Family members talk to one another all the time, about things large and small, and some families find that they don’t need the help of outsiders in order to talk about addiction. They can do their own research, plan what they’d like to say and see an intervention through to completion without ever stepping outside the confines of the family at all.
There are some times, however, when hiring an interventionist or family mediator might be a good idea. In fact, there are some situations in which the help of an interventionist could be considered absolutely vital, for the addicted person as well as the family that’s trying to help.
1. The Person Has an Underlying Mental Illness.
Addictions and mental illnesses often coexist, as people with the following conditions are twice as likely to have addictions, when compared to the public at large, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
- Mood disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Antisocial personality disorders
- Conduct disorders
While people with multiple issues like this can and do get better with the proper kind of help, they can also be somewhat impulsive and destructive, and they may behave in unexpected ways when placed under stress.
A family mediator can help the family develop a deeper understanding of all of the issues the person is facing and help the family to devise conversations that won’t inflame an already delicate situation.
People who have multiple mental health issues like this also need targeted help, and they may not get that help in a standard addiction treatment program. An interventionist can help the family to identify a Dual Diagnosis program, and the interventionist might also ensure that the person actually enrolls in the program when the intervention is complete.
2. The Person Has a History of Violence.
Not everyone who uses drugs or abuses alcohol has a violent streak. In fact, an article in the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior suggests that alcohol abuse and drug use tend to occur in people who aren’t violent at all.
However, there are some drugs of abuse that cause persistent changes in the brain that can lead to a lack of impulse control. Where the person might have reacted to stress with anger prior to the addiction, once the addiction is in place, the person might explode with rage when angry, screaming, hitting people or throwing things. The person may not want to hurt others, but people like this can be dangerous in an intervention, and without an expert, people could be putting their safety at risk.
An interventionist can help the family to craft statements that are informative but not inflammatory, and an interventionist may be able to step in and coach if the conversation begins to disintegrate into an argument.
In some cases, interventionists might even suggest techniques that avoid any whiff of confrontation, allowing the addicted person to avoid the feeling of surprise or attack. This could be an excellent way to keep an outburst from taking hold.
3. Talk of Suicide or a Suicide Attempt Is Part of the Person’s History.
The addiction-related brain changes that lead to impulsivity can result in violence toward others, but for some people, that violence turns inward. When faced with the loss and destruction an addiction can cause, these people come to believe that death is the only solution. An intervention could be the prompt that pushes these people to make a terrible decision, as this conversation could feel like an attack.
Not everyone who uses drugs or alcohol has suicidal tendencies. But those who do might have extensive experience with trauma and loss, and this might make their recovery slightly more complicated.
For example, a study in the journal Psychiatry Research found that people who used drugs who had suicidal tendencies also tended to have:
- A family history of suicide
- A lifetime history of depression
- Trauma in childhood
- High scores of introversion and neuroticism
These are very fragile people with complex problems, and they may feel as though they’re barely keeping their lives together from one moment to the next. An interventionist can help the family to respect the person’s problems and history, and the interventionist might also be able to help the family find the right kind of program to help the person recover.
Some family mediators are willing to work as case managers, escorting the person into a treatment program after the intervention and then staying involved with the person as treatment moves forward. This kind of help could be vital for a person with suicidal tendencies, as there will be no opportunity for the person to slip away after the intervention to make a life-ending attempt, and the case management can help to ensure that the person doesn’t drop out of care prematurely.
4. The Person Has Been Through Treatment and Relapsed to Addiction.
Addictions are often compared to chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, in that people need to make changes and stick with those amendments for the rest of their lives to maintain good health. It’s an easy concept to discuss, but it can be difficult to put into practice, and some people find that they slip back into bad habits when they’re left on their own. A tiny binge becomes a daily habit, and the addiction might be locked right back in place, as if the treatment program never took place.
It’s a difficult problem, and while it can be successfully treated, some people need more intense levels of care to treat a resurgence in addiction. Those who tried outpatient care, for example, might need to commit to inpatient programs. Those who tried an inpatient program might need to live in a sober living community when their program is complete, instead of returning home right away.
It can be hard for addicted people to even think about this kind of advanced treatment, and families might also need to change in order for the addiction to really be eradicated.
An interventionist can look at the approaches the person has used in the past, and help the family to find a different type of program that could bring about a better result. A family mediator might also help the addicted person to really understand the chronic nature of addiction, and perhaps this might also make a difference in the addicted person’s life.
5. Relationships Within the Family Are Fraught and Tense.
It’s no secret that addictions can be tough on everyone who lives in the family. Some people feel angry and left out, while others feel disappointed and sad. Some family members may be so upset with the addicted person’s behavior that they can’t even commit to discussing the issue without flying into a rage. Addictions and mental illnesses are also misunderstood, and these misconceptions can lead to judgments.
For example, a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that people with alcoholism and drug addictions were viewed as unpredictable, dangerous and hard to deal with. People interviewed also reported that they thought the two conditions were self-inflicted. Opinions like this might infuse the statements a family makes, and they could say things that are inaccurate and hard to take back. Holding an unsupervised intervention with a group like this is almost guaranteed to turn into a fight, and families might say and do things they will regret down the line.
Family mediators are accustomed to working as referees, helping family members to process their feelings before the conversation takes place, so they won’t be angry and nasty as the talk begins.
At times, family mediators can even step in as the talk moves forward, asking people to take a break or walk around the room before they say something they’ll regret. Very damaged families with a long history of anger, recriminations and hurt might need this kind of help, so a talk that’s designed to be loving doesn’t become a talk full of hate.
6. Family Members Just Don’t Know What to Say.
There’s no shame in asking for help, and some families just don’t have the right words that can make the severity of the addiction seem compelling enough to push the person they love into a treatment program.
The conversations they’ve held in the past may not have worked, and they may not have the patience or the vocabulary to keep holding the same kind of talk, over and over again, hoping for a different outcome. Sometimes, an interventionist can be a breath of fresh air, providing the family with a different perspective, a new outlook and a new set of words to use. This could mean all the difference for families in need.
Finding an Expert
It’s worth mentioning once more that there is no right or wrong time to hire interventionists. Some families never do so, while others hire experts even when the traditional thinking would have them hold talks on a solo basis. Inviting someone into a discussion that is this private, personal and important isn’t something to be taken lightly, and families should feel empowered to make their own choices and do what feels right.
If you’d like to explore hiring an interventionist or family mediator for your family, please contact us at 844-496-9429 We can help you find an expert who would be happy to answer your questions, and we can answer any questions you might have about the intervention process. Just call us to find out more.
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.