Types of Intervention Specialists

People with addiction problems are often misrepresented in movies and television programs. Problem gamblers are shown sitting at the roulette table, making solitary bet after solitary bet. People who abuse alcohol slump over their drinks at the bar. Drug users live alone on the street with their needles. While these images may be convenient, they’re not accurate. Addicted people impact their families with their addictions, and some addiction habits have roots within family dynamics.

Family members of addicted people often want to help, and they encourage the abusers to simply leave the substance behind. This might be easier said than done. In fact, a study from a Carnegie Mellon University professor suggests that drug users are even surprised by the intensity of their cravings. In a landmark study published in 2007, drug users were asked to place a value on the drugs they used. When a craving hit, they were likely to give the drug twice the non-craving value, and that stayed true even when the user knew the drug was about to be given. It’s difficult for family members and friends to truly understand this level of craving and provide adequate support to help the addicted person recover. That’s when an intervention specialist can help.

An intervention specialist can provide real help to addicts and concerned family members and friends. An intervention specialist has advanced training in addiction and can explain the phenomenon to both addicts and families. The specialist can provide support to help the addict improve and help the family eradicate behaviors that enable the addiction to thrive.

There are many types of intervention specialists. Some vary by their training, some by their specialty and some by the methods they use.

Specialties and Roles

Interventionists can help with a wide variety of addictions. Some specialize in dealing with one specific addiction, while others branch out to cover a wide range of addictions. Some intervention specialists focus on young children while others deal exclusively with adults. Many intervention specialists assist clients in the presence of family members and friends, but others provide assistance in one-on-one counseling sessions.

Commonly, addiction specialists assist with:

What Is an Intervention?

In general terms, an intervention is designed to help a person recognize that the addiction is present, dangerous and must be stopped. An intervention isn’t a simple argument where the addicted person is attacked by angry loved ones. Instead, an intervention is a discussion that is carefully planned by an intervention specialist, and it’s designed to be both educational and supportive.

During an intervention, the family must:

  • Avoid yelling and screaming.
  • Refrain from physical violence.
  • Steer clear of emotional blame and guilt trips.
  • Focus on encouraging sobriety, not settling scores.

These goals may be easy to write down, but they can be hard to accomplish. An intervention specialist can often help by intervening during tense moments and helping to reframe the conversation in a more positive and helpful way.

Intervention Variations

Intervention specialists may differ from one another in the intervention method they use to achieve results. Determining what method the intervention specialist prefers to use may be one way to help a family choose the right professional to work with. There are at least three common methods intervention specialists commonly use.

In the systemic model, the entire family of the addict is involved in the primary intervention. An intervention specialist meets with the family to discuss the addiction and the effects on the addict and the family. The intervention specialist and the family form a team in this meeting, and they determine exactly what they want to say and how they want to say it. Then, the addict is invited to a neutral location, and the team presents that information in a loving way. This message is often repeated over and over, and the team is encouraged to stay on message at all times. If the addict will not make changes as a result of the intervention, the therapy doesn’t stop. The intervention specialist continues to meet with all family members on a regular basis to help them understand how they may be contributing to the addiction. Changing the environment around the addict may change the addiction patterns and stop the abuse. This model may be helpful for families of addicts who are quite resistant to therapy.

In the Johnson model, the entire family of the addict meets with the intervention specialist, and together they plan an intervention for the addict. Here, each family member is asked to focus only on the addict’s behavior and how that behavior impacts the family. The focus is not placed on family members and their enabling behavior. Only the addictive behavior is put in the spotlight. The group also comes up with a series of consequences that will befall the addict if the addiction doesn’t stop. The addict may be asked to leave the home, for example, or the addict may be forced to give up driving. According to the Association of Intervention Specialists, this method can be surprisingly effective and 90 percent of addicts agree to stop their behaviors when faced with consequences. At the end of the Johnson model, most addicts are encouraged to enter group addiction counseling programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. If an addict is quite independent, and willing to take ultimate responsibility for this addiction, this method might be a good therapy choice.

After an Intervention

As mentioned, some intervention specialists provide ongoing care after the initial intervention is complete, and others do not provide this sort of care. If the addicted person prefers group therapy sessions, the intervention specialist’s role may be quite limited, ending after the intervention is complete. If the addicted person prefers individual counseling sessions, the intervention specialist can prove invaluable in helping the addicted person remember the addiction intervention conversation and the promises made there.

The Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network reports that intervention specialists can provide the most help when they are allowed to provide so-called booster sessions. Here, the addict is allowed to ask questions, gain clarification and repeat some of the topics brought up during the intervention. In the intervening time, the addict has had time to process the things that were said, and the addict may have feedback to provide about those comments. The addict may also have missed some of the finer points presented in an intervention due to the sheer emotional nature of the situation, and a follow-up appointment can allow the intervention specialist to repeat the missed information and provide additional guidance.

Do Intervention Professionals Help?

When it comes to addiction resolution, most families have one basic question: Will this work? People who hire intervention professionals often have the same question. Before they submit their loved one to a difficult conversation, they want to make sure the conversation will solve the problem and be worth the pain.

Unfortunately, addiction recovery rates remain much the same, no matter what method is used. Addiction is a disease, and there’s no real silver bullet that can stop an addiction in its tracks. To give just one example, a study published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that addiction relapse rates hover between 40 and 60 percent. People who have high blood pressure or diabetes have similar scores. They may control their disease for a time, until old habits creep in and the diseases resurface once more. This may mean that addicted people need more than one intervention throughout their lifetimes.

Partnering with an intervention specialist, year after year, may prove helpful. An intervention specialist has details from the first intervention, and those details can be put to use when the addict faces a relapse. The intervention professional can step in to frame another intervention with the family, or provide coaching ideas to help the family steer the addict in the right direction, away from addiction. Using the same interventionist over a period of many years may be an ideal way to help an addict deal with the very real phenomenon of relapse.

Choosing an Interventionist

The Association of Intervention Specialists provides national certification programs for intervention specialists, and the organization provides a directory for people who are looking for qualified professionals to work with. This may be the best place for families to start the search for a qualified intervention specialist.

Once a family has determined that the professional is certified and willing to work with their loved one’s addiction, screening becomes a matter of personal preference. Families must choose intervention specialists they feel comfortable with so they can form a partnership that can stay in place for years to come. Asking questions and performing interviews can help families choose the right provider. These questions may help families differentiate between providers during the interview process:

  • What intervention method do you use?
  • Are you available to provide counseling after the intervention, and if not, where will you send the addict for ongoing help?
  • Will you step in repeatedly if the initial intervention doesn’t work?
  • What is your success rate?

Final Thoughts

Holding an intervention properly isn’t as easy as reading a few articles and sitting the addict down for a firm talking-to. An intervention specialist is required in order to help plan the discussion and execute it properly. There is a wide discrepancy between interventionists, mainly revolving around the methods used to tackle the addiction. Finding the right intervention specialist means checking into licenses, and then asking questions to make sure the professional will provide an intervention experience that meets the family’s expectations.

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