Interventionists are specialists in addiction who are trained to assist people in recognizing their substance abuse as problematic and in need of change. An intervention is a carefully planned discussion, often including friends and family of the person suffering from the addiction, with the intention of helping the affected person understand that the addiction is negatively impacting life. These discussions are designed to be supportive and nonjudgmental.
Experts suggest that those present at the intervention attempt to follow the following guidelines:
- Do not yell or scream.
- Do not use physical violence.
- Do not place emotional blame or guilt on anyone.
- Remain focused on encouraging sobriety.
Because an intervention can be an emotional and stressful experience for those involved, it can be difficult to follow these guidelines. An intervention specialist assists those present by guiding them through the process and keeping the discussion on track.
Ideally, you’ll want to find an interventionist who has experience dealing with the particular addiction in question. If your loved one is struggling with alcoholism, it’s helpful to find an interventionist who has planned and supervised interventions for this specific issue before. If there are any particular considerations with this situation, such as a loved one who is prone to violence, it’s important to ensure that the interventionist is aware and able to have the appropriate support present.
Education and Certification
The education required to be a licensed interventionist varies widely from state to state. A four-year degree in psychology and addiction, such as a degree in social work, is a common requirement. Higher degrees are recommended.
Special certifications can also be obtained that provide proof of greater training and experience. The Board Registered Interventionist I and II certifications require a specific amount of time spent in training, which varies according to certification level, and passing exam scores. The National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) provides various types of training and certifications to intervention specialists and other addiction treatment professionals.
A Personal Choice
Since interventions are a deeply personal experience, both for participants and the individual struggling with addiction, it’s imperative to find an interventionist with whom everyone feels comfortable. While experience and credentials are important, personality will also factor in. Since intervention participants – family members, friends, and coworkers – know their loved one best, they are in the best position to find an interventionist who they feel will best appeal to that person.
Most interventionists will hold initial phone interviews free of charge, to give loved ones an idea of the services they offer. Speak to a few interventionists to determine which one you feel would best reach your loved one. Have a few questions ready to ask interventionists, such as:
- Do you have experience with this particular type of addiction?
- Which method of intervention do you use?
- What kind of preparation should we expect?
- What happens if my loved one doesn’t want help?
- What happens after the intervention in both cases?
There are many different types of interventions, and interventionists vary in their training, approach, and methods. Many newer models of intervention involve numerous meetings including both the person with the addiction and family or loved ones, as compared to more traditional models that involve one meeting held by the support group without the targeted individual’s prior knowledge.
Three of the more common models for interventions are the Systemic Model, the Johnson Model, and the ARISE Model. Many variations on these models exist, and interventionists often have their own distinct approaches.
The Systemic Model begins with a meeting between the intervention specialist and the family of the person suffering from addiction. The specialist and the family discuss the addiction, its effects on the family, and factors that may contribute to the addiction. A plan is carefully laid out regarding exactly what the family wishes to say to the person who is addicted. That individual is then invited to a neutral location, where the person meets with loved ones and the interventionist. The message prepared by the family is presented to the individual in a loving, supportive way. This message is the focus of the intervention, and family members are encouraged to stay focused on it throughout the discussion. If the person suffering from addiction refuses treatment, the interventionist continues to meet with the family to discuss the addiction and its effects. Contributing factors are identified, and changes are made to the family environment in the hopes of breaking the pattern of addiction.
The Johnson Model also begins with the family meeting with the intervention specialist and planning an intervention. This model focuses on the behavior of the person who is addicted. Each member of the family is asked to articulate how the negative behavior associated with the addiction has affected them. Future consequences of these behaviors are also an area of focus. Family members decide upon consequences that will happen to the person who is addicted if help is not sought. This could include being kicked out of the home, having to give up driving, or any other logical consequence that will encourage the person to end the addictive behavior.
The ARISE Model uses components of both the Systemic and Johnson Models. This model is unique in that the person suffering from addiction is included in the planning stages of the intervention. The person struggling with addiction and loved ones meet with the interventionist separately and together. The person with the addiction has a say in the consequences that are set, and each family member must modify behaviors to create a healthy living environment. The Association of Intervention Specialists reports that 83 percent of people agree to enter treatment after an ARISE Model intervention.
Contacting an Interventionist
Interventionists can be contacted through treatment facilities and outpatient recovery programs. Individual intervention specialists can also be sought out by concerned family and friends through various databases and associations. The Association of Intervention Specialists provides an online database of board-certified intervention specialists. NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, hosts a directory that includes all types of substance abuse professionals.