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What are the different strategies used for interventions?
Intervention is a commonly used term among addiction professionals. Most people think of an intervention as something you see on television. Others may believe it is simply a conversation and confrontation to call the substance user out. An intervention is a specific strategy used to meet a specific goal to address a problem or behavior. For example, if the problem was lack of knowledge about how addiction is affecting the person and a dislike for the twelve-step program, then the behavioral goal would be to educate and change the perception of the person on both subjects. The intervention strategy used could be education, a payoff matrix to see the advantages and disadvantages of substance use, and taking the person to a meeting. In reality, there are multiple intervention strategies that clinicians can use to achieve the goals to address the client’s needs.
The example above was used for simplicity and would apply to someone with a substance use disorder diagnosed as mild or someone who is using more drugs and alcohol then they would like and their family is not yet in turmoil. The interventions we perform at Family First Interventions are not those types of inquiries. We would like more inquiries like those and unfortunately, most call us when the situation is well past the example above. Most of our clients have either been using drugs or alcohol for a long time, have negatively affected themselves and their family and friends regardless of how long they have used substances, or both. The majority of substance users at this stage are diagnosed as severe and meet the criteria for medically supervised detoxification and residential level of care. In these situations, the problem and behaviors that need to be addressed have the person entering treatment as one of the many goals and the intervention strategies used can change from minute to minute as the situation unfolds. The other main goal in these types of interventions is to stop future harm to themselves and their family in addition to bringing them safely to treatment. The interventions most commonly used in these situations are addressing the family system, the environment for the substance user, and motivational interviewing with the substance user in order to bring them to a point of accepting help.
When to stage an intervention?
The family should consider staging an intervention when the family wants help and is at their bottom, not when they think the substance user is at the bottom and or ready for help. This is one of the main reasons people do not intervene. They have replaced their needs with attending to the needs of the substance user. As the family provides comfort to the addict or alcoholic they slowly make themselves uncomfortable. Now they are waiting for the substance user who is comfortable to want help and hit bottom. How could this happen when there is a system in place that prevents both things from happening? A family should stage an intervention when they want to be happy again, when they want their life back and when they want to see their loved one happy too. People do not stage an intervention because they want to, they stage an intervention because they don’t want to live this way anymore.
One of the many holdups of staging an intervention is fear on the family’s part. Although they call and say they want things to change, their feet do not often follow their lips. Why is this? It is mostly because they don’t know how to do anything else other than what they are doing now. Family First Intervention understands this and empathizes with the family’s fears of making a bad decision. Many families can not withstand another failure and have lost all confidence and faith in themselves and their loved one. Family First Intervention can help restore confidence in yourself and walk with you on this decision and see it through with ongoing support.
“Families should stage an intervention when they realize the fears of the intervention and its outcome are far less than the pain of continuing the status quo”.
How to stage an intervention
When staging an intervention the first thing suggested is to utilize a professional interventionist. Once a professional is retained the consultation process should include a discussion of the problem, goals for the intervention, and intervention strategies used to meet the goals. After determining the intervention strategies, treatment level of care and location can be arranged and the intervention can now be staged. The attendees should be invited, letters should be prepared, and seating arrangements should be made. After the family education portion of the intervention, boundaries, and consequences should be discussed. Boundaries and consequences are discussed during the staging process whether the substance user accepts help or not. Implementation of boundaries and consequences may occur because they said no, because they said yes and tried to leave treatment, or because they had a slip 2 years down the road. When staging the intervention, details matter and can change the outcome. The people who are there, what they say, how they say it, their body language, and where they are in the line of vision to the substance user matter. It is details like this that a family who chooses to do an intervention without a professional would not think of and these details can change the outcome.
Interventions can work when staged by a professional. The substance user may not always accept help and if the family has a closure that they did all they could to stop it then the intervention was successful and a goal has been met. One of our goals is to leave the family better off than they were regardless of the outcome and for them to feel that they made the right decision with no regrets.
What to say at an intervention?
What to say at intervention is equally as important as what not to say. One of the many reasons you have a professional interventionist with you is to mediate, navigate, and orchestrate the flow and the communication. Many believe that there is an intervention script to go off of. Although there is a strategy and there are letters to help you with things to say at the intervention, you should try and remember we are sitting down with a substance user who may be unpredictable and a family that is emotionally charged or defeated. Even if the interventionist were to have an intervention script, very often they will have to go off script to handle and address turns or volatility that may occur.
The most important thing to say at intervention is what is in your letter and to stick to that part of the script. Even if the substance user interjects do not be derailed or engage with them. In the event you are interrupted, let them finish, let the interventionist handle it, and when able, return to reading your letter. Your intervention letter will be written in a way that diffuses the substance user and throws them off of their expectations of what they think they will hear. Many substance users think the letter will be an attack and it is the opposite of that. What you are saying at the intervention is that you love them, you miss them, and that you regret the way you have handled things. Please remember that the substance user most likely blames everyone in the room for their problems. We’re going to validate them in their beliefs and turn the conversation toward everyone seeking help. When we say everyone, we mean everyone. The substance user will be entering a treatment program and the family will be entering some form of recovery too.
What makes an intervention successful?
What makes an intervention successful is achieving the goals you set for the intervention. If you set your goals and expectations only to be about the substance user going to treatment than anything other than them going to treatment would be considered a failure. If you remember earlier, we talked about what an intervention is. It is the strategy used to meet the goals of addressing the problem or behaviors. We try to help families understand that the goals of addressing the problem or the behaviors should be primarily focused on changing the perception of the substance user and for their family and to have acceptance of the substance user’s decision whether they accept help or not. The intervention should focus on what each individual family member has control over changing and then making those changes. Setting goals that focus on what you as an individual can actually do are attainable and can lead to an intervention being successful regardless of outcome. Goals that focus on how to control the substance user is not the recipe that makes an intervention successful. Remember, an intervention is not an event, it is a process and sometimes this process takes longer than expected. If the family stays on track with the mission of the intervention and keeps the goals that they set in mind then the family’s actions will instinctively move the substance user towards change. Interventions are more successful when you focus your attention on what you have control over and not what you can do to control the substance user.
Do you need professional help for an intervention?
When someone asks how to start off an intervention, our first response is, with a professional interventionist. To ask if you need professional help with an intervention would be asking the same question about anything else that is important. Do you need an attorney if you are convicted of a crime? Do you need a doctor if diagnosed with an illness? You could answer no to both of those questions and you would most likely see the same results if you answered no to whether or not you need a professional for an intervention.
Most families who do the intervention by themselves without a professional do so because they are misunderstood about what an intervention is. Far too often is believed an intervention is a confrontation that involves talking the substance user into acknowledging they have a problem and then doing something about it. If that is your only concern and the only problem you see then you should do that and go about addressing the intervention without a professional. If the family would like a trained professional that can think on their feet and put everything together including the treatment plan and the family recovery, then having a professional interventionist present will be the way to go.
When to get Intervention Help
Thinking that substance use is the only problem that needs to be addressed is what gets many families and the addict or alcoholic into deeper holes. Substance use is the solution to the substance users problem and is lower on the list of concerns than one may think. Any drug and alcohol use can be detrimental medically, emotionally, physically, mentally, legally, and spiritually so it should and always will be a concern. The bigger concern is, why the use and what is it doing to everyone else in addition to what it is doing to the substance user. The most common fears of an intervention are that many believe the intervention will make things worse. The time to get help is when you overcome these fears and realize not doing the intervention will lead to more harm to both the family and the substance user.
How to get Intervention Help
At Family First Intervention we understand what the family and the addict and alcoholic are going through. We are understanding of the toll addiction takes on the substance user, their family, friends, and society. If you’re waiting for them to hit bottom or ask for help and they are not seeking help regardless of how bad things have become then it is time for an intervention. You and your family do not have to wait for the substance user to make the first move. Even if the substance user did ask for help and then followed through with it, there would still be a huge piece of the puzzle going unaddressed. That piece we are referring to is the toll it has taken on those that love the substance user the most. All the evidence and all the data points to better treatment outcomes and long term sobriety success stories when both the substance user and their family improve simultaneously. You can start your journey by contacting us for a consultation and to see how we can help.