Family Intervention - The Pitfalls

Intervention Can Produce Some Undesirable Consequences

Family With Counselor
Family Interventions Can Backfire. © Getty Images

Deciding to approach the alcoholic in your life with a confrontational intervention can produce some potentially very undesirable consequences.

After we published the article, "Family Intervention - How It Works," about planning and carrying out a family intervention, we received some feedback offering another point of view.

One reader who has spent his entire career as a highly-qualified professional in the treatment field, wrote to point out the possible negative side to taking the intervention step.

The Downside of Family Intervention

Here is another look at the downside to a family intervention:

Your article offers a fairly positive view of interventions. There is another side. Many professional people have stopped doing these interventions as they can be so very painful to families and to individuals who are already under the enormous strain of being involved with the practicing alcohol abuser or addict.

If the intervention goes well and the target individual seeks treatment, it is a great beginning; if the target individual angrily stomps out of the intervention and/or otherwise refuses cooperation and refuses to seek treatment, all is likely not so fine.

Family Is Left With 'Now What?'

The family and the other interveners then are left sitting there wondering what to do next, what to do with themselves, what to do in regard to any options/alternatives they have told the target person about (e.g., threats of divorce, taking the children away, etc.), and so on.

Of course, it is as true in interventions as in any other area of life that there are no guarantees, no certainties, no sure deals, no "something for nothing."

Basically, my issue here is that I strongly recommend that anyone considering an intervention give very serious thought to the very real option that treatment will be refused and/or that treatment will be briefly accepted but that the alcohol abusing individual will return to abusing.

What Happens Next?

What happens then? Have all involved made progress or lost ground? In what ways are things better for any one person, and in what ways are they worse?

What happens next? The answers to these questions may help someone decide whether they see an intervention as a desirable or an undesirable thing to do.

I think that these questions do need to be carefully addressed ahead of time, and I think that it is perfectly reasonable to ask any professional intervener to help you address these questions.

Ask for Information

I would also recommend asking any prospective intervener what his/her background, training, and experience with this type of treatment approach is, and what their level of licensing and/or certification is. Are they self-employed or are they a part of a larger hospital or treatment center which in turn must meet meet various professional and governmental requirements.

At a minimum, you should find out if your potential intervening professional is licensed and/or certified by the appropriate source, and you additionally might ask local people whom you trust (your clergyman, your doctor) if they know anyone to recommend.

Invention Is Serious Business

I do want to be clear in saying that planning and carrying out a structured, confrontational style intervention is serious business, and that it is a very complex and difficult intervention.

I would recommend that anyone contemplating it consider the risks as well as the potential advantages, and that anyone considering seeking any type of professional assistance should inquire carefully as to the qualifications of the potential professional person to be involved.

  • Intevention (Part 1)
    Sometimes when the alcoholic's problems reach the crisis level, the only choice left to his family is professional intervention.

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