Considering an Intervention for a Loved One? Here’s How it Works.

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Categories: Counselor Articles

By Sandy Ogle, LADC, Addiction Specialist | December 19, 2019

A family considering intervention for a loved one can be daunting. Often a family is experiencing their own crisis, a sense that their own life is becoming more unmanageable, trying desperately to balance their fears with taking action.

It is common for family/friends to feel “hijacked” by their loved one’s growing defenses associated with mental health and substance use issues. Families are often feeling exhausted, fearful, and suffering in much the same way an addict or alcoholic is. In my experience consulting with a family weighing intervention, they report fear of reprisal, fears of all kinds, and for their loved one feeling betrayed by this process. Through consulting with families, I work to reframe this thinking assisting a family to consider that the greatest betrayal could be to do nothing.

Consider intervening instead as “throwing a lifeline”. The loved one is too important to stand on the sidelines while everyone continues to suffer. Having said that, these concerns are all understandable and common for a loved one walking a tight rope with a loved one struggling with addiction. It is my goal to support a family, coach this process easing some of that fear and anxiety.

The intervention I collaborate with you is one that we construct together with an offer and opportunity for healing waiting for them once they agree.

I believe taking this step to intervene is a show of love and support for that person who is vulnerable, having distorted thinking and making it very challenging for that individual themselves to initiate any first steps for making changes. Other types of “interventions” are inevitable, such as hospitalizations, legal crises, accidents, relationship and employment loss. The intervention I collaborate with you is one that we construct together with an offer and opportunity for healing waiting for them once they agree. I prefer this kind of intervention asit bypasses years of suffering and possibly death.

My personal intervention approach is very effective and a process designed to interrupt an existing behavioral pattern. For the case of your family, we are likely intervening on a self-destructive behavior, an addiction or a mental health condition. Our goal is to meet face to face with the person (identified patient) who is not functioning properly and help them take a step towards recovery. Simultaneously, myself and your family will work to adjust the family system, by discontinuing behaviors that support the negative pattern. The combination is highly effective and efficient.

The goal is to create a conversation built around empathy and compassion for the identified patient. We look to appeal to their “better nature”. This is done through love, building on strengths and increasing hope. This is not done through confrontation, arguing, finger pointing or anger. My role as your interventionist is to facilitate a productive meeting, where the identified person understands their options so that she can make an informed decision.

Ultimately, your loved one will be making a choice. My experience is that most often their choice is to agree. Having said that, It is important to remember that intervention is a “PROCESS” and not an “EVENT”. This means that intervention works even once the meeting has concluded. In the event your loved one declines help, we find that outcomes are still good, however they are usually just delayed. Although, my approach is compassionate, I am still firm and very assertive in my mission, which is to facilitate treatment on the day of intervention for the person suffering.

Prior to intervening, there is an agreement provided to you. This agreement outlines the overview of services, fees/expenses and expectations. Legally, I am not allowed to provide any counsel, guidance or recommendations without a signed intervention agreement, therefore we cannot proceed until this agreement is executed. Once the agreement has been finalized, I will need a list of names, email addresses and phone numbers for all individuals participating in the intervention. This group is referred to as the “intervention team”. Once we have this information an email will be sent to the intervention team. The email will contain a timeline, recommendations and instructions on next steps. Third, I ask all participants to write a letter to the identified patient. We provide a very specific letter format that must be followed to the tee. The letters are very rhythmically specific and designed to open up the person’s heart and challenge any denial or minimization. Letters are proofread, potentially edited and adjusted as needed. This is done to remove any terminology that may work against us at an intervention. Each participant reads his or her letter at the intervention. These letters are instrumental in the intervention process. The letters work to emotionally connect with your loved one and are powerful in influencing their decision to accept the treatment offered.

Part of our process entails a pre-intervention meeting with the entire intervention team. At this meeting we walk through more of the specifics and details of the intervention. This includes; logistics, seating arrangements/set up, potential objections, review letters and other necessary items specific to your intervention. You can expect the actual intervention to take place within 24 hours after the pre-intervention meeting. Often times this meeting occurs the night before or morning of the intervention. The pre-intervention meeting lasts between 1-2 hours.

Intervention is typically done in the morning, generally between the hours of 6-9am. We do this because the individual is more typically in their most sober state, therefore she is likely to be more rational at the intervention. Furthermore, our experience and research has shown that people are more likely to comply in the morning hours versus evening or afternoon. The interventionist will determine the exact time, which will be dictated by the individual’s schedule.

During the intervention, you will be directed and guided by me. I will begin by introducing myself to the individual and ask that they join the group for a meeting. Assuming the person is amendable, I will then go around the room and ask participants to read their letters. Your primary role is to read your letter and remain calm. Emotions are good, however the intervention will become counterproductive with anger, blame and restlessness. It’s imperative that the intervention team sticks to the plan that was outlined at the pre-intervention meeting.

The entire intervention process should not exceed 2-3 hours, otherwise we find that our attempt starts to become counterproductive.

After the letters are read, I will engage with the individual. It is common for me to reiterate to your loved one that they are loved, missed, and cared for deeply. The question will be posed to see if the individual is willing to seek help. Assuming the answer is “YES”, the intervention is over.

Often times, we find that people agree that change needs to happen, however they are resistant to our recommendation. Therefore, I will continue to work with them, often reframing their objections, resistance. This can be a very “fluid” time where I am utilizing my skills and experience to overcome their objections. The entire intervention process should not exceed 2-3 hours, otherwise we find that our attempt starts to become counterproductive.

Assuming that the individual agrees to accept the help being offered, I will transport them to the pre-selected treatment center. I will remain with them through the admission process to ensure that all paperwork is completed and questions are appropriately answered. Once your loved one is officially admitted, I will contact a family member to provide an update and other pertinent details. At this point intervention services have concluded.

In the event the IP does not agree to treatment, I will continue to work with the family and possibly, your loved one to determine a course of action which everyone agrees to. This plan will look different for every family. Therefore, an exact answer cannot be provided. Often times, families have certain boundaries they maintain in order to “run the alcoholic/addict out of gas”. Other times, a different treatment approach is selected and overseen by family members. Either way, I will be on hand to conclude the intervention and provide direction and advice to the intervention team.

As a part of my intervention process, I provide additional consulting services post-intervention. My services entail consulting for families and case management for the individual. Intervention is a great first step. However, there is still more work to be done and ongoing counsel can prevent relapse and confusion.

I hope to have an opportunity to help your family!

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