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Nanette Zumwalt is a Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor, a Certified Criminal Justice Professional and a Board Registered Interventionist. Nanette is a well respected professional with more than 20 years of experience in the fields of substance abuse, mental health, including intervention services.

The 411 on Addiction Intervention Services…

What are intervention services and how do I find a reputable interventionist?

by Sarah Allen Benton, M.S., L.M.H.C. in The High-Functioning Alcoholic
Intervention services are a group process during which the reality of the identified patient’s (IP) alcohol and drug use is presented to that person by a group of other individuals (ie, family, friends, co-workers). Each member of the group should be a significant person in the patient’s life and should be prepared to relate several experiences in which the person’s substance use/behaviors adversely affected him or her. The objective is to present this evidence in a structured manner in order to overcome the IP’s avoidance of treatment, problematic behavior, denial and resistance to receiving support.

There are several models of intervention services, including: Johnson model (oldest “surprise” form created in the 1960s by Vernon Johnson, used on the A&E Intervention show), Motivational Interviewing (“invitational” and evidence based, created in 1991 by William Miller and Stephen Rollnick), and the ARISE Model (invitational, non-secretive, 3 phase model). Family interventions targeted to the family system are most common, but executive interventions are also an option and address the corporate business system.The measure of success for an intervention is not always the IP attending treatment. Sometimes, it is defined by the changes in the family system that have occurred during the preparation stage, actual intervention and afterwards.

What kinds of changes are expected from an intervention?

The process of intervention asks, encourages, or demands that the IP change their behavior in many ways, stop using substance, go to treatment, go to and get active with self-help groups, therapy, etc.

The same is true for the members of the intervention group, it asks, encourages, or demands that they change their behavior: stop enabling, attend self-help support groups (Al-Anon, ACOA, etc.), go to therapy, etc. It is ideal for all loved ones to recognize the need for changes for their own sake, even though the changes are often made with the specific goal of getting the IP into treatment. If the IP agrees to go to treatment, it will only be the beginning of a lifelong healing process for the IP and loved ones. The IP is not “cured” when they come home, and they will need to make many changes in their life that will impact all loved ones. Therefore, it is helpful for loved ones to work on their own recovery and to make necessary changes and support the healthy changes the IP. In order to maximize the effectiveness of intervention services it is helpful for those involved to think about the answers to the following questions:

  1. How can we produce the most productive change in all of the participants?
  2. What have each of us been doing that has contributed to the IP’s drinking or drug usage?
  3. What can loved ones do to eliminate the alcohol or other drug use?
  4. How can each of the participants encourage movement towards health and away from the disease of addiction?

Choosing an interventionist:

Interventionists are not required to have particular credentials. However, there are certifications available such as Board Registered Interventionist 1 and 2 (BRI-1, BRI-2). Often the best way to locate a reputable interventionist is through personal recommendations.Be leery of interventionists who are only affiliated/employed with a particular treatment center, they may not provide appropriate treatment options for IP (may be limited to that treatment center)

Questions to ask a potential interventionist:

  1. What is your fee structure? (flat fee, hourly, sliding scale)
  2. Are you willing to travel to the location of the Identified Patient (IP) and are travel expenses included in your fee?
  3. What intervention services do you provide to the IP and to the family? (case management before and after the intervention, bringing the IP to the treatment center in person, making arrangement for the intake at the addiction treatment center, providing a sober companion if needed to get the IP to the treatment location).
  4. Do you have a contract that would be agreed upon before taking our case on?
  5. What is your measure of a successful intervention? (IP agrees to treatment, the family dynamic becomes healthier even if the IP refuses treatment)
  6. Do you assist the family in getting support in addition to intervention services while the IP is either in treatment or refuses?
  7. Are you affiliated with a particular addiction treatment center? (I prefer when an interventionist is an independent contractor and not affiliated with a particular treatment center(s)).
  8. What treatment centers do you typically refer to and are you open to exploring new options, if necessary, for the IP?
  9. Do you take into consideration dual-diagnosis issues when deciding which treatment center would be most appropriate?
  10. Do you typically conduct surprise or invitation intervention services?
  11. What is the standard model of the interventions that you conduct?
  12. What is your availability to speak by phone leading up to the intervention services and afterwards?
  13. Do you have any client references?
  14. Do you provide case management during and after the IP completes treatment in order to arrange the best possible aftercare plans?
  15. How could you support our family if the IP does not agree to go to treatment or leaves treatment early?