What is an intervention? What is its objective?
An intervention is a deliberate process by which change is introduced into peoples' thoughts, feelings and behaviors. A formal intervention, like we are discussing here, usually involves several people preparing themselves, approaching a person involved in some self-destructive behavior, and talking to the person in a clear and respectful way about the behavior in question with the immediate objectives being for the person to listen and to accept help. Although the intervention process has been formalized, the idea is not new. Thinking back, most of us can remember a time when someone or something - a teacher, friend, or set of circumstances impressed us in a seminal way which altered how we understood ourselves and changed our perspective. Moments like these constitute turning points where new vistas open allowing us to see things differently and to recognize opportunities we did not know existed before. The overall objective of an intervention is to begin to relieve the suffering caused by a self-destructive behavior - the suffering of the person engaged in it and the suffering of family and friends.
What self-destructive behaviors are appropriate for intervention?
Any self-destructive behavior can be addressed in an intervention: alcoholism, alcohol abuse, alcohol addiction, drug abuse, drug addiction, gambling, sex addiction, eating disorders, computer addiction, internet addiction and any other self-destructive behavior.
Generally people think of substance abuse as being most applicable to intervention. In fact, that will be the example used throughout this discussion. However, any addiction or compulsive behavior is appropriate. Even an elderly person, no longer able to live alone safely yet resisting assisted-living arrangements,can be helped through the intervention process.
Why is it necessary or desirable to conduct an intervention?
Because nothing else has worked. Most people attempt to change a person or situation through reason and discussion, usually one-on-one. When this fails, frustration may lead to anger. This can go on for years. Appeals to reason and one-on-one discussions rarely produce change in someone engaged in self-destructive behaviors. On the other hand, an intervention that includes several people meaningful to the person, that is executed in a controlled and logical way, that focuses on changing everyone's behavior at least for the moment, is highly effective.
What can my family expect to happen during an intervention?
In order to prepare for an intervention, family members and friends gather to discuss the details with the interventionist. They jointly decide what form the intervention will take, identify who should be included in the intervention, develop education and treatment plans, develop an intervention plan and schedule, and then execute the plans. Family and friends often enter this process with apprehension and frequently with a high level of frustration and anger. They often feel betrayed, confused, guilty, and defensive. They sometimes blame each other as well as themselves and the addicted person for their difficulties. All can expect these feelings tempered or resolved during an intervention. Sharing and expressing feelings gives purpose to the rehashing of old pains, and allows the family and friends to receive comfort and to begin to resolve the built up rage and hurt that has influenced many of their relationships and interactions. These intervention meetings transform the family in ways necessary for lasting change to occur. And this cohesive group approaching the addict offers something much better than a confrontation. The group creates a different world for everybody to live in.
Can my family do an intervention without professional guidance?
Of course, but be very careful.
Interventions are difficult and delicate matters and it is important that they be done properly. Nearly all interventions can benefit from the advice and counsel of a professional experienced in the intervention process.
Many families waste a great deal of time and effort trying to organize an intervention by themselves and often it is so difficult that the intervention never takes place at all. Sometimes, unfortunately, it does take place and at best nothing happens at all and at worst a great deal of harm is done.
The first thing to do is to seek out the advice and council of an interventionist. At least make the call and talk a little. You don't have to commit to anything until you are ready.
Call David McMillian, LPC, LMFT to discuss the possibility of an Intervention
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