Regardless of how deeply family members care about a loved one’s struggle with alcohol or drug addiction, there are times when a professional intervention is the best approach. When repeated attempts to persuade a family member to seek help for his or her addiction fail, a professional intervention may be a life-saving step for the individual and a critical way to help restore the integrity of the family unit.
An intervention is a loving, no-nonsense, organized approach used to break through the denial integral to an addicted lifestyle. In a controlled setting with the right professional, an intervention is a process that carefully enables family and friends to express their love and concern while at the same time putting in place options that will create a healthy, productive, and positive outcome for the individual suffering with the disease of addiction.
A member of the professional intervention team works with everyone involved throughout the entire intervention process. Each intervention is unique. Resources are put into motion after the first contact with a concerned family member, friend or referent. A professional interventionist works with clients on a case-by-case basis utilizing the vast array of skills and resources available to ensure that the client and those who care for him or her get a strong foothold on the path to hope, healing, and self-empowerment.
STEP 1: Initial call
During the initial call, the professional interventionist and the primary contact person will hold a confidential phone meeting to determine an overview of the immediate concerns. These two will collaborate and decide together on the best plan of action specific to the individual involved.
Depending on the urgency of the situation, specific information related to proposed services and any legal contracts needed to secure the interventionist’s professional services will be established. These will then be forwarded to the contact person via e-mail, fax, or, if there is available time, regular mail.
STEP 2: Initial intake
The primary clinical referral source will be noted along with the date, name, and contact information. If a family member is the initial caller, then that person’s name and preferred contact information will be recorded.
To begin, information on the affected individual will be gathered including his or her name, age, date of birth, address and phone. Details regarding the individual’s marital status, children, occupation, education and current living situation are recorded. The individual’s financial status and health insurance is also noted.
Next, the individual’s current mental status — including if they are at risk or have a history of harming themselves or others and any potential access to weapons – is gathered. Any episodes of grief, loss or trauma that the client has experienced over their lifetime will be noted in addition to his or her past psychiatric history including current medications, clinician information, etc. The family’s psychiatric and substance use history will also be reviewed as applicable.
The individual’s previous treatment history including drugs of choice, dates of use and amounts consumed are discussed. If the subject has a detox history, any withdrawal symptoms associated with prior treatment will also be noted. Establishing a timeline from first substance use to existing use is critical.
Current medical history including medications, allergies, and clinician information is gathered. Contact information for all therapists, physicians and psychiatrists is recorded along with type of treatment program, length of professional relationship with individual, and frequency of visits to doctors’ offices or emergency rooms.
Finally, the person’s social and developmental history is recorded including the birth order of any siblings and details of the extended family. Additionally, questions related other important areas of the individual’s life are asked such as: legal history; military experience; religion and spirituality; relationships, friendships and social supports; hobbies and interests; and any additional information and comments.
STEP 3: Evaluation
Assessment of the alcoholic or the addict’s behavior based on the initial intake information will then be initiated. Utilizing all of the collected information, the professional interventionist begins to identify how the addiction is affecting the family and significant others.
STEP 4: Process
There are many things to consider as all parties begin to prepare for an intervention. Structured intervention services are comprehensive and will include a number of key elements.
The professional interventionist will conduct rehearsal and planning meetings, either electronically or face-to-face. A decision will be made regarding if the intervention will be invitational or surprise. If the intervention is to be a surprise, then it will be best to avoid alerting the individual ahead of time.
Group roles will be established in regards to who will be the detail person, who will be the contact person, and so on. At this point, the individual’s condition shall be reviewed again as needed including: mental health condition with any negative consequences; addictions; illnesses; enabling behaviors: changes; etc.
All participants will write descriptive and persuasive letters to the individual. The professional interventionist will review this collection of letters — editing out messages of anger, blame, and judgment. The goal of these letters will be to stick with data and to employ specific examples using imagery.
The changes (consequences or bottom lines) that will occur if the individual does not seek treatment will need to be determined and written on a separate page. The willingness of all participants to follow through on consequences will be reviewed.
Financial resources will be identified. A time, place and date for further rehearsals and the actual intervention will be established. Treatment centers will be identified and transportation arrangements will be confirmed.
A plan to guarantee that the individual attends the intervention will be created. Objections or barriers that the individual may use to avoid treatment will be identified, and responses and solutions to these potential roadblocks shall be prepared. A suitcase for the individual that contains everything needed including medications will be packed and kept ready.
Comprehensive educational training of the intervention team will begin. This should include varied examples of messaging. Detailed planning and timelines for preparations become very important at this stage of the process.
Onsite rehearsal of the intervention is conducted to make sure all parties are as prepared as possible concerning what to expect. The entire intervention in regards to who will sit where — including the individual — will be rehearsed. The order of presenting letters, opening scripts and closing statements will be discussed in detail.
Locations where participants will park cars discreetly will be reviewed. Everyone will be encouraged to arrive at the intervention as a group in a timely manner.
All treatment options will be discussed at length to enable the selection of the appropriate treatment provider for the individual’s unique circumstances. The treatment center will be informed whether or not the individual will be arriving. Letters and consequence statements will be given to the interventionist for delivery to the individual’s counselor.
The family will be encouraged to sign up for outpatient programs at treatment center. Nearby Al-Anon/Nar-Anon meetings will be located for the individual, and he or she will be encouraged to go to several or to find a competent therapist. Acceptable backup plans will be considered as well.
STEP 5: Intervention
Logistics and travel plans will be set in motion for all involved. The professional interventionist will be on-site to lead the intervention on the designated day.
STEP 6: Post-intervention processing, treatment and aftercare
A follow-up question and answer session with the loved one’s team as soon as possible after the intervention concludes helps the entire group make sense of the experience. The importance of having an aftercare plan in place — both for the individual and the family – that can be employed from day one, cannot be underestimated.
A post-treatment, aftercare plan is effective in bridging the gap between residential treatment and a return to the real world. Without such a plan in place and a strong support system lined up in advance, a lot of people are at risk of losing their way when they try to return to day-to-day living.
For example, without a safety net in place, patients traveling alone when they leave treatment could be at risk of immediately drinking again at the airport or on the airplane. Instead, if someone was onsite to pick them up, they could take the individual directly to a recovery meeting.
Men and women who come out of residential treatment often need a number of ongoing services right away such as: case management; recovery monitoring services; 12-Step recovery groups; therapeutic, psychiatric and psychological services; medication management; and drug testing.
Getting individuals to commit to a well-documented aftercare plan prior to discharge is critical. Capturing people in this way from the moment they leave treatment, definitely empowers their long-term recovery success.