Association of Intervention Specialists

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What is intervention?

Basically it comes down to confronting the alcoholic with how his drinking has affected everyone around him. The alcoholic’s family, friends, and employers tell the alcoholic in their own words how his (or her) drinking has become a problem in their lives. They normally do that by means of letters which have been carefully conceived during the preintervention training.

But it is not as simple as that!

Interventions should be carefully planned and developed by interventionists who are board registered by AIS,  who are experienced in such procedures. The main purpose of an intervention is to get the alcoholic to agree to go into a treatment program on the day of the intervention. Treatment needs to commence sooner rather than later. At the same time it is very important that the family dysfunction be examined and new strategies developed to help the family cope with the new condition

Sometimes, the intervention comes as a total surprise to the alcoholic, but recently new techniques have been developed in which the members of the intervention team tell the alcoholic that they are talking with a counselor about his drinking problem several days prior to the actual intervention.

Does it work?

With the new method, the addict or alcoholic realizes that the most important people in his life are meeting about his problem, and when he is finally invited to the discussion, he does not feel as “ambushed” as with the earlier intervention techniques.
If the alcoholic does decide to enter the treatment there and then, he is more apt to be less angry than with the former procedure of surprising him with the confrontation. He feels less manipulated and usually enters the program with the attitude of trying to get better from the start.

With the old method, many times the alcoholic agreed to the treatment, but started the recovery process with an “attitude.” He was doing it for his family not for himself!

Some Risks Involved

Professional intervention is not an option for every family and every situation. The decision to choose the intervention path is one that should be made carefully and with the advice of an experienced interventionist. There are some potential risks.

If you choose to use an inexperienced and unregistered interventionist interventions can fail leaving the family further torn apart by all the bad feelings about the intervention. This is not a small point to consider for a family being torn apart and already on the edge of destruction from having an actively alcoholic member.

The intervention may work less than optimally if the alcoholic doesn’t make some important transitions during and after formal treatment, but the alcoholic identified patient may very well storm out of the intervention session and the family will have to pick up the pieces of a failed intervention on top of the rest of their problems.

There are others who believe no intervention can be successful in the long run, because of their experience that most alcoholics can’t be helped until they are ready to reach out for help on their own. Although the confrontation itself may in fact put the alcoholic in the frame of mind to be “ready” to get help, it can also be a point of resentment in the future. It is the belief of AIS that the only failed intervention is one that does not happen allowing the addict to keep their family hostage.

There is no known “cure” for alcoholism. It can be treated, but never “cured.” Intervention will work only if the alcoholic makes a decision to accept the gift of treatment that the family is offering. If the alcoholic’s problems have progressed so that he has become a danger to himself or others, or if his alcoholism has reached the point that he is no longer capable of looking out for himself, intervention can be a life-saving choice. But it is not a permanent cure. Only the alcoholic can turn the inpatient treatment experience into a life-long program of recovery.