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First-ever credential for interventionists will debut by spring

December 5, 2012
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Interventionists, long referred to as the last group of addiction professionals operating in a fully non-credentialed and unregulated environment, should by next spring have the opportunity to receive a professional certification in a manner similar to what addiction counselors and other professionals have available.

A “Certified Intervention Professional” (CIP) credential should be formally introduced to the field by March 2013, say architects of the plan to professionalize the role of interventionists and to create an oversight mechanism. The Pennsylvania Certification Board, the entity that offers professional certification for addiction counselors in Pennsylvania, will administer the CIP process, but the credential will be available nationally to all individuals who can demonstrate expertise in th3e competencies associated with intervention.

Carol Lawyer, an interventionist based outside of Philadelphia and one of the key planners of this effort, says the idea to move in this direction grew out of observations that some interventionists were touting professional credentials that essentially had no meaning, because these individuals simply had been sold an acronym with no organizational teeth behind it.

“Some people were out there selling fraudulent credentials—it was pretty upsetting to me,” says Lawyer. “I feel a lot of people can be harmed by individuals who do not have the appropriate background to deal with families and crisis situations.”

Rebecca J. Flood, CEO of the New Directions for Women treatment facility in California and board president of the Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS), says she and others often refer to interventionists as “the last of the cowboys” on an unregulated frontier.

“There are no state licensing requirements, and insurance doesn’t pay for the services,” Flood says. “We have been left to police ourselves, and set our own standards.”

A handle on the numbers

As a result, while AIS’s ranks number around 200, some observers estimate that probably at least 500 individuals across the country market themselves as interventionists, offering their services at any number of payment rates and at a time when desperate families can feel particularly vulnerable to a sales pitch.

“I often get correspondence from people I don’t know, not only advertising themselves but also saying that they do training,” says Lawyer.

Adding to the sense of urgency about professionalizing the field, says Mary Jo Mather, executive director of the Pennsylvania Certification Board, is the higher profile that intervention has gained with the general public in recent years. “Good, bad or indifferent, intervention has made it to television,” Mather says, referring both to ongoing TV series and periodic attention to the latest celebrity to become the target of an intervention.

Mather, who also is executive director of the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC), says that one desirable byproduct of a credentialing process is that “credentialing does better identify your workforce.”

Procedural issues

After AIS and the Pennsylvania board agreed in 2011 to collaborate on establishing a credential, the groups brought together subject matter experts for an analysis of the working roles of an interventionist. They then forwarded information about these content domains to the field for comments. The finalized domains are referred to as pre-intervention, intervention, post-intervention, and professional and ethical responsibility, with relevant tasks listed under each.

The professional standards for a CIP that grew out of these discussions outline the experience and educational background required for certification. Experience standards are listed on a scale based on education attainment, with 1,000 hours of experience required of a doctorate holder and 6,000 hours required of someone with a high school degree or equivalency only.

Education and supervision requirements are structured similarly, with a range of 80 to 270 relevant hours of education (six hours must be specific to ethics training for intervention) and 60 to 200 hours of supervision (no supervision is required for an individual with a doctorate).

Organizers are now in the process of refining the written exam component of the CIP. Mather says the computer-based exam will consist of 100 questions. For six months after the credential becomes available, intervention professionals will be able to avoid the exam requirement (but no other requirements) during a grandparenting phase for the CIP.

Lawyer says of her expectations for her interventionist colleagues, “I think most of our members will pursue [the credential]. I think it’s that important to us.”

While pursuing the certification will be voluntary, of course, receiving it will commit individuals to signing off on a code of conduct, which in turn could give families some form of recourse if they feel they have been harmed by the actions of a certified interventionist.

“This credential speaks directly to consumer protection, which is what credentialing is all about,” says Mather.

For more information about the Certified Intervention Professional credential, contact the Pennsylvania Certification Board at (717) 540-4455 or info@pacertboard.org.

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