Choosing an Intervention Professional in the Opioid Epidemic Age
Today, with the voracious nature of the opioid epidemic spreading like wildfire all across the country, well-trained Intervention professionals are needed now more than ever before. In most cases, there is little time to wait for the addict to somehow come to their senses and reach out for help on their own, nor newly enacted legislation to somehow put all of the dealers and crooked doctors out of business. A qualified professional Interventionist acts as an intermediary between all those impacted by addiction by strategically raising the bottom of the addict with a clear plan of action and a compassionately unifying comprehensive approach. Furthermore, since they are not a member of the family, nor a friend of the individual battling the addiction, the Interventionist is able to bring an unbiased objective view of the proverbial road from the forest, acting as a confident guide through the darkness of the emotional brush.
An Intervention Benefits Everyone in the Family
From my own experience, by taking the role of the board certified expert outsider, I not only get more people successfully into treatment, but perhaps more importantly, I am able to do so with considerably less collateral damage, discord, and division within the family fabric, thereby creating an opportunity to thoughtfully provoke, entice, and challenge all of those impacted to explore strategies for their own interpersonal growth while the identified patient is doing the same while in treatment. In other words, by validating individual differences of opinion expressed during the Intervention with genuine concern, I avoid alienating anyone from the process. While at the same time, I gently infuse a sense of accomplishment by setting attainable goals for everyone involved. A good professional Interventionist should be able to provide both clear and decisive direction for everyone participating in the Intervention to follow, as well as a solid plan of action to promote long-term compliance and continuity of care in their absence.
Hiring a Professional Interventionist
Unfortunately, however, similar to price gouging in the aftermath of a natural disaster like a hurricane, the opioid epidemic has opened up the door to a whole host of unscrupulous opportunists seeking financial gain as they prey on the tragic suffering of others. Therefore, finding an ethical, experienced, and well-trained Interventionist who can manoeuvre effectively within the grey shadows of addiction requires a little extra homework along with some basic due diligence. With that said, there are a variety of things to look for when hiring a professional Interventionist that’s right for your particular situation. I understand that everyone has to start somewhere. Nevertheless, I recommend that you look for a professional with some real time in the trenches battling issues related to both substance abuse and underlying co-occurring mental health disorders. And although there is no question that personal, first hand experience with addiction provides definitive insight into the problem, I strongly recommend selecting an Interventionist who also possesses some level of formal solution-focused clinical training, preferably as a counselor or case manager in an actual treatment center. Furthermore, given the high correlation between substance abuse, especially amongst opioid users and crime, the Interventionist may also need to have some degree of experience working within the legal system depending on the particular details of your individual case.
For over a decade now, I have had the unique opportunity and privilege to work all over the country and throughout the world as a professional Interventionist. From casino floors in Las Vegas to boardrooms in the Big Apple, I have had to operate on the periphery, and in many cases, in the blurry shadows of addiction. Along with a few professional references, be sure to ask the Interventionist the following questions and make sure that you are comfortable with their answers before you agree to sign anything:
- How long have you been an Interventionist?
- Do you hold a state issued license or certification?
- Where did you receive your training?
- What is your experience with mental health cases?
- What are some court ordered treatment options?
- Will I need an attorney?
- How long should treatment last?
- What treatment centers do you recommend?
- How long are you involved in the case?
- Are there any additional costs for your service?
- What model or orientation of Intervention do you follow?
Real Interventions Not Like the Ones on TV
As far as my own professional experience goes, I will never forget attending my first real Intervention out in the field. It was an unpaid, on-the-job training on a cold day in late 2004. There were approximately six or seven of us including the lead Interventionist all huddled together in a small modest home somewhere on the outskirts of Tampa, Florida. I had just quit my job as a primary counselor at a residential treatment center where I was making a modest, yet steady income. The show Intervention was just taking off on the A&E Channel, and I thought that I would be a perfect fit for the job. I had pretty decent clinical skills, I loved to travel, I knew how to blend in like a chameleon, and perhaps most importantly, I seemed to have an uncanny ability to operate well under stress. I was also about to become a father for the second time, so the pressure was on to make my new career move work. After watching a few early episodes of the show Intervention I thought that I had it all figured out. At first, the client would argue a little bit with his girlfriend, maybe even storm outside for a few dramatic moments of finger pointing. He would then begrudgingly agree to come back inside the house where we would all get together and collectively tough love him into treatment right after his mother’s emotional plea to get help. By the end of the day, with a few last parting words of encouragement and support, he would ride off to the airport in a white Dodge Caravan. Needless to say, I had it almost all wrong.
Care, Concern & Experience Are Key
Right from the get-go it sure looked like we were off to a bad start. Like I said, although this was my first real professional Intervention out in the field, I really didn’t need a whole lot of experience or training to tell that the client was in a very, very bad place. And his underlying anger was more than crystal clear when he asked the Interventionist in a deep raspy monotone, “why are you here” and “why are you talking to my daughter?” Nevertheless, being the eternal optimist that I was at the time, and believe it or not, continue to be to this day, I still had high hopes for a successful outcome. That was right up until the moment that the client retreated back into his bedroom after hearing his daughter tearfully finish up her impact letter. Within less than a minute or so, the unmistakable sound of a shotgun being cocked reverberated through the thin drywall of his modest home. When he re-emerged from his bedroom, he appeared flushed with anger and fury, shouting at the top of his lungs, “get out of my house, now!” At that point, there was no doubt that he definitely wasn’t prepared to feel the brunt of the pain and anguish that his addiction had caused the family all of those years. I have to admit that I was more than petrified at the time, and that every so often I still have the occasional flashback. Nevertheless, it was at that moment, during my very first training assignment that I knew without any shadow of a doubt that I had found my calling. Select an Interventionist who is passionate about the work that they do, while demonstrating genuine care and concern for the families that they serve, even under the most stressful circumstances.
Today, even with all of my years of experience in the field of addiction and mental health Intervention, I am humble enough to admit that I truly do learn something new every day. And although I have accepted the fact that I will never be as medically talented as a brain surgeon, I do liken the Intervention to brain surgery, in that once you get started with the procedure, there is no stopping midway for a break, nor coming back the next day to finish up. It all has to somehow seamlessly come together and flow with a well thought out plan of action as well as multiple contingency plans in the event that something goes sideways during the process. I have had to rely heavily on my own resourcefulness, along with plenty of insightful manipulation of my surroundings to somehow make it all work. For the better part of my career, I have worked well behind enemy lines, embedded deep within the underbelly of addiction and mental illness, well outside the perceived safety and sanctity of an actual counseling office. And over the years, I have learned how to exponentially increase the prognosis for a successful outcome by unearthing robust, meaningful, and comprehensive healthy boundaries which ultimately become the foundation of accountability measures within the Intervention. Find an Interventionist who knows how to map out your specific set of healthy boundaries, while demonstrating the ability to then present them with dignity, respect, and conviction to your loved one in crisis.
Things to Consider
Finally, once you have determined that the Interventionist has plenty of experience and appears to genuinely care, I suggest that you complete your search for the best candidate for the job with this last set of questions. Look for decisive detailed answers that fully satisfy your collective concerns:
- What happens if the client asks us to leave their home?
- When should we have the Intervention?
- What day and time of the day is best for the Intervention?
- What happens if local law enforcement tell us that we have to leave?
- What if the client is willing to go to treatment, but at a different program?
- What happens if the client is willing to go to treatment, however, at a future date?
- Will we need a court order for treatment?
- Who should attend the Intervention?
- What if the client asks to use/get high one more time?
- What do we do if a friend or a significant other tries to sabotage the process?
- What happens if the client becomes violent or suicidal during the Intervention?
- How can we stop the client from walking out of the Intervention, or simply driving away?
Along with all of your love, concern, and determination, a well-trained and caring Intervention professional will help bring everyone impacted together with a unified voice of hope, a clear direction, and a collective call to action.
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