27 April 2016

Alcohol and Drug Interventions Are Tough Love at Its Finest

At addiction counselling offices throughout the UK, professionals meet with family members to talk about the possibility of conducting an intervention for a loved one. The mostly small groups of individuals discuss what an intervention is, how it works, and what will be required of each family member or friend who plans to participate. Some families decide to proceed with intervention after this initial contact with the counsellor; others do not.

Alcohol and drug interventions are slowly catching on as a means of motivating addicts to get help with their problems. Yet according to the Independent, interventions are not nearly as popular here as they are in the US. They say that the intervention is the most popular form of initial drug and alcohol treatment in America. Why wouldn’t it be when long-term recovery rates can be as high as 50%?

Intervention is so successful across the Pond that Americans have put it on television. Although not necessarily indicative of success, the television programmes do show the effectiveness of intervention when conducting it the right way. In any case, the long-term recovery rate when intervention is used is 10 to 25 times higher than the success rates of other alternatives such as opiate substitute therapy.

So why is intervention not pursued aggressively in the UK? Perhaps it is because we don’t have the stomach for it. Or maybe it’s because intervention is tough love at its finest, and being tough on one another isn’t in line with traditional British mannerisms.

Successful Interventions Take Time

An intervention you might see on television, although real, is just an abbreviated time capsule of a long process that takes real time and effort. Families preparing to conduct an intervention work with counsellors for weeks and months ahead of time in order to make sure that everything goes off the way it’s supposed to. This is key. Putting something together quickly and haphazardly is not likely to garner positive results; it may make things worse in some cases.

The planning stages involve all of the potential participants getting together and working through the intervention process with the counsellor. The counsellor’s responsibility is to make sure a number of key areas are addressed:

  • Family members must decide on consequences that can be applied to the addict.
  • Intervention participants must decide what they are going to say and how they will say it.
  • Treatments must be investigated and arranged prior to the intervention.
  • Arrangements have to be made to take care of any loose ends while treatment is being sought.
  • Participants must work through their own fears and stresses before confronting the addict.

The whole idea of planning is to make sure that the addict will have no means of emotional escape during the confrontation. For example, the Independent tells the story of a mother addicted to painkillers who was confronted by her family. Long before the intervention, they had arranged to provide care for children and spoken to her employer to secure her job while she was in rehab.

By taking the time to strategically plan the intervention, this family was able to confront the addict and give her no means of escape. Every objection she offered was answered, allowing the family to get down to the root of the problem and offer to help fix it.

Consequences Are Most Important

The key to a successful intervention are the consequences laid down for refusal to seek treatment. This may be where we Britons have a hard time with intervention. Our traditional sensibilities find the idea of instituting consequences to be offensive. So offensive, in fact, that we try to rid life of consequences in areas that go well beyond drug and alcohol addiction. But consequences are necessary to instil a sense of responsibility in a person. They are absolutely necessary for a successful intervention.

An example of one of the consequences a family might lay down is to deny the drug or alcohol addict access to young children. This consequence is both for the protection of the kids and the motivation of the addict. Not being able to see one’s kids is an important motivating factor. Another consequence may be cutting off financial support or refusing to allow the individual to attend any more family functions.

We may see such consequences as being cruel, but it is actually crueller to allow a family member to continue suffering in the throes of addiction because we do not want to exercise tough love.

The reality is that interventions work as an important initial step for long-term recovery. They work better than many of the other things we are trying here in the UK. Perhaps it is time we give the intervention the kind of attention it deserves even though the practice may go against traditional British manners. If exercising tough love toward an addicted family member is what it takes to help that family member get clean, we need to just do it.

Sources:

  1. Independent

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