The question of whether or not to hire a professional can be easily answered. Simply ask yourself what chance you believe you have to succeed on your own.
Most families just end up creating an enormous mess which the interventionist then needs to come in and clean up. From a strategic point of view it’s wiser to hire the interventionist before any attempt at an intervention is made so that he or she can run the game starting with a full, clean deck of cards.
Having been an interventionist for as long as I have, I’ve seen a thing or two. There are interventionists whose work I respect a great deal, while others have left gargantuan messes which I’ve had to clean up, others seem more intent on their fee than a successful outcome. But I’m not writing this article to make you paranoid. Hiring a pro is often a necessary step. Arguably an intervention is much more well-managed and has a much higher chance of success if it can be conducted and controlled by an objective, seasoned professional. There are plenty of good ones out there but it’s important know what to look for.
I remember doing an intervention in Washington where the addict wouldn’t agree to talk to me initially. Believe it or not this is a fairly uncommon problem for me to run into. I came to find out that the family had just tried what they thought was an intervention by trying to strong arm the guy into a car. Of course he didn’t want to meet with me. I did eventually find a way to pull it off but cleaning up the mess the family had made meant that the intervention took longer, and began as a massive uphill battle.
My point is that if you can hire an interventionist don’t experiment first. As someone who has worked on the front lines of addiction for many years, experimenting in that field of battle with the life of your loved one hanging in the balance is not something you want to do without guidance, and I mean real guidance, not by the emotionally charged opinions of somebody you met an Al-Anon meeting, or friend of a friend who helped with an intervention or two. I’m talking about somebody who has done 100 or 200 or more interventions, and who has a proven track record of success. Believe me when I tell you you’re not going to save any money by shopping from the bargain shelf when it comes to hiring an interventionist.
I’ll keep this simple. First, when it comes to the kind of background you’re looking for, experience trumps education any day of the week. I have very little formal education but I spent 25 years addicted to just about everything you could possibly name, and went through treatment six times. On top of this real life experience, I’ve done close to 400 interventions and consistently succeed somewhere between 80 and 90% of the time. My success rate tends to be higher if the family I’m working with follows my instructions to the letter but sometimes it’s too much to hope for.
Don’t trust anyone who tells you they have a 100% success rate because it doesn’t happen. Not in the real world. You hire an interventionist just as you would a doctor or lawyer. You want to hire the best doctor you can but he’s not going to guarantee you 100%. When you hire an attorney he doesn’t guarantee what the results will be but he can spell out what’s likely going to happen. If he’s experienced and has a good track record, then the likelihood of your success will be high. This is another good analogy for not trying to do things on your own. You wouldn’t try operating on someone before taking them to the doctor, or showing up in court without an attorney and “giving it a go” before deciding to go to a lawyer.
Do your homework and call references the interventionist has worked with. Find out how he or she operated, how the addict was communicated with and what happened when there was a crisis. There is always a crisis, at least one. How did the interventionist handle it? Did he or she give up after two days and tell the family “He just isn’t ready.” In my book that can be a cop out. Interventions don’t last weeks but if the addict isn’t in treatment after day two I stay until I KNOW it’s impossible. This can be up to a week or even longer. Sure, I get the occasional “easy money” where the intervention takes an hour or a day, but generally it’s not just the addict who’s stuck when I start my work. Often the family is all over the map, things aren’t always agreed upon, family secrets rear their head. My average job lasts between three and five days, including the adventure of transporting the addict in. A few last one, some up to a week or longer. My goal is always the same; get the addict into the program and whatever happens along the way, deal with it.
Don’t go it alone. Find someone you feel can commit to getting a result, and make the call before things get any worse.