I was struggling with the appropriate words to give to a counterpart as they worked on a blog focused on addiction and relationships. They had a section devoted to intervention and wanted to include a couple names of interventionists as resources to offer the reader. I could not possibly commit to two or even 10 names of professionals, not because I do not know and trust ten individuals, but rather because I know and trust hundreds.
In an industry that has only begun to regulate itself I would do a great disservice in singling out a few shining stars. I would jeopardize tarnishing our organizational reputation, or equally unwanted, I would jeopardize tarnishing the reputation of those innocents that I would name. Naming names could pass as an implied endorsement of either the organization or the individual. Part of the value of an interventionist is found in the boots on the ground approach to dealing with the complexity of an individual and the nuanced presentation of the family system. So, let me address a group of professionals I hold in high regard from the perspective of an admissions officer.
Before I dive into my perspective on intervention, let me begin by offering a technique to the family or concerned others who are considering an intervention. I learned this technique by collaborating with numerous interventionists. It really is a mind-blowing technique due to its simplicity, but when caught up in the maelstrom of addiction, the simplest solution will often evade us. Consider having a 30 second conversation with the addict:
“I love you. Because I love you, it is hurting me to watch you hurting yourself. I do not possess the tools to help you. Would you be willing to go to treatment?”
Simple enough. The words are less important than the sentiment. Miraculously some people will go to treatment on that conversation alone. It is amazing how many families or concerned others never have this conversation. If the addict is resistant, then at least it is evident where they stand.
Pain, Fear, and Leverage
For the purpose of this blog, let’s consider resistance as a lack of pain coupled with intense fear. It is like a biopsychosocial math equation. If pain awareness is greater than fear of the unknown, then change is possible. To the family or concerned others there may be plentiful pain, but the addict’s pain salience is far more important. In fact, when it comes to getting the addict help, it is the only thing that matters. There is a certain distorted security in familiar pain and the familiarity of this pain may be comfortable to the addict. Interventionists are masters at evoking, invoking, and sometimes provoking pain salience.
Interventionists use a multitude of techniques to push the pain meter above the fear meter. They will invest a great deal of preparation in assessing what tools make the most sense to use. This period of assessment will involve the family and concerned others. The interventionist will poke, prod, and feel out the fulcrums. Immoveable objects can be moved if the lever is big enough. The interventionist is looking for that lever, which oddly enough is called leverage.
Leverage is a cornerstone of raising pain salience. The interventionist may have family members write assertive letters that are based in “I” language rather than an accusatory “you” tone. These letters may be appeals to emotion and may contain establishment of boundaries. The interventionist will carefully determine which letters will be useful based upon the direction the actual intervention is moving. The ultimate goal is to push the pain salience above the fear salience, which produces willingness. This willingness is time-sensitive, so the interventionist will move quickly when it is attained.
Intervention is a beautiful culmination of art and science. There is so much more than what can be captured in a 750-word blog post. I may have interventionists that read this and say, “that is not what I do!” I am okay with that. I am certainly not an interventionist. I have just collaborated with many. I will leave the audience with one parting thought about interventionists:
People are snowflakes. I do not use this in the pejorative sense that our highly charged political world has adopted. I use this term to express the uniqueness, the fragility, and the wonder. In knowing how special each person is, I want the most fragile and full of wonder to be handled by master snowflake handlers. Interventionists are master snowflake handlers.
Justin Fisse is the Admissions Director at Soberman’s Estate. To understand if an intervention is the next best step for your situation, or acquire personalized resources, Justin is available at 480-595-2222, and Justin@SobermansEstate.com.