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The Intervention Process – The Road to Recovery

Continued from the third in the series, “The Intervention Process – Educating the Family.”

For those who’ve never talked with an interventionist before, Burr Cook of Family Intervention Now answers some very straightforward questions about intervention, families and addiction. With 17 years experience as a nurse and 9 years experience doing interventions, Burr is a Certified Alcoholism and Other Drug Recovery Specialist (CAS) and BRN/1 Board Registered Interventionist recognized by the Association of Intervention Specialist Credentialing Board. He knows first-hand what intervention and addiction are all about.

Following is the fourth in the series, “The Intervention Process – The Road to Recovery.”

Q: What is the typical intervention process in terms of time, stages, etc.?

Burr: An initial assessment of the family’s situation is necessary to plan an intervention properly. That assessment will help the interventionist to determine whether to speed up or slow down the process. Safety is always of primary concern- has the addict threatened to hurt themselves, are they credibly suicidal? Have they threatened to or actually physically harmed others? What is the nature and stage of their substance abuse? The assessment will tell you how prepared the family is for the intervention and what is needed to better prepare them. Who shall participate and when can they all get together is usually determined in this “first phase” of the intervention. The second phase of the intervention can involve the family meeting before the intervention, a rehearsal and question and answer period between all the participants. Also plans for potential barriers to entering treatment the addict might have and the actual treatment options. The family is also prepared for the possibility that the addict may not go into treatment that day. What will happen after the intervention? It’s an opportunity to unite and focus on the process. Sometimes the first meeting will have the addict present, and I prefer this. Sometimes there will be more than one “addict present”, say a parent or sibling, wife or husband who also has a substance abuse problem. That is great because I believe that interventions should be systemic, in other words you are intervening on the family system and providing some solutions for all members of that family.

Q: You mean an intervention can be for more than one family member?

Burr: Sure. We know that better treatment outcomes are achieved when the entire family gets into recovery. Remember the system is usually very dysfunctional and addiction thrives in this sort of environment. Returning from treatment into a dysfunctional family makes successful recovery that much more difficult. If the members of the family are able to see and accept responsibility for their own dysfunction- work on their issues the family stands a better chance of moving into a healthier system. A good interventionist will have recommendations for the entire family-treatment for addiction, al-anon, co-dependency anonymous meetings, therapy or counseling, 12-step meetings, books and literature etc.

Q: What is the Johnson model intervention and how have things changed?

Burr: Originally the model was focused solely on the addict and tended to be confrontational. Now, for the most part it’s “carefrontational”. It depends on the interventionist of course but the family is getting more advice and direction as to what would benefit them all for a better recovery outcome. And the intervention is designed to be less shaming, more compassionate, a process that preserves the family dignity and encourages a healthier environment for the addict returning from treatment. Again, you’re going to have a better outcome if everyone is speaking the same language: recovery.

Q: Is it common that the addict in recovery goes back to their family?

Burr: It’s common for a man to go back to his wife. It’s common for a guy who goes to CA for treatment to return to his hometown. Sometimes people in recovery who’ve lost everything need to go back home to get a head start. Sometimes I recommend to people don’t go home. But the reality is that wives are going back to husbands, husbands back to wives, Mom and Dads are taking in kids, and the recovered addict returns to the extended family system in their community. Families are forever. You still have a family.

Q: What do you tell someone who’s questioning whether or not they should call?

Burr: Well, the easy answer is: if you’re thinking about it you should do it. You don’t go to a website, or start asking around because you don’t need help! If everything you have tried has failed, what’s the risk in finding out what more you can do? A Family living with addiction is stuck-just like the addict is stuck. Typically families can be just as ambivalent as the addict, and let’s face it- the addict is not going to make the first move – they aren’t capable of doing that. If anything the pattern, reinforced by the addict is to get everyone to back off. My experience and the experience of thousands of families is that once a decision is made to do something different and that something is followed up with action-all sorts of things fall into place to make it happen. Call it providence or whatever you want-no matter how overwhelming things might appear, there is help available- a solution available- but you have to ask. You have to do your part to get it started.

Q: And that’s where the interventionist can help?

Burr: Absolutely-a good interventionist is an expert at putting families on the road to recovery-they can be there with solutions and support at nearly every step of the process. Hey, there is hope-addicts do recover-their families do too. They do it all the time, and more often than not their recovery started with a phone call- someone asking for help.

Thank you for reading our series on The Rehab Intervention Process. To read the first installment, please click “The Rehab Intervention Process – What It’s Really Like.”

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