What Is an Interventionist?

By Hugh C. McBride

It is often stated that the first steps on the road from addiction to recovery are admitting that a problem exists and agreeing to get help.
However, many people who are struggling with alcoholism, drug addiction and behavior compulsions such as sexual addictions are incapable of either recognizing their affliction or seeking assistance to overcome the problem. 
In many of these cases, the responsibility of getting help for the afflicted individual falls to friends and family members. This task is often accomplished via a formalized gathering known as an intervention.
Undertaken with the goal of getting an afflicted individual into treatment, interventions can be highly emotional – and potentially extremely confrontational – experiences. The person who is struggling with the addiction or compulsion is likely to be antagonistic to the process, and may well lash out (verbally and/or physically) at those who are trying to help.
Given the sensitive, important and potentially explosive nature of the intervention process, may mental health and addiction experts recommend the presence of a professional interventionist during both the planning and execution phases of the intervention.

What Does a Professional Interventionist Do?

According to the Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS), interventionists are trained and experienced professionals who provide the following services:
•  Help identify the appropriate people in the addict’s life who will be most influential as part of the intervention team 
•  Educate and train the group prior to the intervention
•  Facilitate the intervention itself
All AIS members are Board Registered Interventionists (either BRI-I or BRI-II), which means that they have met a range of standards that are enforced by the Association of Intervention Specialist Certification Board (AISCB).

Board Registered Interventionists

According to information on the website of the Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association (IAODAPCA), professional interventionists must meet the following requirements to earn BRI-I certification:
•  Hold a current ICRC/NAADAC certification and/or a state recognized certification/license in a counseling related field. 

•  Provide a letter from licensure or certification board verifying license and/or certification are current and in good standing. 

•  Have malpractice insurance, a minimum of 1,000,000/3,000,000. 

•  Have a minimum of two years of work experience conducting interventions. 

•  Successfully complete a minimum of 14 hours of training/education on intervention. 

•  Submit three peer evaluations and supervised practical experience. 

•  Passing an Oral and/or Written Exam may be required. 

•  Adhere to Board Registered Interventionist Code of Ethics. 
BRI-I interventionists must also have had at least two years of supervised work experience, have completed at least five supervised interventions, and have been supervised by a professional who has been approved by the Association of Intervention Specialist Certification Board (AISCB).
To achieve BRI-II certification, interventionists much have previously met all requirements for BRI-I, and then achieved the following:
•  Successfully completed a minimum of 14 hours of training/education specific to addictions other than to alcohol and drugs. (For example, food, sex or gambling addictions)
•  Had three additional years of work experience conducting interventions. 
•  Submitted supervised practical experience. 
•  Passed an oral and/or written exam 
•  Successfully facilitated a minimum of three supervised interventions of a nature other than to alcohol and drugs. 

Choosing an Interventionist

As is the case when evaluating and selecting a physician, therapist, counselor or other physical or mental healthcare provider, choosing an interventionist is a matter of evaluating credentials, experience, style, and suitability for your unique situation.
The best place to start your search is with the AIS. The AIS website features a state-by-state list of members (all of whom have earned at least BRI-I certification). If you have already been working with a counselor or therapist, this person may also be able to refer you to a local professional interventionist.
An intervention can be a challenging process for all participants – but the presence and guidance of a professional, board registered interventionist can help ensure that the process is as smooth and productive as possible.