More thoughts about drug and alcohol interventions

I recently reviewed a book that I highly recommend: “Interventions: Opposing Viewpoints” After thinking about all of the information in that book, did a few searches about interventions and realized how easily one could become overwhelmed with information, not all of it in agreement. On a site call All About Interventions, I found an article called What is an Intervention?  It is a well written article that describes the process that the writer follows when helping a family get a loved one into treatment. There are two points in the article that I would like to comment on.

The first point is “An intervention is merely an invitation to seek additional care. Viewed in this way, it does not become a drama, but rather a reality of everyday practice.”  I agree, and in some cases, simplify it even more, especially when working with the parents of adolescent users. What I tell them is that simply talking to their teen is an intervention.  Yup, that simple. They may or may not be ready to take more action than that, and while they are deciding what further action to take, they are simply letting their teen (or loved one, this works on adults also) that they see what is going on. By letting the using person know this, they are setting the stage for further discussions and action.

There are circumstances when this approach is not the best one, such as imminent danger, violence, overdose, criminal activities. But when there is time, when you need to assess the person’s use and the impact, when you just aren’t ready or strong enough or know enough about the resources for the next step, letting the person know that you know is indeed an intervention.  Saying to the person, “I see you” is an important first step.

The second point I wish to address is the writer’s comments about the follow up process, which is where she works with the family to “help them discover a plan for their own healing.” Yikes, my words exactly, except at a different place along the time timeline.  If the intention is an intervention, then this is a critical support step for the family while the loved one is in treatment and the transition “to home or new living situation.”

However, if an intervention is not the goal, or is not imminent, or the loved one refuses treatment, this service for families is even more crucial. Families need support whether or not the user agrees to go to treatment, during the aftercare or in some cases, the primary care outpatient treatment phase, and over the first year or two of early recovery, just as the recovering person needs support during that time.  There are so many “little things” that come up during this time that can fester and turn into big things if families have nowhere to turn to get the answers they need.

You might not think a question like “can I expect him to do chores when he comes home or will it make him relapse” comes up, but it does.  Or “what happens in treatment” can turn into an argument where the recovering person insists the family “butt out” of their treatment, when all the stressed mother wants to know is what do they learn, what is it like to be in a group therapy session, not “what exactly is he talking about there?”

What do you do next?

Get educated: Learn about drug and alcohol use. You don’t need to be an expert, but you can learn about the signs and symptoms of use.

Find out what the resources are: Does your insurance plan cover therapy and substance abuse treatment? Is there a counselor or counseling center at your child’s school or college?  Can your primary care physician or pediatrician help?

Talk to a professional for YOURSELF to figure out the next step and to get strong enough to take action. To decide what that action is: family therapy, an evaluation at a treatment center, a urine screen? To teach you how to be a part of any plan and any treatment that your loved one gets involved in, or to keep your sanity, hope and strength if treatment is refused.  The plan needs to be different for an adolescent than an adult; for a male versus a female; a spouse versus a child; a sibling or other family member.

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  1. Interesting post Jerri.. A difficult time for any family. Rosemary

  2. Great article thanks Jerri – nice to see someone else blogging about addiction x

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