Intervention it still the Wild West or have we learned from the errors of the past? | Addiction Professional Magazine Skip to content Skip to navigation

Intervention it still the Wild West or have we learned from the errors of the past?

July 11, 2014
by David Brown
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The Wild West: are will still cowboys or have the clinicians exerted themselves so that we all improve?

Intervention is something that is clearly misunderstood. A lot of people have the impression that the family sets up an ambush on their loved one, where a stranger comes into a family setting and grabs the loved one, bundles him in a car and delivers him to an unsuspecting treatment center. The loved one then spends the next 30 days planning retribution on his family and what would be better than to relapse just to show you! All of this time and energy having gone into a process which was doomed to failure from the outset.

Fast forward from the days from the Johnson Institute where their intervention or surprise approach usually sees the person often react defensively, which can compromise the intended outcome--treatment. Now we have a generation of TV watching the A&E reality series Intervention. People seem to be addicted to this show and have become Intervention groupies. They have their favorite episodes, their favorite drug, their favorite drama and their favorite interventionist. From my vantage point the show veered very close to being over the edge ethically by showing unabashed drug use in every episode. I wonder how many addicts watching the show recoiled into euphoric recall and finished up using because they had seen some unfortunate shooting up on the show? While the show may have been wonderful in breaking down barriers and introducing the nation to the concept of intervention it has also encouraged a huge number of well trained, certified, experienced interventionists to take pride in their craft and provide the service that the family is paying for in a caring, expert and compassionate way.

One hundred fifty odd interventions later I am now convinced that the only intervention that is a failure is one that does not happen.

On July 29, 2013 Alison Knopf, a writer with Addiction Professional, wrote a three-part article on intervention which was damning to the craft. Shirley Beckett Mikell, who heads certification programs at NAADAC, The Association for Addiction Professionals was quoted as asking “Who’s watching over this industry? No one right now.”

Mikell further opined that Interventionists need to be clinicians, because they need to do on-site clinical assessments. “Even if you base the assessment on family information, the final diagnosis is made when the person is in the room,” she says. Mikell doesn’t see how it’s possible for someone to refer individuals to treatment programs without being a clinician. Even though information may be gathered from family members and others, someone with clinical training has to make the assessment, she says.

“How else do you tell a treatment service provider that this person is appropriate?” she asks. “I would send them a copy of my assessment, a diagnostic review, and a treatment plan—all standard clinical documentation. The person conducting the intervention is also conducting an assessment—and should make sure that the person ends up in the correct place.”



David Brown


David Brown

David Brown is Director of Avenues to Recovery in Olathe, Kansas and is a certified...

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