Interventions save lives! Addiction to alcohol or another drug is a progressive, chronic and sometimes fatal condition. It is a myth that people have to “hit bottom” before they can get help for an addiction – the course of addiction can be interrupted and successfully treated when loved ones intervene. An intervention raises the “bottom” so the person becomes receptive to an offer of help.
An intervention is a structured method of getting help for someone who has a substance use disorder. It involves gathering a group of concerned people and, after preparation and training for the group, addressing the problem in a non-threatening way, characterized by caring and concern.
Because each family and set of circumstances is different, the intervention is individually structured based upon a thorough assessment. All arrangements for treatment and transportation for the person are made ahead of time and all potential barriers or objections have been removed. The optimal outcome is two-fold: the addicted person agrees to accept treatment for his or her addiction and the family is able to confront the problem while learning how to support the addicted individual and participate in the recovery process.
An intervention is a good option when one or more people are concerned about a loved one’s addiction problem. By the time a family calls an interventionist, the addiction is usually causing problems in one or more areas (financial, vocational, social, relational, health, legal etc.). Often there has been a crisis or the family has a sense of impending crisis if things continue.
Anyone who continues to use a drug or alcohol despite problems associated with its use is showing a primary symptom of addiction: loss of control. Addictive substances include: alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, heroin and other opiates, addictive pharmaceutical drugs (opiates such as Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Demerol, Codeine, Dilaudid, Fentanyl, Methadone and benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Xanax, Valium, Clonazapam, Oxazapam, Lorazapam etc.). This same principle applies to other addictive behaviours such as video gaming, gambling and sex addiction, eating disorders and mental health problems.
Telling a loved one they have a problem that they need to fix often just has the effect of increasing anxiety, denial and defensiveness. It draws attention to the problem without providing a meaningful solution. A professionally facilitated intervention addresses the problem, while at the same time providing the optimal long-term solution for the addicted individual and for the entire family. An intervention and offer of treatment is a gift; on some level the addicted individual recognizes this and is able to relax their defences and accept the help that they so desperately need.
95% of professionally facilitated interventions result in treatment intakes often the same day. However, successful recovery depends upon many factors and the intervention provides the initial context for a healthy recovery because the family comes together to address the problem.
A professional interventionist needs to have training in addictions counselling and in interventions, experience, education, and affiliation with a professional certifying body which holds them to a high standard of conduct.
Sue Donaldson is Pegasus’ senior interventionist. She has trained in the Arise, Family Systemic, Motivational and Johnson models of intervention. She has drawn on the strengths of these models and her 20 years of experience working with addicted individuals and their families, to develop the SHIFT (Systemic Holistic Integrative Family Treatment) Intervention approach. Sue is a Registered Social Worker, a Certified Executive Coach, a Certified Intervention Professional and a member of the Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS).