Models of Interventions

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Addictions can be characterized by silence. People with substance abuse problems might work hard to hide their difficulties, so they won’t face tough consequences in the communities in which they live.
Those who love an addicted person might not say anything about the addiction, for fear of causing a conflict or argument.

When families do speak up and speak out, truly amazing things can happen. For example, in a landmark study from 1989, published in the American Journal of Drug Abuse, researchers found that alcoholics who were confronted by family members in an intervention were much more likely to enter detox or rehab and to remain sober, when compared to those who weren’t confronted.

Talks like this clearly have an impact on people who have addictions. And there are all sorts of different ways to have that talk.

Brief Interventions

finding helpSome addiction talks are very, very short. They can even be informal. Families that follow this model simply start talking about the symptoms of addiction they see, and they outline the ways in which a treatment program might help and/or be useful. There’s no heavy-duty planning involved here, and often, no professionals need to come in to provide guidance. Families just start talking about the issue, and when they do, remarkable change can come.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence provides these tips for families that decide to have this kind of talk:

  • Learn first. By finding out more about addiction and recovery, families can provide a person in need with data that person might have never heard about before.
  • Offer support. People with addictions might be comforted by the knowledge that the family will be there to help with the addiction issue.
  • Be specific. By detailing clear examples of addictive behavior, rather than vague complaints or concerns, families might motivate a person to get care.
  • Refuse to argue. If the conversation goes south and the person starts to fight, it’s best for families to stay out of the fray. Conversations like this can damage the relationship.

After a talk like this, a person with an addiction might benefit from a discussion with a doctor. These so-called “brief interventions” aren’t designed to cure a long-term, severe addiction, but they can be excellent tools to use in the fight against addictions that are new and somewhat low on the severity scale.

In a study quoted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, researchers found that people who got this kind of brief intervention showed greater reductions in alcohol use, when compared to those who didn’t get a brief intervention. Just a short talk about addictions and consequences could help people to turn a new page, so the new addictions they have don’t progress into something much more serious.

Stair-Step Intervention

While some families can benefit from shorter interventions, some addictions respond best to targeted, longer approaches. The ARISE model, and other graduated interventions like it, could be a great help.

In interventions like this, the family builds on small successes. At first, they have a short intervention discussion on an informal basis. If the person doesn’t get care, the family has a series of educational sessions on addiction with a professional, and the addicted person is invited to attend. If the person still doesn’t get care, the family outlines consequences for that decision. Those consequences might involve money, meaning that the addicted person won’t have access to the funds to pay for drugs. Or the consequences might involve family connections. Child-custody arrangements or family get-togethers might be curtailed if the person won’t get help.

In an introductory article about this intervention type, published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, researchers suggest that this type of intervention is effective, in part, because the needs of the family are included. The family has the chance to learn and grow, whether or not the addicted person gets care, and with each intervention step, they grow stronger. They have time to grow with this model, and that could make it a good choice for some families.

By adding a very real and formal intervention at the end of this model, families have the opportunity to ensure that the addicted person is aware of the real consequences of addiction. That could help the person to really feel the need for care.

Surprise Intervention

dreamstime_xs_12119801This type of intervention is probably the most familiar to families of people with addictions. That’s because this is the type of intervention that’s most frequently used in television shows and movies.

This form of intervention was defined by Dr. Vernon Johnson in 1973, according to the Association of Intervention Specialists, and it’s based on the power of the family to influence change.

In this intervention, the family meets well in advance of the intervention to form a plan and a script. Each person who participates pulls together a message of hope and love, and the addicted person is surprised by the intervention. When the person arrives, each person reads the script. Often, there are consequences included in each part of that script, for those who won’t get addiction help.

The idea behind this intervention is that the family will put pressure on the addicted person. According to a study in the journal Addiction, those social pressures are often considered an important part of the factors that compel people to get sober. They want to keep their connections and their place in society, and pressure from the family can help them see that addictions can keep them from their goals.

Consequences are also part of stair-step interventions, but here, they’re put in the front of the conversation, during that first interaction. For families who have tried gentler approaches and seen no success, pulling out all the stops early could be the best idea available. That could help the addicted person to stop ignoring the problem and really start to get well.

Long-Term Intervention

Surprise interventions can be persuasive simply because of the consequences involved, but some people with addictions just won’t be motivated by threats and pleas. They need more time to change, or they might not choose to change at all. Long-term interventions are made for people like this.

In a long-term model, like CRAFT, families learn more about the ways in which their behaviors might allow an addiction to stay in place. They might discover that their willingness to cover for an addicted person’s missed days at work can keep that person using. Or they might find out that their continued use of substances makes an addiction harder to beat.

With each learning session, the family can change and grow. In essence, the family is getting addiction care, whether or not the person ever chooses to do so. Throughout the process, they continue to talk about the addiction and attempt to compel the person to get care. But if the person refuses, the family’s changes might make an addiction harder to sustain. That family change might compel a person to get care.

In a landmark study of the issue, quoted by the American Psychological Association, 64 percent of caregivers introduced to CRAFT training were likely to complete that training, and the drug-abusing people they lived with were far more likely to get treatment as a result. Families that put in the time really can make amazing changes with this model.

Closing Thoughts

Female psychologist making notes during psychological therapy seThere are no hard-and-fast rules about the intervention models families should use. Some benefit from using one kind of intervention, while others find that another works best. It’s not at all unusual for families to hold more than one intervention. As a study in the Journal of Addictive Diseases makes clear, many people need more than one bout of addiction care. In this study of 242 heroin addicts followed for more than 30 years, recovery tended to be slow, involving lessons of self-efficacy and psychological growth. People tend to need multiple addiction sessions over a long period of time, and that can mean that families need to hold multiple interventions, too.

Clearly, talks about addiction can be really important for people who have addictions. Each conversation helps them to see that their addictions have been noticed, and that the families they live with really want to help. When done right, a talk like this can reduce the sensation of isolation and helplessness that often goes with an addiction. When done right, an intervention can make all the difference in the world, both to an addicted person and to his/her family.

We can help you to prepare for your talk. Contact us, and we’ll help you to find the addiction treatment program that can help the person you love. You can mention all of the specifics about the facility you choose in your addiction discussion, and that could be the data your loved one needs in order to agree to get care. We’re here around the clock to help, and we hope you’ll call.


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