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An intervention is characterized by love and courage.  It need not be a power encounter or an exercise in humiliation. The addict is not forced into treatment against his/her will.  Instead, we lead with love, extending an invitation to get the help they need.  

Many years ago, I was the subject of an intervention.  Because of this I have great empathy and some insight with the clients I work with.  My goal is to make the intervention as positive, loving, respectful and honoring as possible.  At the same time, I am committed to it being effective and as powerful/confrontational as it needs to be. Striking the right balance is an important component to an effective strategy.

Step 1: The Consultation: When individuals contact me, by phone or e-mail, my initial task is to help them take their “next indicated step”.  If it is not an intervention, I will try to help identify what action to take.  If they decide they want to conduct an intervention, they formally contract my services (a verbal, not written contract).  Usually, the initial work is conducted on the phone with two scheduled appointments with the point person or stakeholders.

Step 2: Preliminary Tasks: The first phone appointment (about 40-45 minutes) focuses on the following decisions:

a.  Identify Intervention Team:  The composition of the team is an important component of the intervention strategy.  We discuss the various relational circles of the addict’s life to consider family, friends and associates as potential candidates.  We consider who should be included; who shouldn’t, and the ideal size of the team. 

b. Determine Level of Care/Treatment Options:  We discuss the appropriate level of care that is needed (e.g. outpatient verses residential treatment).  I work with scores of high quality treatment centers locally and nationally, each with its own unique strengths, emphases and distinctives.  Of the numerous treatment options available, I work with the team to develop a short list of treatment centers that represent the best fit for their loved one.  As an independent contractor, I do not work for any treatment center and do not accept kickbacks or quid pro quo payments, so I can remain objective in my recommendations.  In determining the “best fit”, there are many variables to consider. Go to the Treatment & Resources  page to learn more.

c. Establish an Initial Timeline:  Events leading up to an intervention often represents a crisis.  Sometimes, families respond to the anxiety of the situation by moving too quickly OR losing the urgency and opportunity of the moment.  My rule of thumb: Take enough time to do the intervention right (act as if this is your one and only chance), but move as quickly as possible. Sometimes interventions can come together in a matter of a few days, but in general, the process usually takes 1-2 weeks. If it gets stretched out too long, it can put a lot of stress and strain on the family.  There are four variables to putting together the timetable of an intervention: the availability of the treatment center; the schedules of the team members; the loved one’s schedule; and the interventionist's schedule.

d. Identify Locations for Training and Intervention:  Practical matters of where to conduct the training and intervention are discussed; usually these are different locations.

Step 3: Conduct the Assessment: The second phone appointment is the assessment (about 1 hour) where I gather background information, obtain a history of what has taken place and answer the appropriate questions prior to the intervention.  It familiarizes me with the important relationships and events; it also helps me form the strategy (each intervention is unique depending on the addict, the family system and the circumstances). If helpful to the treatment center, I prepare a formal report that assists them in their admission process.

Step 4: The Training: Conducting an intervention is emotionally difficult and employs a multi-layered strategy. As a result, the team gathers together the day before the intervention to prepare.  Some of the preparation is emotional and attitudinal.  There is an education piece where we consider several components of chemical dependency to lay a foundation for the intervention strategy.  We prepare and review our communication to the loved one. We anticipate the responses we will receive. Finally, we address any practical or logistical issues. The amount of time that teams need to get ready varies, but my commitment is to be available for as long as it takes (I ask for 3-4 hours for the training).  The outcome of the intervention often hinges on the quality of the training.

Step 5: Facilitate the Intervention: I help the family with the task of getting their loved one to the intervention site.  I introduce the purpose of the meeting to the addict and get the intervention started. Once the intervention has begun, I facilitate the process to keep it on track. I assist the team in responding to the addict and provide expertise for some of the more technical questions that may arise. 


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Kevin Graves, M.A.

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