Intervention is the act of entering a situaition in order to change its course.
Gallant & Associates have been helping people recover since 1986. We work with alcoholism and addiction, eating disorders, compulsive spending, mood disorders and sexual addiction. Our skillful interventionists are all masters level clinicians with special training in family systems. We are committed to treating each person in this process with get help are met with denial, defensiveness, justification or minimization. As the messenger we are often attacked – rage driven by shame.
Talking to alcoholics in a rational and objective manner is therefore often useless or even counterproductive. In other cases the alcoholic may agree with observation that his behavior is harmful to himself and others. He may agree with the need for change and in some cases even make an attempt to relinquish or moderate his alcoholism. A relapse and repetition of the same cycle, sometimes dozens of times often follow this, over a period of many years. Such people manifest remorse, guilt and a passionate determination to “do better next time”. Or they might say, “It will never happen again.” But the behavior recurs despite their apparent insight and desire to behave differently.
Those of us around such alcoholics become frustrated, angry, depressed and often hopeless. We know the alcoholic needs help yet are not sure how to act when he continues to insist he is just fine, that everything is under control. We want to believe that the problem will go away, or that it is just a phase. The alcoholic possesses exceptional skills in deflecting the focus, pointing out our shortcomings, dragging up old conflicts or simply walking out in a huff. After being confronted many alcoholics will engage in still more acting out behavior to self medicate the strong feelings of shame, hurt and resentment.
The turmoil caused by alcoholism is considerable – and it seems to get worse over time. Alcoholism causes people who are not naturally that way to become progressively more self-centered, inconsiderate, dishonest and defensive. They may experience unpredictable mood swings, outbursts of emotional and sometimes physical violence, and make major decisions without adequate consultation or forethought. Their behavior can cause a great deal of destruction not only in their lives but also in the lives of others. Such people are correctly said to be out of control – and those who care about them often do not know what to do but to stand helplessly by and watch them self-destruct. We wait and pray for this person to “hit bottom”, before their out of control behavior leads to tragedy.
The process of Intervention gives those who care about the alcoholic hope – a process by which they can express their concern in a structured and focused format. A well-organized and properly conducted intervention has been the first step in many alcoholics finally realizing recovery.
An Intervention consists of a group of close friends and family members who present their observations and concerns in a non-judgmental manner. This is done with the guidance of an interventionist, in a controlled, objective and systematic fashion. This approach can overcome the denial and delusion of the alcoholic, and presents a unified front of support and love. Intervention is not “family therapy”. Our primary objective is to get the identified patient to say yes to the offer of treatment.
Treatment for the alcoholic is sometimes dangerously delayed because of the mistaken belief that an individual must “hit bottom” or “treatment will work only if the person wants it”. The purpose of the intervention is to break through the alcoholic’s powerful denial and defense system – and face him with the reality of his situation. The collective impact of the facts coupled with the strong emotions of people who care for him can temporarily quiet the denial and connect with the person’s soul.
A properly done intervention is confrontive but also deeply caring and supportive. Each participant first affirms the worth of the alcoholic and their positive feelings for him, which are the only reason they have agreed to participate in this painful process. The goal of the intervention is to get the alcoholic into treatment immediately. Experience shows that promises of reform, sincere and often tearful, seldom hold up. A well-planned intervention has arranged treatment in advance, taken care of all practical objections and even packed the alcoholic’s suitcase so that he may be driven directly to the hospital or airport to fly to the hospital.
It is important to address the family system before, during and after the intervention. Find a treatment center with a strong family component. Many alcoholics will be struggling with a co-occurring disorder, such as PTSD, chemical dependency, an eating disorder or major depression. The program should be able to do a comprehensive assessment and individualized treatment plan. Many times the family will receive a call or letter after a week of treatment thanking them for doing the intervention – as one alcoholic said, “Thanks for shutting down the merry go round, I didn’t know how to get off.”