Before You Hire an Interventionist, Ask These Questions

Maybe you’re at the end of your rope. The person you love cannot stop using, but they also won’t get treatment.  You’ve been reduced to tears, begging, angry words and stoically refusing to engage with them. Probably you’ve tried everything you can think of to get them into a facility, a meeting or a counselor’s office, to no avail. So maybe now you’re thinking of asking for the help of a professional interventionist.

Hiring someone to help you intervene is not an easy decision for most people. But when you’re ready to choose someone to help with an addiction of any kind – substance use disorders, gambling, food, technology, video gaming, pornography, sex, relationships, shopping or exercise – it’s important to ask the right questions. When you’re in crisis mode, it can be really difficult to figure out what you should even say when you connect with an interventionist. (Look for candidates through the member directories of the Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS) or the Network of Independent Interventionists (NII).)  So to simplify the interview process, here are some essential questions to ask any interventionist you’re considering before you hire him or her:

  1. What are your credentials?
    Simply put, you’re looking for someone with the letters “CIP” after their name. This stands for certified intervention professional, a credential earned from the Pennsylvania Certification Board (for all interventionists, in any U.S. state). The individual may also have other titles, including Board Registered Interventionist (BRI-I or II). They may hold a range of counseling degrees as well such as psychotherapist (from a PhD to an M.S.), licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), licensed alcohol and drug counselor (LADC), certified alcohol and drug counselor (CADC) and/or certified chemical dependency counselor (CCDC), to name a few. But if the individual is a CIP, that’s the main credential you want to see.
  2. How many interventions have you done?
    Everyone needs to start somewhere, but when it comes to something as critical as an intervention, this is probably not the place to allow for inexperience. Because interventions are dynamic and people with addictions can exhibit unpredictable – even hostile or self-harming behavior – this is a time to go with someone with a proven track record over many years.
  3. What intervention model(s) do you use?
    There are a variety of intervention models and many are similar. Sometimes, interventionists come to develop their own approach that combines elements from several different models. And that’s OK, as long as the person can clearly tell you the models they use and offer information that shows an informed approach. A few of the most common ones include the Johnson Intervention Model, Invitational Intervention Model, Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT), Systemic Family Intervention (SFI), ARISE and Pressures to Change. For more information on these, go to the Intervention section.
  4. What steps do you take leading up to an intervention?
    “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the pre-intervention work,” says Earl Hightower, CIP, who’s based in Los Angeles. You want to hear that the interventionist plans to meet with you and other key family members and friends once or twice before the actual intervention. Some interventionists hold planning meetings to map out how the process will go, while others will meet with you to evaluate the situation and then coach you on asking the person the addict trusts most to reach out to the addict and ask him/her to come to a workshop to learn more about addiction. The aim here is educating the family as well as transitioning the addicted person into treatment.
  5. What is your fee?
    This is a very important question because an intervention is not covered by insurance (though you can ask your tax preparer if it can be declared on taxes as an uncovered medical cost). This out-of-pocket expense can vary widely across the U.S. — from $1,500 to $10,000, says Bill Maher, CIP, who is based in Virginia. This may be money well-spent if you consider all the costs if the addiction continues to be untreated — medical bills, high car insurance premiums, lawyer fees, lost wages and, worst of all, possibly funeral expenses. At the higher end of the price range, you’ll typically be working with a much more experienced pro, including those who may have to travel to where you live and who would therefore need his/her travel expenses covered.
  6. What’s your success rate getting addicts into treatment?
    You’ll want to know what the interventionist’s track record is for getting addicts to accept that they need treatment — and to go. This doesn’t always happen like you may have seen on TV, where the addicted person is shuffled into a waiting car and driven directly to rehab. Sometimes, the person agrees to go after attending to some business at home or work or making childcare arrangements. An intervention is not unsuccessful if the person fails to leave for treatment immediately in other words. But generally speaking, once your loved one agrees to go during an intervention, he/she will generally leave for a treatment center or program within a few days of the intervention.
  7. Do you have experience working with individuals who have my loved one’s type(s) of addiction?
    Interventionists may have experience working with poly-drug users (people who use more than one substance), alcoholics only, co-occurring mental health issues (like depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety) and/or those struggling with eating disorders. You may feel more comfortable choosing someone with a background in your partner, relative or friend’s type of addiction — someone who can relate to the particular challenge your family and your loved one is facing right now.
  8. What happens if my loved one refuses to go into treatment? And what if they don’t even show up to the intervention or walk out during it?
    Fees for an interventionist are paid up-front. Be sure you understand all the policies your interventionist has in place because his or her payment will be non-refundable (you’ll be asked to sign a contract, most likely, so read it carefully before you sign). So if you know your loved one is difficult, belligerent and simply uncooperative, you’ll need to know what happens next — if the interventionist will come back to try again, if need be, or if you’ll lose your payment if the addict leaves or doesn’t show up for the intervention. Getting an answer to this question will also help you learn how the interventionist has dealt with difficult situations in the past, which can help you decide if this is the right person to lead your efforts or not.
  9. Can you recommend treatment facilities/services for my loved one’s issue?
    Most interventionists will have relationships with treatment centers where their clients have gone before. Taking recommendations is a good idea, and you should follow through by calling the centers yourself to make sure it’s the right fit, taking into consideration the location, cost, staff-to-client ratio, benefit coverage, services and programs offered, among other factors. Go to How to Choose Treatment to learn more.
  10. Why did you become an interventionist?
    This can be a nice way of finding out the person’s own connection to addiction and recovery, if they have one. Whose life, after all, hasn’t in some way been touched by addiction? You may find that interventionists are compelled to help others because of their own personal battle with alcohol, other drugs or addictive behaviors. Not only will asking this question help you know the interventionist a little better on a personal level, but if they are in recovery, you’re likely to hear more about their own journey. Any interventionist you choose should be solidly in their own recovery.
  11. When can you do the intervention?
    Interventionists won’t hop onto a plane and drive to your house without first meeting you and taking the time to prepare a plan of action. So that may take a little time. “Addiction doesn’t happen overnight,” says Hightower. “We didn’t get here in a week.” Similarly, getting your loved one out of this usually long-standing and often tortured situation and into treatment won’t be an overnight endeavor for most people.  Similarly, though, you don’t want to wait weeks or months to get this process in motion, especially if you feel the risks to your loved one’s health and safety are such that an overdose or other harm is possible. And if you do feel your need is pressing and an interventionist can’t find a time to work with you, it’s probably time to look for someone else who can be there sooner.

It’s worth mentioning that if you do hire an interventionist, the person works for the family or person who hires them, not the person struggling with addiction. So if your loved one becomes angry and lashes out, he/she cannot fire the interventionist, Maher says. Only the person who retained his/her services can.

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