What Does an Interventionist Do?

couple talking to therapist

couple talking to therapistWhen you’ve tried to talk to a friend or loved one about substance abuse or another addiction problem, there was probably considerable emotion and miscommunication.

Now might be the time to enlist the help of a professional interventionist.

This person can provide mediation between you and someone you care for who may be in trouble due to substance abuse, behavioral health disorders, or mental health issues.

What Is an Interventionist?

According to the international Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS), “When people are initially resistant and then enter treatment due to an intervention and therapeutic relationship with an interventionist, they and their network do very well due to the support, networking, collaboration, and aftercare.”

The AIS stresses that an interventionist isn’t someone who criticizes, attacks, or condemns an individual struggling with addiction or mental or behavioral issues. However, this trained professional recognizes when someone might be in denial about a problem and unwilling to get treatment for it.

A certified interventionist professional—officially accredited as a CIP—often has a bachelor’s degree in social work, plus the required CIP credentials earned through various levels of training. CIPs are frequently psychiatrists, psychologists, alcohol or drug counselors, or practicing social workers as well. On rare occasions, members of the clergy are also CIPs.

A CIP has the unique skills to host an intervention, referee the emotions and actions of all parties involved, and provide medical treatment solutions. The AIS indicates there is one goal for having an intervention: to help a friend, loved one, or even co-worker with addiction issues “agree to enter a recommended treatment program so that he or she can begin the process of recovery.”

A CIP plans a structured meeting that is personalized to the individual experiencing problems. This structure helps everyone involved to avoid previous negative patterns of communication, such as shame, blame, or resentment. The CIP strives to conduct an intervention with demonstrated concern and care. This means that some people may be present at different stages of intervention (for there may not be just one) and others not at all. In the planning stage, a CIP may opt to have other professionals present.

Many people don’t know that an interventionist may also lead meetings between family members and friends once someone is actually in recovery. This often happens in outpatient treatment settings.
Questions to Ask Before Arranging an Intervention

Ultimately, the CIP you choose has to be someone you trust. It’s critical to feel comfortable with the CIP and his or her approach to the circumstances so everyone can deal with the major issues. Here are just a few questions to ask:

  1. What credentials do you have, and what type of intervention methods do you use?
  2. How do you get to know the people involved?
  3. In what ways do you plan ahead for the intervention?
  4. How long before we schedule the intervention, and how do we go about it?
  5. How many interventions have you done, and what is the success rate of treatment follow-through?
  6. What experience do you have working with someone addicted in the same way as my loved one or friend?
  7. What happens if my friend or loved one doesn’t show up, or walks out during the intervention?
  8. What resources and treatment facilities do you recommend and why?
  9. Why did you choose this line of work?
  10. What is your fee?

Often, your primary care physician or a mental health professional can refer CIPs to you. You can also look on the AIS site for interventionists in your area.

Planning Ahead for an Intervention

You may have heard the phrase “staging an intervention.” There are a number of suggested steps for this:

  • Work with your intervention specialist to determine who should be involved, what research needs to be done, and schedule the event. This may take several weeks, but try to do it within a month of contacting the CIP.
  • Research your friend or loved one’s particular situation and addiction, and share resources with other people attending the event.
  • Make sure to plan the intervention when your loved one is sober or more lucid.
  • Schedule an intervention rehearsal so everyone participating feels comfortable and understands roles and topics of conversation.
  • Stay on track during the intervention and avoid confrontation.

Expect that your loved one or friend will object to the intervention or the prompt for treatment, and let your CIP take the lead on what to do if this happens. If the individual completely refuses to seek treatment, everyone involved in the intervention may have to take cues from the CIP as to what to do in the moment, as well as how to proceed in the future. It’s possible more events may be necessary before your friend or loved one understands why treatment is essential to his or her wellbeing.

Not Just for Drugs or Alcohol

As you may know, someone can have an addiction to numerous things, such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, food, shopping, or gaming. Known as process addictions, these conditions often intersect with drugs or alcohol, and require careful intervention planning.

If a loved one or friend has an eating disorder, such as binge eating, anorexia, or bulimia, there are myriad issues to deal with in this circumstance, including someone’s body image. The topic of treatment is often a delicate one to broach, so using an interventionist may be the best way to start a conversation.

The Cottonwood Assessment Program

If your friend or loved one agrees to seek treatment after an intervention, a safe and caring solution might be to have him or her complete our four-day intensive inpatient assessment program. Click here to see if it’s a good option.

For more information about Cottonwood Tuscon, drug and alcohol treatment in Arizona, and our programs of recovery, call (888) 727-0441. We are ready to help you or your loved one find lasting recovery.

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