Seeking Help from an Interventionist: What to Expect

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What to Expect When Seeking Help from an Interventionist

Written by Theresa Collins


Dealing with a family member suffering from addiction is heartbreaking, terrifying, lonely, and exhausting. Families struggle with helping the addict or alcoholic break the cycle of active addiction and alcoholism. The best way to get this person to help is to first get them to admit that they need help. This is the part where most families contest. Families may choose to seek an interventionist to help confront the addicted person and give them an option of treatment. The definition of “intervention” is the action or process of intervening. This is an important definition to understand because an intervention with a loved one is an action taken by the family. An intervention with an interventionist is the opportunity for loved ones to show the addict or alcoholic the destructive life they have been living. An intervention is a non-confrontational way to openly show support and love to the suffering loved one. You may hear people say an intervention is a way of “bringing the bottom up.” When addicts and alcoholics are stuck in the grips of their disease it may be easy for them to ignore the damage they have caused to themselves or others. By “bringing the bottom up” the family can show, with the help of an interventionist, the addict or alcoholic just how far down they have already brought their life and give them the option for a better life free of the addiction.

Who is an interventionist?

Interventionists are professionals or are experts at addiction and mental health. They are licensed and able to perform interventions with people suffering from drug addictions, alcoholism, gambling addiction etc. Interventionists are not counselors, rather the go between a family and an addict or alcoholic. Using a professional interventionist is a great way to help direct the situation into a successful outcome.

Who needs an interventionist?

People suffering from any distinct addiction who are unwilling to admit or accept that their addiction is a problem. Addiction still has a negative stigma and people sometimes don’t openly talk about it. Because of that the addict is able to get away with the addiction longer or suffers in silence. People afflicted with addiction are very resilient, despite popular belief, and some will continue going until confronted. The actual intervention could be the bottom the addict or alcoholic is looking for to ask for help.

What is an intervention?

The intervention process could start a week or a month in advance to the actual intervention. A professional interventionist will meet with family and loved ones to educate them on addiction first. Without fully understanding the disease it is hard to help someone. For example, you wouldn’t just put someone on insulin without understanding what type of diabetes they are battling or what medicine is right for them. The same goes with addiction. Although the loved ones might think they know what is best it is up to the interventionist to educate the family and also gather information to best help the addict or alcoholic. The interventionist usually asks the family to prepare letters for the loved ones in order to keep their thoughts and feelings in place. Most of the time interventions are emotional and it’s best to have important points written down. It is crucial the family focuses on feelings. Although the intervention is confronting a loved one they are not meant to be confrontational. Sticking with feelings and concise examples and points is essential. The interventionist will go over these points with the family prior to meeting with the addict or alcoholic. It is vital to the process that the addict or alcoholic does not know they are entering the intervention and also that the intervention be performed at a neutral location. An interventionist can help the family pick out a neutral location. By holding it at a neutral location it can be less threatening.

What other notable parts of the intervention do I need know?

The actual intervention should be a short process. A good rule of thumb is to not allow them to go longer than an hour. Although it is important to have all loved ones present, an intervention should not be a family reunion. People closest to the addict or alcoholic who have been directly impacted by the disease should attend.  Typically, children do not attend an intervention and this should be cleared by a professional interventionist prior to considering that scenario. The immediate goal of the intervention is to get the addict or alcoholic to accept the help of treatment or detox at that time. Once the person agrees, it is important for the loved ones to immediately follow through on the decision. An interventionist will tell you any outcome of an intervention is always positive and never a failure. Even if the person does not agree to help and storms out of the intervention, the family was educated on the disease and the process. By helping to heal the family and bringing light to the situation, the addict and alcoholic is much more likely to get help sooner rather than later.

Although the intervention process has been made trendy by the TV show, an intervention with an interventionist might not always be the best road. Every case is an individualized case and should be treated as such. If you are dealing with an addict or alcoholic who is in denial about their addiction or seemingly appears to be hopeless, the first step is to contact an interventionist. By choosing a professional interventionist you can be easily pointed in the right direction to make the best decision for your loved one. Dealing with this disease is obdurate but you don’t have to go at it alone.