Do I Need to Hire a Specialist to Stage an Intervention?

By Hugh C. McBride

In an ideal situation, a person who is struggling to overcome a drug addiction would realize the harm he is inflicting upon himself and others, and would, of his own free will, decide to enter a treatment program before any irreparable damage occurs.

In the real world, though, ideal situations are few and far between – a harsh reality that is especially true in the world of addiction.
The nature of addiction makes it difficult for people to comprehend the full effects of their behavior, and often renders them incapable of taking the necessary steps to rid themselves of their unhealthy compulsions. Recognizing that this obstacle was precluding many people from getting the help they need, in the mid-1960s an Episcopal minister (and recovering alcoholic) named Rev. Vernon Johnson created a process through which family members, friends, and other loved ones could convince an addicted individual to enter treatment.
More than 40 years later, Johnson’s creation – the intervention – remains a popular, albeit oft-misunderstood, method for connecting addicts and alcoholics with the help that they so desperately need.
Is it Time for an Intervention?
Before determining if you need professional assistance to stage an intervention for a struggling loved one, take a step back and ask yourself a more basic question: “Do I need to stage an intervention at all?”
The potential drama of an intervention – a deluded, often defiant drug addict fending off heartfelt pleas and angry ultimatums during a surprise confrontation with an emotional gathering of friends and family members – makes for compelling television. But there’s often a significant “reality gap” between what one sees on TV and how events play out in real life:
  • First, many addicted individuals don’t need to be confronted with a large group. Instead, they can be convinced to seek help after an “informal intervention,” or a conversation with one or two trusted confidantes.
  • Second, if a group conversation is determined to be the best approach, remember that the most effective interventions are calm and supportive, not loud and combative.
  • Finally, while ultimatums sometimes do need to be made, most interventions aren’t last chances, and none of them represent a “cure” for the problem of addiction or alcoholism. Instead, an intervention represents the first step in the long walk back to sobriety.
If, after you have educated yourself about the realities, objectives, and limitations of the intervention process, you believe that your loved one is a prime candidate for this approach, then your next step is to determine when, where, and how the intervention will occur, and who will participate.
Do I Need to Hire a Professional?
The short answer to this question is “yes.” Attempting to undertake an intervention without the guidance or assistance of a mental health professional, addiction specialist, or other healthcare provider is risky at best, with the potential for disaster. This doesn’t mean that you have to hire an intervention specialist, though after reading the rest of this article, you may decide that such an expenditure is in the best interests of all concerned parties.
According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America’s “Intervention Quick Guide,” an intervention should consist of the following three steps:
1.      The significant people in the addicted individual’s life (who will participate in the intervention) should be gathered together to discuss the physical and emotional damages that they have witnessed or experienced as a result of the person’s drug use.
2.      The intervention group should meet with a family therapist or substance abuse counselor to learn how to express themselves in the most constructive manner, to prepare themselves for the challenges they may experience during the intervention, and to structure the process to maximize its potential for success.
3.      The intervention group and the professional should meet with the substance user with the goal of convincing him to stop using and enter treatment immediately.
Including a professional therapist, counselor, or spiritual advisor in the intervention offers many benefits for both the addicted person and those who are intervening. The professional can act as a moderator, can provide a dispassionate presence, and can answer specific questions that may be beyond the understanding of other participants, most of whom may not be experts in the field of addiction and recovery.
While any number of professionals may be willing and able to participate in an intervention, recent years have seen the emergence of a professional niche dedicated specifically to this process.
What Is an Intervention Specialist?
As the title implies, intervention specialists (also referred to as interventionists or intervention counselors) are specially trained to provide services during, before, and sometimes after an intervention.
Some intervention specialists may be affiliated with one or more addiction treatment programs, while others operate independently. According to National Intervention Referrals, a professional interventionist network, more than 90 percent of interventions that are performed under the supervision of a licensed professional result in the substance abuser agreeing to get help.
As with any type of mental health counseling, deciding to seek the assistance of an intervention specialist, and determining which professional is best for you and your family, is a personal decision that requires significant thought and thorough investigation.
Your family physician or a local addiction recovery group should be able to provide you with additional information about intervention specialists in your area, and the Internet is also an excellent source for more information about many qualified interventionists throughout the United States.