Family members discussing addiction with an interventionist. Professional Interventions can be critical to help a loved one get to a treatment center and start a path of long term recovery.

We talked to professional interventionists across the country and asked them basic questions about intervention.

How do they help families? Why are interventionist services important and why do families need them?

Burning Tree Programs — which serves people across the United States for chronic relapse, addiction and trauma, and dual diagnosis — often works with interventionists who help families and addicts.

What is a Professional Interventionist’s Background?

  • Professional interventionists are certified in multiple modalities of intervention.
  • Many share stories of volunteering in the A.A. community and eventually getting paid to help families.
  • Many professional interventionists create a tailored program that they build from experience and certifications.

Keith Bradley didn’t know that when he started volunteering at an indigent detox center in Colorado that he would become a leading interventionist in the country.

Keith began volunteering at the detox center so he could do Step 12 in Alcoholics Anonymous, helping another alcoholic. He had some legal trouble hanging over his head and he was doing anything he could to stay sober.

After volunteering for several months, the director of the detox asked Kieth if he could find someone. A family wanted to reunite with the estranged addict. Kieth found the person and asked him if he wanted to get help and possibly reunite with his family. The person agreed to get help at a state funded rehab center.

“I witnessed them reunite and something happened where I felt the most self-worth I ever felt after helping that family.”

Soon Kieth learned that he could get paid doing something that brought him so much gratitude. He trained in several interventionist programs and cherry picked what he liked from each one.

Many interventionists are like Keith. They got sober and found their way to the profession through helping others.

Interventionists Provide Integral Support for Families

Interventionists help families navigate addiction:

  • Families are educated on addiction and how an addict thinks And manipulates others.
  • Interventionists can identify and stop manipulation from addicts and alcoholics.
  • Interventionists help families become a united front against the disease of addiction.
  • Interventionists give the family an opportunity to lovingly talk to their loved one about their addiction.

Interventionists like Kieth — who is now the Senior Interventionist and Founder at Love in Action — can be integral in helping a family navigate alcoholism and addiction in the family.

First, addicts and alcoholics have the uncanny ability to manipulate or con their family. They constantly create a false sense of hope.

Addicts and alcoholics know how to push their families buttons and how to appeal to their emotions. When these buttons are pushed, the family member will start thinking that they might be overreacting.

Some family members have told Keith that they felt crazy after confronting an addict without an interventionist. Addicts can leave a family member feeling that they are the ones who have it wrong.

“A lot of family members don’t know they are being talked to by a master manipulator,” Kieth said. “It’s harder to manipulate us. You can’t manipulate us. We shut it down at every turn.”

Interventionists Help an Addict and Their Family Entering Recovery

Effective interventions help sustain long term recovery:

  • Intervention is as important for the family as it is for the addict
  • Families are better prepared when a loved one goes into a treatment program for drug addiction
  • Families struggling with addiction can finally have a voice and confront how the disease affects the family system.

Eric Button, Burning Tree Programs National Outreach and Family Liaison, said intervention is an important component of having a successful long term sober life.

The intervention helps the family get unified on a common goal which is to save this person’s life from addiction and alcoholism.

Interventionists can also help the addict through with recovery by being in their corner and helping them follow their discharge form.

“There’s no better percentage of recovery when this happens,” Eric said. “We’re always at Burning Tree pleasantly blessed when clients started their path with a good interventionist because the work the family has already had is enormous.”

Justin Diehl, a licensed alcohol and drug counselor in Minnesota at Recovery in Action, said an actual intervention is as important for the addict as it is for the family.

Often the addict will try to say that they are just hurting themselves with their addiction and it is difficult for them to admit the pain they have caused their family.

“The intervention gives the family a venue and an opportunity to have their voices heard,” Justin said. “What I don’t want to happen is for people to have concerns and not share them. When those families are putting their heads on the pillow, I want them to feel like they at least offered door number two.”

3 Main Phases to Interventions

Phase One: Preparation of Intervention

Interventionists put a lot of time into preparing for the actual intervention. They have a pre-meeting to prepare and to make sure the family is on the same page. These meetings are usually very emotional.

A certified intervention professional uses techniques and models to help a family have a successful intervention. Many interventionists create their own approach  based on the training they have had and their experience.

Many interventionists have family members read letters that they had written to the addict.

This is an extremely emotional experience and why an interventionist is so important. Often a family’s emotions can get in the way.

Remember the addict and alcoholic is a master manipulator.  With so much emotion and manipulation, it can be difficult for family members to be tough with a loved one.

“If you have a one on one conversation you are outnumbered because you are talking to your loved one and their disease,” Justin said. “The interventionist is there to hold the mirror up and guide the family to intervene in a loving and caring way.

Phase Two: Holding an Intervention

Once all the background information about the family and the addict is known, the interventionist will help the family stage and intervention.

The interventionist leads the intervention for the family. The professional interventionist and family team will have already picked a treatment facility.

If the intervention goes well, the interventionist will immediately take the addict to treatment.

“The actual intervention is often not as emotional as the pre-read,” Justin said.

Phase Three: Intervention is the Beginning

Many people think the intervention is over when everyone is done reading their letters and the addict either agrees or disagrees to go to rehab.

No matter what happens, the intervention is not over. If the loved one decides not to go to treatment, the family will work with the interventionist to set clear boundaries.

If the addict or alcoholic goes to treatment, then this is the beginning of the journey for the individual and the family.

Most interventionists will keep working with the family once the loved one has successfully completed treatment. They will work with the newly sober individual on a  discharge plan from a treatment center.

Justin looks at the discharge plan like a wagon wheel. The newly sober addict is at the center of the wheel.

The spokes from the wheel are all the different parts to the recovery plan: sponsor, outpatient counselor, therapists and family members. The interventionist is the outside of the wheel that keeps the spokes tied together and the wheel moving forward.

“By the time an interventionist is involved, often the family has hit their bottom. At the end of the day it is still the disease or the addict’s choice,” Justin said. “The family gets to say: We have hit our bottom and we are going to be clear where we now stand. We’re hoping you choose door number two.”

Justin has weekly phone calls for three months after the intervention because he doesn’t want the family to fall back into old behavior or old thinking.

“The end of the intervention is really the beginning of the journey,” Justin said.