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Should You Hire an Interventionist?

If you are the family member or loved one of someone who needs to be in residential drug treatment, you may be searching desperately for a way to get that person to agree to the treatment he needs. Most licensed, certified treatment facilities do not lock the patients down, and the patients have to agree to the need for treatment and sign themselves in.

Even with adolescents or persons who have a co-existing mental health disorder, you cannot force the person into treatment if he is unwilling, unless his behavior poses a direct and immediate harm to himself or others. You might say that using drugs is harmful, and it is; but most hospitals will not recommend an involuntary commitment unless a person wants to harm himself or another person and has formulated  a plan for how he will carry out that idea.

It’s difficult to get someone to admit that he needs to stop using drugs or alcohol because his substance abuse stimulates the reward center in his brain, and he doesn’t want anyone to stop him from doing that. So how do you convince him to accept the need for treatment?

Some people opt to hire the services of a professional interventionist. This is a person who will interview friends and family members and help them formulate a plan for the addict’s treatment. This is how it works:

  • A concerned person, let’s say Mary, contacts an intervention specialist about her brother John’s addictive behaviors.  The interventionist will talk to Mary about what John is using, how he’s using it, how much, and how often.  He will ask about the people who have an influence on John’s opinions. He will also seek to gather documentation of John’s addiction—prior attempts at treatment, past arrests, or other incidents that John cannot deny. He will also talk to Mary about what resources are available and whether they are accessible.
  • The interventionist will submit a plan to Mary, but the written plan will not identify John by name, because this would be a violation of John’s confidentiality.
  • If the family moves forward to conduct an intervention, the interventionist will discuss each person’s role in the intervention, and then he will arrange a time for it to occur when all can be present.

The interventionist cannot force the person to participate, but this is where his skills come into play. He will not only confront the person about his specific substance use, but he will also talk about risks involved such as driving under the influence, health issues related to use, risks posed by promiscuity common among substance abusers,  the effects of the substances on the person’s mental health status, and the possibility of access to treatment.

So, should you hire an interventionist? Keep in mind that you will pay somewhere between $3,500 and $10,000 for this type of service. You should also realize that most residential facilities will not accept someone into treatment unless he has tried and failed at outpatient treatment. There are exceptions to this, such as excessive use or the presence of someone else in the home who also uses, for example. Opiate users, especially heroin addicts, are almost always referred directly into residential drug treatment.

Keep in mind that there is no formal process for certifying or licensing the professionals who offer their services as interventionists. Anyone can hang out a shingle and advertise his services as such. If you opt for an interventionist, make certain that he is a certified addiction treatment professional, and that he has experience working with mental health disorders as well. There is an Association of Intervention Specialists, and your candidate should also be a member of that organization.

Look on this page for more information about interventions, including the Family Systemic Model and the Johnson Model. 

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