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What is a Substance Abuse Interventionist?

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What is His/Her Job and Purpose?

By Claire Pinelli

ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP

So, let’s start with the first question; “What is a Substance Abuse Interventionist?  Intervene means to get between, cause an effect and to prevent the effect.  In the case of a Substance Abuse Interventionist:

  1. The CAUSE is the abuser and his/her actions that produce the effect of them getting high and continuing in a destructive lifestyle.
  2. The EFFECT we are trying to prevent is the getting high and continuing in a destructive lifestyle.

A Professional Substance Abuse Interventionist is trained in Drug Abuse and Addiction Counselling and how it affects an individual.  They are also trained as an Interventionist Specialist Counselor as well.    They know what behaviors to expect from the addict as well as the behavior of the loved ones.  They know what their job is and work to get the addict to agreeably start Substance Abuse Treatment

But, knowing what the Job is leads us to explore how to do the job in order to achieve the purpose and get the person agreeably into Treatment.

Step 1:

First thing a Professional Interventionist should do is talk to the Loved Ones who are hiring him/her [Client #1] and get as much information from them as possible, including:

  1. Their assessment of the situation
  2. What they have done with the substance abuser thus far and what the results of their actions have been.

Step 2:

The Interventionist should then get information to the loved ones about drugs and the drug personality so they can better understand what they are dealing with.  Once the loved ones are educated, they can better assist the professional and schedule the next step of the Intervention process.

Step 3:

At this point the Interventionist should have enough information to schedule a meeting with the loved ones to decide who will participate in the actual Intervention and what their role will be; ensuring nobody gives in to the abuser or continues to enable their bad behavior.  Each participant must me resolute and 110% committed to the process. This can be rehearsed for as long or as many times as is necessary to ensure a united front and a successful result.

Step 4:

At the point where all participants should know what their role is and are willing and able to participate effectively in the Intervention you can call in the Substance Abuser [Client # 2].  Remember the Abuser is your client as well.  The job now is to bring him/her up to a point where they know they need to change their condition. Only they have the ability to change their condition, as scary as that seems, it is true.

Talk to them and use the information you have gathered from the loved ones you have dealt with thus far.  Adjudicate where the person is regarding his/her ability to recognize and acknowledge that he/she has a substance abuse problem. They might be delusory and think nothing is wrong and nothing needs to be done or they might be in despair about their situation and feel nothing can be done.

Now is the time that the Interventionist and other participants use their love, care and expertise, not sympathy or anything but resolve with no make wrong of ill will, in order to bring the abuser up to knowing that there is something that is ruining their life in present time. 

We then move him through the fear of the condition worsening to a point where they themselves feel a need of change. Once they acknowledge they need change, we can get in there and bolster them up to a point where they, themselves, have a demand for improvement. We then give them information about the chosen treatment arrangements that have been made which should provide them with hope and a willingness to get help.  At this point they should be able to recognize that they are worthy of this help and agree to enter Treatment, at which point the Interventionist’s main job is done. This may take more than one meeting, don’t give up.  Keep your intention to help strong and unwavering no matter what is thrown at you.  Keep  your resolve strong, no matter what.  Keep up the process until they recognize that they are worthy of help and agree to get help via a reliable Treatment Program.

All that is left, once they decide the need to change and want help, is to get the person enrolled in the appropriate Treatment Program.