A loved one needs alcohol or drug rehab, but where do you turn for help?
You’ve nagged, pleaded, and threatened.
Perhaps you’ve broken down and enabled them just to make them promise to seek help – only to see that promise broken time and time again. The struggle with substance abuse can be all-consuming and create serious consequences for both the addict and their family. If your friend or family member needs treatment, the best chance for success may come from enlisting the help of a professional interventionist.
An intervention is essentially a focused, heart-to-heart conversation between the addict and their loved ones. It’s a technique often used with those who are in denial about their problem or unwilling to seek treatment. Interventions are often used to spur action in addicts with behavior that potentially causes direct harm to others as well, such as young children living in the home.
This informal intervention process typically involves one or more of the addict’s family members sitting down with their loved one for a direct conversation about the addiction. The challenge with informal interventions is that no neutral third parties are present, making it easy for the sit-down to descend into anger and accusations. As a result, the addict may become defensive and less likely to enter alcohol or drug rehab.
An additional disadvantage is that family and friends may not have the skills to deal with a resistant loved one. For example, an addict might agree to enter treatment but come up with a long list of things to do before they will seek help, from finishing a work project to saying “good-bye” to their young children. Since those doing the intervention haven’t encountered these situations before, they may believe the promise, only to find the addict goes on another binge and never gets to the treatment center.
Interventions without professional guidance can also take a dangerous turn. In 2012, several family members were charged with multiple misdemeanors after a botched intervention. They tried to forcibly take their sister/daughter to rehab. The “rescue” involved using tear gas on the woman’s boyfriend and removing her from her apartment in a headlock.
Most unplanned interventions, unlike the one mentioned above, don’t end up creating legal problems. However, the dismal reality is that an informal intervention has the potential to damage already-fragile relationships. It can also end up driving the addict right back into destructive and life-threatening behavior.
An intervention organized by an addiction professional is different. It’s an entire process that is sharply focused on one specific goal: to get the person into treatment. An addiction specialist is a powerful ally in the fight against addiction. He or she will:
- Identify options and provide guidance. An interventionist has the experience to guide you through the decision-making process. He or she can answer questions about alcohol or drug rehab treatment options, and if the interventionist cannot answer a question, he or she will guide you to a professional who can.
- Manage the details. Successful interventions require careful attention to detail. The interventionist will coordinate all those seemingly little things that make the meeting run more smoothly. The addiction specialist may have suggestions regarding the location of the intervention, which family members should be involved, and perhaps even where participants should park their cars so the loved one isn’t alerted to their presence before it begins.
- Utilize skills and expertise. An interventionist has a professional certification in one of several specialized fields, including: Certified Addiction Specialist (CAS), Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC) or Certified Addiction Professional (CAP). Education combined with experience gives them the ability to handle a range of situations. For example, he or she will have the know-how to deal with an addict who is high during the intervention, has a history of violence, lives with a mental health disorder, or has had suicidal thoughts.
- Address a hurting family dynamic. The intervention will be a conversation among a group of people who are hurting. Addicts may feel betrayed and isolated from loved ones. Family members might harbor feelings like anger, sadness, and disappointment. Sometimes, family members don’t get along with each other and, in fact, blame each other for the addict’s behavior. The interventionist will work with the entire family to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.
- Run the intervention. Strong emotions and powerful conversations can push an intervention off track. Staying focused on the goal provides a better chance of success.
Addiction specialists will have an agenda and stick to it, avoiding the issues that can quickly sidetrack the process.
- Provide a team of support. Interventionists often work with a team of addiction specialists skilled at convincing addicts to enter recovery. One or more counselors may facilitate the meeting. The interventionist will also have contacts within the addiction community and will be able to guide you to other services your family may need, such as counseling or case workers.
- Act as the calm voice. An intervention is an emotionally powerful process for addicts and families. It may just be the toughest conversation you ever have with a loved one, and it’s bound to bring up a host of emotions on both sides. The interventionist will be a calming presence able to help ensure no one feels attacked and tempers stay down.
- Accompany your loved one to treatment. Getting an addict to agree to treatment is one thing; physically getting them to an alcohol or drug rehab facility is another. A professional interventionist will make arrangements for transportation, which may include an extended drive or a flight. If the addict agrees to treatment, the interventionist will also accompany him or her to the treatment center.
- Provide post-intervention resources. Despite the best planning, not every intervention results in treatment. An experienced addiction specialist will guide your family if the addict chooses not to enter recovery. He or she will provide support resources for helping family and friends follow through on the consequences of treatment refusal. For example, the specialist can teach you strategies for saying “no” to the addict’s requests for money or other support.
Despite a family’s best intentions, an unplanned or poorly executed intervention may cause more harm than good. A professional interventionist is a valuable ally, a resource, and a skilled coordinator. By organizing a well-planned, well-executed process, the addiction specialist will help lay the foundation for re-building the addict’s life — as well as yours. Remember, not every intervention will result in the person willing going to alcohol or drug rehab; even a successful one is not the final solution to substance abuse. It is, however, the first and very important step in the journey to sobriety and wellness.