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Substance Abuse Interventionists

An interventionist is a professional who helps families plan and implement an intervention, which is a structured meeting where the group encourages their loved one to enter addiction treatment.

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The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports that in 2016, only around 1 out of every 10 people in the U.S. who needed professional help for drug abuse actually got it in a specialized treatment facility. Many people need help, and an intervention can often be the turning point that prompts an individual to reach out for that help.

Interventions have a much higher likelihood of success if they are run by a professional interventionist. These professionals plan and lead the intervention, taking a lot of the weight off family members who are very emotionally tied to the results of the event.

A professional can be board certified and credentialed through the Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS) as a Certified Intervention Professional, or CIS. Interventionists are often licensed through the state where they practice, and many will also have a background in counseling or therapy.

To Plan and Choose Intervention Techniques

It can be hard for a person to recognize that they need help for drug or alcohol abuse, and denial is often a side effect of addiction. It can be incredibly frustrating for friends and family members to deal with this denial.

Mayo Clinic says that an intervention is a focused approach that can propel someone into a treatment program by showing them how their actions are impacting those around them. This realization can trigger the step toward professional help.

Friends and family members have undoubtedly been hurt by their loved one’s substance abuse, and this makes it tough to not react emotionally when the person denies the problem exists. This is where an interventionist can be vital.

An interventionist can be involved from the start. They will choose the format for the intervention, outline the structure, take charge of the planning process, and then lead the actual event.

The main goal of an intervention is to get your loved one to agree to voluntarily enter a treatment program for their problematic drug or alcohol use. There are many things that should happen in the planning and execution process to increase the likelihood that this goal will be accomplished.

An interventionist will help you decide on the best strategy, or intervention technique, to use. There are a few different types of interventions, ranging from non confrontational and family-involved styles to more traditional and crisis-based options.

An interventionist can help you figure out when and how to bring your loved one into the conversation. They may even provide a neutral meeting place where the event will be held.

Ultimately, a substance abuse interventionist will walk you through the entire process, from start to finish, helping to take a lot of the pressure off you.

To Moderate and Troubleshoot

Part of a substance abuse interventionist’s job is to moderate the conversation and troubleshoot on the day of the event. There is no way to fully plan for everything that could possibly happen during the event, so the interventionist will deal with problems as they arise and devise solutions on the spot.

Prior to the event, several planning meetings will be held with intervention team members. The team is made up of family and loved ones — anyone close to the person who has been impacted by their drug and/or alcohol abuse.

These planning meetings are crucial to the overall success of the intervention. If someone is going to participate in the event, they must attend these meetings.

On the day of the intervention, the interventionist will keep the meeting on track and moving in the right direction. The conversation is bound to be emotionally charged. An interventionist will provide an outside viewpoint and a calm and professional perspective.

The interventionist can act as a moderator to make sure that the conversation stays positive, nonconfrontational, and clear. An interventionist can also step in if things get heated, helping to diffuse the conversation and bring it back to a productive level. They essentially serve as a point person to keep the event focused on its goal.

To Help With Follow-Through

The desired end result of an intervention is to get someone into a formal treatment program, and an interventionist can help with this too. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) says that interventions are successful over 90 percent of the time when a professional interventionist is used.

An interventionist can help you get a loved one into treatment by:

  • Researching treatment centers ahead of time.
  • Helping with the enrollment process.
  • Setting up transportation to get your loved one into treatment as soon as they agree to go.
  • Escorting your loved one to the facility, ensuring they stay sober on the way there.
  • Working with insurance to confirm the program is covered.
  • Answering any questions you have along the way.

Finding an Interventionist

An intervention can seem like a daunting task to take on, and an interventionist can relieve some of the pressure. To find a qualified interventionist, ask your doctor or medical provider for a referral. Treatment programs often have preferred interventionists they can refer you to as well.

AIS hosts a member directory you can use to find a local certified interventionist. The Network of Independent Interventionists also maintains a list of interventionists you can contact for help.

When choosing an interventionist, follow these steps:

  • Find someone you feel comfortable talking with and that you feel really listens to you.
  • Check their credentials and certifications. Not all interventionists have professional credentials or board certifications.
  • Ask for references from prior clients.
  • Find out how many interventions they have managed.
  • Ask about the services they provide. Make sure they plan to be with you from the first meeting all the way through getting your loved one into treatment.
  • Ask about which intervention models they use. There are several styles, and you may be more comfortable with a certain one.


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