting, tears, or slammed doors. Addiction takes a significant toll on our ability to regulate our emotions, decision making, and behavior, and it can be very difficult to “reason” with someone struggling with substance use.
For this reason and more, many family members and friends of people in active addiction seek out professional help to reach their loved ones. This help often comes in the form of a professional interventionist, an addiction treatment expert who has been trained to educate and empower people to seek treatment.
How to Find An Interventionist?
When searching for an interventionist, a good resource is contacting your local addiction treatment provider. For example, our team includes a variety of trained interventionists in the New Jersey area who have helped hundreds of people attend treatment. If you’re unsure where to start, another good resource is the Association of Intervention Specialists, which certifies intervention professionals and provides a member directory.
While not everyone struggling with addiction will require an intervention, contacting an intervention professional can be helpful even if your loved one is not resistant to treatment. They can empower you with strategies to talk to your loved one and how to handle resistance or rejection. And, if an intervention does prove necessary, they can facilitate a calm and structured process that often results in success.
Why You Need An Interventionist
Here are 3 key reasons why you should consider an intervention specialist:
#1. Interventions can be more complicated than they seem
At first glance, an intervention seems very simple: get your loved one into a room with family and friends who encourage them to seek treatment. In reality, though, interventions rarely work this easily. Instead, family members and friends must encourage their loved one to attend (which sometimes means finding another reason for a gathering) and must use a variety of different resources and strategies to motivate them. Sometimes the conversations also include strong emotional reactions from both family members and the recipient of the intervention.
What Does An Intervention Specialist Do?
An interventionist is equipped with the training and background to facilitate these conversations in a safe, secure, and effective way. They are also adept at managing the emotional and mental toll that these difficult conversations can take on both sides.
Among the tasks of the interventionist include:
- Organizing and facilitating the intervention meeting
- Developing a strategy for a successful conversation
- Assisting family members and friends in preparing for the intervention
- Managing difficult emotions (anger, fear, anxiety) before, during, and after the intervention
- Ensuring family members and friends are aligned on intervention goals
- Assisting the recipient of the intervention with seeking addiction treatment
A good interventionist will handle all logistical aspects of the intervention, from determining a time and place to developing a routine that participants will follow during the meeting itself. The interventionist typically also establishes a relationship with an addiction treatment program where the individual can enroll if they agree to seek treatment. They may also verify that the individual’s insurance is accepted at particular treatment programs and arrange for an expedited admission if the subject agrees to treatment.
Prior to the intervention, the interventionist will also meet with family members and friends to discuss how the process works and what to expect. During this time, the interventionist might also need to persuade skeptical family members that their loved one will be receptive to the meeting even if previous attempts at recovery have failed. And they may determine which family members and friends should attend the intervention itself.
During the intervention, the interventionist can also direct and guide the conversation towards the end goal of reaching an agreement to seek treatment. This may require empathy, candor, and even a hard-edged approach that is easier for a professional than a family member to deliver. At times, the interventionist might also explain the addiction treatment process to the group and answer questions.
Though family members and friends can stage their own interventions, the process is often made more complicated by pre-existing relationships and stressors. Using a professional interventionist can make it more likely that a person in crisis will agree to seek treatment.
#2. Professional interventionists bring real-world experience and know-how
Most professional interventionists have undergone significant training that enables them to handle the process ethically, responsibly, and effectively. In addition, many interventionists are attracted to the work because they, too, are in active recovery. Some were even saved by interventions themselves.
Most family members have not staged an intervention prior to working with their loved one, and many have never attended one, either. While they are deeply motivated to help, this lack of real-world experience can make it difficult for families to know how to respond to the emotions and rationalizations that are common with addiction. For example, it may be difficult for family members to know how to react when their loved one refuses to attend the intervention, threatens to walk out, or insists on “one last” use of their substance of choice.
A professional interventionist, on the other hand, has the requisite experience to manage these risks and get the conversation back on track. Interventionists are accustomed to dealing with individuals who refuse to attend, skip out on the meetings, or threaten substance use. They have also heard every objection “in the book” and understand how people in active addiction think and rationalize. Working with a professional interventionist with such experience will be much easier than staging an intervention alone.
#3. A professional intervention includes a formal, step-by-step process
One of the main benefits of a professional intervention is the formal process that the interventionist leads. The strength of this process is both its structure, which helps move the subject closer to recovery and its flexibility, which can adapt to sudden changes or erratic behavior.
Here is an approximate breakdown of how an intervention works:
Before the Intervention
- The interventionist will meet with family members and friends of the intervention subject to better understand their addiction struggles.
- The interventionist will identify a series of candidates to join in an intervention, then interview each individually to determine who should attend.
- Under the guidance of the interventionist, the selected family members and friends will write letters about how the subject’s addiction has impacted their lives.
- The interventionist will arrange for admittance to a treatment program should the subject agree.
During the Intervention
- The interventionist will convene a meeting with the subject and selected family members and friends.
- Under careful moderation, family members and friends will share their stories with the subject and ask for them to seek treatment.
- The interventionist will address any objections or concerns that the subject may have about stopping their substance use.
- If the subject agrees, the interventionist will act immediately to enroll them in treatment.
After the Intervention
- If the subject attends treatment, the interventionist will maintain a relationship with family members and friends to involve them in the treatment program.
- The interventionist will also assist the treatment program with developing a plan of care and aftercare plan for life after treatment.
- If the intervention is unsuccessful, the interventionist will regroup with family members and friends to pursue an alternative approach.
While not every intervention is a success, the Association of Intervention Specialists estimates that approximately 90% of interventions are successful. Interested in learning more about the intervention process and whether it’s a good fit for your loved one? Listen to our podcast conversation with a professional interventionist or contact us today.