Family Intervention & Treatment

Intervention for Substance Abuse & Addiction

Drug interventions are highly structured processes, with a goal to come up with a solution for somebody who has an issue with alcohol or drug abuse. During the intervention, people involved in the individual’s life will come together in order to share what the impact of the substance abuse has been on their lives. Successful interventions are not confrontational. Rather, they give the addicted person the chance to make the first step towards recovering. Very often, this is achieved with the help of an interventionist.

Are Interventions Necessary?

Sometimes, when people have a substance abuse issue, they recognize it themselves and, in that case, they don’t need an intervention. However, there are also times when the people with the abuse problem aren’t ready to admit that they need help, often because they are in denial. They don’t see, or don’t want to see, that their drug use has a tremendous impact on every aspect of their life. The latter situation is actually very common. In many cases, these people will even blame circumstances or other people for their situation. In that case, interventions can be beneficial to help them break through this denial, ensuring that they can really see what their behavior is doing to those who care about them.

When Should You Hold an Intervention?

There has long been a belief that addicted people will not be able to get help until they hit “rock bottom”. Now, we know that this isn’t true. In fact, the earlier an intervention is held, the better because their addiction will usually not have caused sustainable damage yet.

It is important to create a treatment plan that enables people to go immediately from the intervention into treatment as well. Hence, if you are organizing an intervention, you should do research beforehand about where to send them. That way, once they agree to get treatment, they will not have the chance to change their mind anymore either.

Professional Interventionists Can Help

Many people who are considering organizing an intervention for someone who abuses substances, think they can do it alone. They wonder whether there really is any need for a professional interventionist. The truth is that the conversation held during an intervention can literally be the difference between life and death. Additionally, addicted people can often feel confronted, causing them to become violent or angry. With the help of an interventionist, some of these risks are mitigated to a certain degree.

Interventions are incredibly emotional, and it is all too easy to lose track of the goal. Participants really want to express how hurt and angry they are because of the actions of the loved one, but that isn’t what an intervention is about. Rather, it is about convincing that affected individual to seek help. With an interventionist, name calling and accusations are reduced as much as possible. Hence, it is always better to have one present.

There are certain situations where having an interventionist present is absolutely essential for the safety of everybody involved. These include those situations where the addicted person:

  • Had or has a serious mental illness
  • Has been violent in the past
  • Has been suicidal in the past
  • Is taking mood-altering drugs

Intervention Models

Interventionists and addiction counselors have developed seven different models of intervention. They are broadly categorized into three types: direct interventions, indirect interventions, and forcible interventions. Direct interventions are the most successful of all, with a 71% success rate. The seven different models are:

1. Crisis intervention

A crisis intervention is generally a direct type of intervention. This is a very important type where people simply do not have the luxury of time. It is perfect for those with mental breakdowns and/or addictions. Around 50% of people who have a mental health issue also have a substance abuse problem. Often, their loved ones can see when a crisis starts to emerge. If this escalates, the crisis model can also become a forcible intervention, as patients may be forced to be hospitalized for their own safety. The risk is particularly large if they have shown suicidal tendencies. In fact, 90% of successful suicides are by people who were mentally ill. A crisis intervention doesn’t have to go hand in hand with a mental health issue, however. Consider, for instance, that 13% of those who attend rehab are homeless. Homelessness is also a type of crisis. Unfortunately, crisis interventions are very difficult to plan, because you never know when a crisis is going to happen.

2. Tough love

This intervention can be both direct and indirect. It is perfect for those who struggle to say no and have effectively enabled their loved one’s drug abuse. Tough love works for people whose loved ones have tried everything else. Unfortunately, many people choose not to hold this kind of intervention because if the addicted people refuse the help that is offered to them, they may end up getting pushed further into addiction. Experts agree that this should be a last resort option. Tough love approaches should always be done in the presence of an interventionist as well. During a tough love intervention, people place an ultimatum on the loved one, such as a divorce or no longer financially supporting that person, or even stating that person can no longer remain in that house. The approach only works if the ultimatum is true and will be followed through.

3. Confrontational model of intervention

This is the most direct form of intervention. Here, the addicted people are challenged to look at their behavior by being shown evidence of the consequences of their addiction and undesirable behavior. In the past, this was quite a manipulative form of intervention, developed during the days when people still believed that addiction was not an illness but rather a flaw in character. It was very much about placing al the blame on the addicted people, punishing them until they accepted help. Interestingly, the confrontational method continues to be used, but in a more caring way. Confrontation works, but only if it is done in a way that shows care at the same time. Interestingly, a recent study published by the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology showed that this method was highly effective with problem drinkers. This model, as the tough love model, often requires the setting of an ultimatum if the concered person refused help.

4. Johnson model of intervention

The Johnson model is closely related to the confrontational model. It is about providing education to the person caring for the addicted people, often a parent or spouse, on how to encourage them to seek help. Here, there is no blaming anybody, but rather a focus on enabling people to seek help. Usually, a few intervention meetings are held between a professional and the caregiver, where the latter is shown how to have a conversation with addicted people without them becoming so defensive that they are resistant to treatment. Interestingly, the American Psychological Association has reported that this is most likely to be the most effective intervention method, but 70% of the social networks around the patient do not use it.

5. The love first approach to intervention

This is also a direct intervention method, which is held on neutral territory. Here, family members are encouraged to show compassion and love to the people with an addiction, showing them sympathy throughout the treatment process. They refute the excuses used but do so positively. For instance, if patients say they want treatment but have to finish a shift at work, family members can say that cover has already been arranged. For the love first method to work, participants have to stay very calm, because there is to be no defensiveness, conflict, tension, hostility, or arguing from them, no matter what the addicted person does. Often, people write letters to the concerned individual that they read aloud, in which they describe how they feel. They also have to write consequences to show what would happen if the addicted people don’t get the help that they need.

6. The systematic family model of intervention

A lot of people don’t realize just how much influence they have over the life of addicted people. Often, they have a skewed point of view because there hasn’t been any positive response to their efforts yet. However, with the right tools, a difference can be made. Here, patients are systematically told how their behavior has affected the lives of other people. It is important to understand that family involvement is vital in the recovery of someone who is addicted. For instance, research by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, operating from Columbia University, showed that if teenagers do not have strong family ties, they have a threefold increased risk of drinking alcohol, and four times greater risk of using marijuana. The systematic intervention is perhaps best known. Members of the family sit together and tell the addicted people what their behavior has caused, but not in a blaming or shameful manner. This is about having open lines of communication. Interventionists should be present to facilitate the conversation so that it remains peaceful and respectful. With this intervention, the patient also knows that an intervention will take place, rather than being surprised. This means that the addicted people can prepare themselves to a certain degree.

7. ARISE intervention

The ARISE intervention is the preferred type of intervention for specialists. It effectively combines the best things out of all the other six types of intervention and is both direct and indirect. Here, the entire family comes together and tries to find a solution for the behavior of the addicted person. This is very different from constantly telling people how their behavior is affecting the rest of the world. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse recently published a study in which it was stated that 83% of people who have gone through an ARISE intervention agreed to getting the help that they need.

The goal of ARISE is to improve the family as a whole. Hence, while the addicted people are receiving treatment, their family members also go through counseling so that they come to understand how to better manage life around themt, how to be supportive once they return home, and how to get help for the wounds that have been inflicted upon them. ARISE interventions have to be properly planned, but not hidden from the addicted persons. In fact, these individuals can take part in the planning sessions if they want. Often, several meetings are required to agree to a way forward that is suitable to everybody. At other times, the concerned individuals agree to seek treatment straight away. What is so different, and so important, about ARISE, however, is that it encourages healing in the entire family unit.

Preparing for an Intervention

Once an intervention has taken place, the individual that is addicted will go straight to a treatment program – if the intervention was successful. In this case, the people concerned are highly motivated to seek help, which is why that help must be available straight away. It is also for this reason that a treatment center has to be ready to accept them immediately as well.

If you are planning an intervention, you should work together with intervention specialists in order to identify the facility that your loved one can go to. Finding the right treatment program is absolutely crucial to giving the patients the help that they need, and not every program is right for everybody. You need to help to find the one that will be best for the needs of your loved one, while at the same time preparing the practical things such as making living arrangements for pets and children, taking time off work, packing a bag, and so on.

Sometimes, unfortunately, an intervention will fail. During intervention, you are likely to have placed an ultimatum on the addicted person. You must follow through on this, something that your interventionist can help you with. Oftentimes, all is not lost. There are situations in which the individuals will need to have a seed of doubt planted, and where they come to understand that it truly is serious (hence why it is so important to follow through with the ultimatum), and that they truly do need help.

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