An intervention is a coordinated effort by a group of people, and often times involves family and friends to get someone to seek professional help with an addiction or a particular traumatic event, crisis, or other grave affliction. The term intervention is most often used when the traumatic event pertains to addiction to drugs and alcohol or other dependences. Intervention can also refer to the act of using a similar technique within the confines of a therapeutic setting.

Interventions have been commonly used to address serious personal problems, some of which include, but are not limited to:

An intervention takes place when family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors of someone with an addiction problem or a pattern of destructive behavior extend a collective effort in order to reach out to that person in a group setting. An interventionist or a clinician will typically facilitate an intervention.

The focal point of most interventions is an expressed desire by those involved for the person to seek help or treatment. More often than not, the family, with the help of one or more clinicians or other professionals predetermines a suggested treatment plan. This sets in motion a call to action, and is in most cases the immediate next step following the intervention process.

Given the nature and severity of the case, those involved in an intervention may ask said party to seek help or to check in to a facility in the same day. Depending on the experience and skill level of the interventionist or facilitator they are often able to make an educated assessment of the urgency and necessary level of care based on a well-descripted meeting with family and close friends and often within minutes of meeting with the client. Effective clinical assessment, continuity and well-orchestrated and honest feedback from intervening parties are vital to the success and effectiveness of the intervention.

Types Of Interventions

There are many different forms of intervention. Methods in which professional skill level may vary from clinical to therapeutic, psychiatric and cognitive analysis. All of these techniques can be implemented in the intervention practice. People who suffer from emotional or mental disorders that are less prominent are often times predisposed to an absence of perspective or a genuine lack of knowledge about their problem, how they can receive help and what the more immediate solutions are. In these types of cases the intervention can serve paramount in getting them the education and overall help they require.

Many people associate intervention directly with substance abuse, when in fact there are wide ranges of other problems in which immeasurable results can be achieved by using the intervention structure. The intervention can also be a key milestone for those suffering from cognitive disassociation, disassociation of trauma, untreated obsessive-compulsive disorder, manic-depression, sexual compulsion and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In these cases the intervention measure is often taken when those in question possess extreme denial or are unwilling to treat their particular problem or disorder.

Not coping, or disassociating from a trauma or a distressing event is a fairly common reason for family and friends to seek outside help for their loved ones. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or P.T.S.D.) is a common condition among those suffering from addiction or clinical depression. Disassociation of trauma, especially in those suffering from P.T.S.D. can greatly affect one’s mental and emotional stability on a vastly broad scope. Those close to a trauma survivor are always the ones directly affected by their behavior. When disorders of these magnitudes go untreated, the intervention can sometimes be the best course of action.

Behavioral Interventions

Behavioral interventions can take place when a person conducts themselves in ways directly causing overwhelming difficulties and hurdles in their everyday lives. These types of behaviors can refer to rage and anger management issues, hyper compulsion, chronic mood swings and or general poor impulse control. People who act out on these types of behaviors can often alienate themselves along with their loved ones, and there is significant potential for negative affects on career and educational opportunities, finances and relationships.

The act or threat of self-harm is very dangerous, and can often be a potential concern for someone who suffers from a behavioral disorder. Self-harm is an extremely serious matter, which often can result in institutional resolve or hospitalization. In some less serious cases intervention is an applicable measure, given the appropriate warning signs.

Chronic morbid reflection, repeated dialogue of intent to cause self imposed harm or self-mutilation, are examples of clear warning signs that should be met with immediate action. Given the appropriate circumstances, the intervention can be a tremendous step for those who possess problems in this vain, and can serve as the link between insurmountable heartache and suffering and positive, life-affirming treatment. Much of the successes for potentially positive outcomes in these types of cases are dependent on the sincerity and honest execution of the intervening parties and the open-mindedness and willingness of the client.

Staging An Intervention

The intervention is a very delicate process. Everyone involved has his or her own key role to play, therefor Staging an intervention must be done thoughtfully and with finesse. Everyone involved in the initial process must be on the same page.

The ideal scenario for any intervention is that it takes place organically. Family and friends join together, having established a mutual concern for their loved one, and have come together on a solution in which they are in absolute agreement. It is at this stage that they will form a supportive alliance, in conjuncture with the professionals best suited for that particular case. Often times there will be an entire treatment team working together with the family along with the interventionist to come up with the best possible plan of action. This can include the following:

  • Constructing points of discussion for the intervention
  • Deciding how said points are brought up (written letters etc)
  • Determining what direct actions should follow the intervention
  • Making arrangements for the proper treatment centers or care centers
  • Formulating suitable therapeutic treatment plans

Once all involved are in accord with the points of discussion, relating to how they will bring about them within the confines of the process, and what their proposed next step will be, then they are ready to begin the intervention. This practice will often begin with an introduction from the interventionist, explaining who he or she is, why they are there, and what they hope to accomplish. The introduction phase is typically followed by an expression of concerted unease and underlining concern beginning with an immediate relative or close friend. The rest of those involved follow suite, as they continue with sentiments in a similar tone until a solution is proposed, at which point the client is asked if he or she is willing to receive help.

Role of an Interventionist

The intervening parties take their cues from the interventionist, who serves as the link or liaison between the client and the family. The interventionist serves many roles in the general process. First, he or she must evaluate the overall situation. More often than not, the interventionist will personally meet with the family, well before the actual intervention and gather as much information as possible.

The interventionist will want an immediate family history, a firm background on the client, a detailed contextual biography of the client’s experience with the problem at hand, and a grounded understanding of what the family’s plan will be, directly following the intervention process. For instance, if the client is an alcoholic the interventionist will want to know the client’s age, how long they have been drinking, whether or not there have been any attempts in the past to achieve sobriety, if the client has recognized that he or she may or may not have a problem and most importantly if the client poses any immediate danger to themselves or those around them.

Family Dynamics

Following a strong assessment of the client’s history with alcohol is a firm evaluation of the overall family dynamics. Our interventionist will want a good scope for which family members play which roles within the household construct. An experienced interventionist should have a strong assessment of the family roles, within moments of the initial evaluative stages. With the proper assessment, the interventionist walks away from the family meeting or (pre-intervention) knowing the client’s full history, and has a keen sense of the family dynamics and agenda, the interventionist is now equipped with the proper information needed to facilitate a well-informed, thought out, and objective intervention using constructive directives and dialogue.

The intervention will typically begin with all involved, minus the client. At this point the interventionist has everyone in the room and all are clear on the points they will make, the order in which they will deliver their respective sentiments, what their proposed next step will be, and a contingency plan for the possibility of an ill-received delivery.

The Role Of The Interventionist

Now the client is ready to be brought in. The interventionist will take the lead. He introduces himself and explains that family and friends are gathered in an expression of love and grave concern. He may refer to this gathering as a family meeting. He explains that each of them has something that they need to communicate. He is sure to point out that this is not a measure of attack that in fact everyone is there out of love.

If the client reacts brashly or defensively to the initial introduction, family and friends will take their cues from the interventionist. In some cases the client will threaten, or even proceed to leave at the first inclination of the intervention process. At this point the interventionist will look to the member of the family closest to the client. He might say something like “before you leave, your wife has something she would like to say to you.” More often than not, this will get their attention.

The interventionist continues as the process facilitator. He sets and maintains the tone of the entire intervention. He makes sure that everyone stays on topic and that no one detracts from the gravity of the matter at hand. Once everyone has gone around the room the interventionist asks if anyone has anything to add, or if the client would like to say something. This is immediately followed by the group’s proposal. It may go something like this – “You’ve heard the expressed concerns from your family. We have arranged for you to be admitted into a treatment facility tonight. Will you agree to go?”

Intervention Outcomes

If the client agrees to seek help than the intervention was a success and the appropriate accommodations are met. If the client does not agree to go this does not necessarily mean that the intervention was a failure. Though perhaps disappointed in the initial outcome, the family has now formed a bond, which is considerably stronger than where they were prior to the intervention.

It is not uncommon for the family to present their loved one with an ultimatum. This may sound something like – “We can not continue to support you, or have you in our lives until you seek help.” This may sound harsh but it is a measure that serves not only to protect the client, but to protect the family as well. This is a boundary that is essential to the well being of both the client and the family.

The effectiveness and long lasting results of the intervention don’t always present themselves immediately. Even if the initial result was not what one that was set out to be achieved, it is not always immediately apparent the ways in which the client is affected. It may help plant the seed for that person and leave them better equipped to seek help on their own at a later time. For many, the intervention, no matter how instantly effective is an experience they will take with them for years to come. If firm boundaries and understanding are established in the intervention process than that intervention can be deemed a success.