By Sandy Ogle, BS, LADC, CIP, Addiction Specialist | July 13, 2020
Intervention work can be some of the most challenging work in recovery services. This work calls for a compassionate and experienced professional using effective therapeutic methods. When intervening, I use a Client-Centered approach as a primary therapeutic modality. In my experience, this is the most effective method for seeking an agreement from an otherwise extremely resistant client.
Client Centered techniques help guide a person through their resistance creating a safe, therapeutic environment. The model is a humanistic approach providing unconditional positive regard, empathy, and genuine support.
Carl Rogers, an influential early 20th century Psychologist, developed this Client-Centered modality. It was his belief that the therapist acts as a guide and the client is an equal partner in the therapeutic process. Rogers believed in using the term client instead of patient, because patient was a word that was associated more with illness than with health. He believed that people have a self-actualizing tendency; a desire to fulfill their potential and to become the best people they can be.
Care and compassion can help a resistant client begin to feel more accepted, opening up to more emotions, and to consider offers of help.
Care and compassion go a long way in meeting a person where they are. I do not meet resistance with more resistance. A confrontive approach may do more harm than good and is not as effective in my view. Working with the resistance and remaining calm can help defuse emotional escalation. Care and compassion can help a resistant client begin to feel more accepted, opening up to more emotions, and to consider offers of help. Carl Rogers once said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
Therapists are engaged with their clients in a positive way demonstrating genuine regard, acceptance, and empathy while offering insight and guidance.
Working with a client in this manner also provides a safe, non-judgmental environment where they can open themselves up. This model promotes a sense of more autonomy sharing control in the therapeutic environment.
Recovery services have evolved significantly in positive and holistic ways as modalities have shifted toward a more Client-Centered approach. By working in the recovery field for many years, my experience has allowed me to observe various approaches for treating mental health and substance use disorders. I believe relying on a confrontive approach risks compounding a client’s shame and for experiencing more trauma.
The word “intervention” itself can evoke considerable anxiety. Anxiety for the client who knows intervention is underway, and for a family who is considering hosting one. This anxiety may be influenced by a reputation for outdated approaches to intervening and ill-equipped interventionists that rely heavily on applying leverage and confrontation to pressure a person to agree to treatment. A family may hesitate to consider an intervention for fear that their loved one will feel “hijacked” and betrayed, eliciting more resistance and avoidance.
The methods I use serve to dispel myths surrounding intervention. A Client-Centered approach using care and compassion is highly effective in gaining an agreement for treatment from an individual. A Client-Centered approach serves to build a bridge allowing a person to feel safe and supported. Intervention is respectful, compassionate and an offer of hope and healing. This modality is extremely effective in working through barriers caused by stigma, fear, and shame. I, along with the family, am working to create an environment of safety and support in hopes of reducing anxiety and fear, as well as increasing one’s hope for improving their life.
I am always mindful of what I have learned about the client’s history to minimize further triggering trauma and shame during the intervention process. A confrontive approach can lend to more chaos, increase resistance, and be counterproductive for gaining an agreement to treatment. The goal for intervention is not to start a fight, to convince the client of a diagnosis, or that they should want to seek sobriety. The goal of intervention is to secure an agreement for entering treatment to get the help they need. Once the client enters into a treatment center, that program can begin working alongside them to develop an individual treatment plan that includes addressing more specific issues.
Prior to intervening, I spend considerable time prepping, supporting the family with healthy ways they can communicate with their loved one. Guidelines are set for contributing to a calm environment, maintaining respect, and keeping boundaries. I believe this client-centered approach is most therapeutic and effective in helping individuals gravitate towards healthy solutions.
With proper preparation for intervening, guidance, and a skillful clinician, a client may shift toward emotionally connecting and having a sense that they are loved and being supported.
In this way, a person is much more likely to consider a choice and agreeing to life-saving help. As Carl Rogers said, “In my early professional years I was asking the question, “How can I treat, cure, or change this person?” Now I would phrase the question in this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his or her own personal growth?”
Rogers, C. (1956). On becoming a person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co.
Rogers, C. (1951). Client-Centered Therapy; Its Current Practice, Implications and Theory. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co.
Cherry, K. (2019, December 11). How Client-Centered Therapy Works. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/client-centered-therapy-2795999