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Addictions: Treating Family Manipulation, Mistrust, & Misdirection
Substance Abuse Addiction: Treating Family Manipulation, Mistrust, and Misdirection - 10 CEUs

Section 13
Track #13 - Addictions & Families...10 Pre Intervention Steps Part 2 of 2

CEU Question 13 | CEU Answer Booklet | Table of Contents
Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track, we discussed the first five steps in preparing for a structured family intervention: building a team, setting up a planning meeting, choosing a team chairperson, discussing the negative consequences the addiction has caused, and listing ways the team has unwittingly enabled the addiction.

On this track, we will discuss the final five steps in preparing for a structured family intervention: writing an intervention letter, brainstorming objections, determining bottom lines, rehearsal, and the intervention itself.

6-10 of 10 Steps to Prepare for an Intervention

Share on Facebook Step # 6 - Write an Intervention Letter
My step 6, following step 5 of listing the ways the team has unwittingly enabled the addiction, as explained on the last track,  is to write an intervention letter. Letters bring order and control to an intervention; I find that addicts rarely interrupt while a letter is being read.  Free-for-all discussions, on the other hand, invite chaos. The wrong thing is said, anger is sparked, and control is lost. Having each team member prepare and one to two page letter to be read makes things run smoothly.

Share on Facebook How to Write an Intervention Letter
I find there are three parts to an intervention letter: love, honesty, and hope for the future.
Section A - Love
The love section should be the longest. This section tells the addict, very specifically, how much he or she is loved. The love section can contain favorite memories, past accomplishments, and good qualities of the addict. This section celebrates the person behind the addiction.
Section B - Honesty
The honesty section of the intervention letter identifies the addiction, not the addict, as the enemy. This section of the letter is kept short, avoiding anger, judgment, or blame. Instead of saying "I can’t believe you are doing this to yourself," the honesty section should use statements that reduce shame by maintaining a distance between the loved one and the addiction. For example, an honesty section could start: "Alcohol is robbing you of your best qualities and your greatest achievements. It is no longer your friend".
Section C - Hope for the Future
The hope for the future section presents the addict with a sense of who they can be in sobriety. Change requires a reason, and this section attempts to provide it. The hope for the future section reminds the addicts of their dreams, their strengths, their place in the family, and why others need them. This section usually ends with the question "Will you please accept the help we are offering you today?"

Share on Facebook Step # 7 - Brainstorm Objections
I find that step 7 is to brainstorm objections. During an intervention, the addict is searching for escape routes to avoid treatment.  They come up with reasons they cannot go: "I can’t leave my dog" "My best friend is getting married in two weeks" "I am too busy at work". Some of these excuses are legitimate. If there is a major event, like a wedding, coming up, the team should consider holding intervening after the event, unless the addict is in immediate danger.

For smaller objections, such as the care of a pet, the team should have satisfactory answers. The team should plan out who will take care of the dog, pick up the mail, etc. By brainstorming objections, both rational and irrational, that the addict may have, the team can plan answers, and present themselves as prepared and serious to the addict. In my experience, this preparedness alone can convince an addict to accept help.

Share on Facebook Step # 8 - Determine Bottom Lines
Step 8 is to determine bottom lines. When my client is determining their bottom line, they need to ask themselves two questions: what have I done in the past, and what am I willing to stop? What do I need to do to take care of myself if the addict refuses treatment?

Bottom lines are only read if the addict still refuses treatment after the letters are read, and objections are answered. Before the bottom lines are introduced, the chairperson should tell the addict, "we respect your right to make this decision, and ask that you respect our right to make some decisions for ourselves. We’d like to share these decisions with you now."

Here is an example of a bottom line written by my client Samantha, the wife of an alcoholic. "Jesse, we’ve been married for fifteen years, and I’d like to celebrate our fiftieth together. But if we don’t make changes, our life together is in jeopardy. I apologize for how I’ve helped your addiction, but today I promise I will only contribute to your recovery and your health. I will no longer make excuses for the drinking. As much as I love you, I can’t expose our kids to this any longer. Until you embrace recovery, we can’t live together. It breaks my heart to say this, but a lawyer has drawn up papers for a legal separation that he will file today if you don’t accept help. Will you please accept the help we are offering today?"

After hearing this, and other bottom lines, Jesse relented and entered a treatment program. I find it is important that the team have concrete plans to back up their bottom lines, and that they are prepared to break out of the threaten, punish, a relent cycle. A bottom line must be a plan, not a threat.

Share on Facebook Step # 9 - Rehearse the Intervention
Step 9 is to rehearse the intervention.  Rehearsing gives the team a chance to make a final preparation. The members of the team sit in their assigned places, reads their letters, reviews possible objections, and shares bottom lines. Rehearsals can be intensely emotional, and I often find it useful to walk clients and their families through breathing exercises. This intense emotion is important, because by experiencing intense emotions during rehearsal means that emotions are more moderated during the actual intervention, and reading letters is easier for the team.

The rehearsal is also the time to review details. Have reservations been confirmed at the treatment center? Is a suitcase packed? If legal paperwork is needed for a bottom line, has it been completed and reviewed? Have your client and their team go over everything a final time to prevent last minute delays or confusions. Any snag may give the addict a reason to change her mind.

Share on Facebook Step # 10 - The Intervention Day
After writing an intervention letter, brainstorming objections, determining bottom lines, and rehearsal, it is time for the final step, the intervention day. The team should arrive 30 minutes before the addict, and park their cars out of sight. Every possible distraction should be taken care of. Phones should be turned off; food, beverages, and cigarettes should be put away; pets and small children should be taken somewhere to be cared for. It goes without saying, a box of tissues should be available. When the addict arrives, the chairperson or professional interventionist greets him or her at the door, and the first letter begins.

On this track, we have discussed the final five steps to preparing for a structured family intervention: writing an intervention letter, brainstorming objections, determining bottom lines, rehearsal, and the intervention itself. On the next track, we will discuss formulating a relapse agreement, and the six questions that need to be considered when a relapse occurs. These are is detox necessary? Is the addict currently in a program? How much support does the addict have at home? Is something blocking recovery? Are there signs of a mental health issue? Is the addict following all the directions and still relapsing?

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 13
What are the three sections to an intervention letter? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Answer Booklet.

 

CEU Answer Booklet for this course
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