1. Why intervention? Drug addiction and addiction to alcohol (alcoholism) alter areas of the brain critical to decision making, memory, learning, and behavior control (video).¹ An addict’s loss of control, irrational thinking and denial are related to structural changes in the brain. Loss of control is not a result of moral weakness or lack of will as many people still believe. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the afflicted individual for others to step in. However, just telling an alcoholic or drug addict that you are concerned for his health and well-being will not change his neuro-anatomy or addictive behavior. People who are addicted don't believe they have a problem. If there's a problem, it’s "your" problem. The training and experience of an interventionist will greatly improve the odds that your loved one or co-worker will accept help. Unfortunately, families, friends, and coworkers rarely seek help before addiction has caused serious problems. As Debra Jay explains: "All too often concerned others are told that there is nothing they can do until the alcoholic or addict hits the proverbial 'bottom.' But alcoholics and addicts do not reach bottom alone. They take the family or the business with them as they lay ruin to finances, relationships, health, dignity, and hope itself. The family is not told that bottom can be irreversible. Intervention can save the alcoholic/addict and the family from years of distress and devastation. An intervention raises a loved one’s 'bottom.'" ²
2. Why not have an addict/alcoholic ordered into treatment? Under certain circumstances, a court mandate may be necessary. Intervention, on the other hand, has distinct advantages. First, an interventionist educates concerned others about the nature of alcoholism or drug addiction and the collective denial that facilitates it. Often, this is the first step toward recovery from this family disease. Second, a well-run intervention builds group consensus and cohesion and helps the concerned others to stay on message. This makes it difficult for the addicted individual to deny the presence of and damage caused by addiction and increases the likelihood that he or she will choose treatment. Third, the respect, compassion, and love demonstrated by the intervention participants go a long way toward motivating the addicted individual to embrace recovery. Patients who have motivation to get well are more hopeful and more likely to participate actively in the recovery process. These patients are 30- to 40-percent more likely to be clean and sober one year later as compared to patients who were forced into treatment.
3. What happens during an intervention? Successful interventions educate the concerned others about addiction, show the identified patient that addiction is affecting those around him, and motivate him to seek recovery. Prior to the intervention, participating family and friends receive instruction on addiction as a disease ("disease model of addiction"). Then, they collaborate with the interventionist in planning and rehearsing the intervention. Often, participants prepare letters in which they describe their experiences of the addict's behavior and how it affects them individually. During the intervention meeting, participants speak honestly but respectfully about how the addiction is affecting the speaker, often reading their letters to stay on message.
4. Where will the intervention take place? Interventions often take place in a home, conference room, or office but can be effected almost anywhere, including a hospital or jail. The setting is always selected in collaboration with the concerned others.
5. Will the intervention be confrontational? Confrontation is almost always counterproductive. The interventionist will coach participants to be clear and honest, but at the same time, respectful and compassionate.
6. What is your success rate? We have a success rate of over 83 percent. That means 83 percent of identified patients enter treatment on the same day as the intervention. If we include those who enter treatment within the following 14 days, our percentage rate of success goes up to the low 90s. If we include those who enter treatment within 30 days of an intervention, our success rate is even higher. It bears pointing out that, in fact, all interventions are successful. Whether or not the patient accepts help immediately, the silence surrounding the addictive behavior is broken and denial is defeated. Reasonable boundaries are drawn to protect concerned others and motivate the addict to seek recovery. Ideally, the identified patient goes to treatment immediately following the intervention. Infrequently, it takes more time for the patient to accept help.
7. Does treatment work? The short answer is yes—if the right treatment program is selected. One of the most valuable contributions we make as interventionists is screening the afflicted individual and identifying treatment options that meet patient needs without exhausting patient resources. Click here to see ASAM's (American Society of Addiction Medicine) public policy statement on the components of optimal and comprehensive treatment.
8. Will insurance pay for an intervention? Insurance does not cover intervention but can help with treatment. Each case is different and depends on the insurance policy and treatment needs. We do our best to maximize insurance benefits by recommending optimal treatment options. Understanding that addiction may have already consumed significant personal resources, we strive to find the most effective treatment obtainable within the constraints of available means.
9. What treatment centers do you recommend? We have visited all of the major treatment centers in the United States and regularly visit treatment programs to ensure that we make the best possible recommendations. In addition, we are part of a national network of industry contacts that helps us to match clients with appropriate treatment. Our bottom line is to meet our clients' needs.
For more information, call Caring Interventions at 1 (800) 956-6212.
¹Watch this video from the Addiction Policy Forum for a four-minute crash course on how addiction changes the brain.
²Debra Jay, No More Letting Go: The Spirituality of Taking Action Against Alcoholism and Drug Addiction. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 2006.