Addiction Therapists: When & Why Work with an Addiction Interventionist?

Behavioral healthcare professionals: An article that explains WHEN and WHY working with a certified interventionist can help your client(s).

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The Right Time for Therapist-Interventionist Collaborations

By Louise A. Stanger Ed.D, LCSW, CDWF, CIP

My Philosophy on Collaboration

Before I start this discussion, it is fair to let you that my philosophy is all about collaborating with Licensed Behavioral Health Practitioners (clinicians) and your clients is so that they feel supported. We can work together so that they get the most consistent, accessible, effective, and supportive treatment they can get. This ushers in healing.

It is always my aim to make sure the family, clients, therapist and clinician of record knows how valuable they are and that they are an integral part of treatment.

Somehow that does not always translate into a clinician’s mind.

Confronting the Fear

As you may know, I am a licensed clinician. I have been a trainer of trainer,s as well as a trainer of up and coming clinicians as a faculty member at the SDSU School of Social Work and as an outside supervisor. As someone who is senior in this field, I have unfortunately recently experienced clinicians who are:

  • not knowledgeable
  • arrogant
  • frightened

…and downright argumentative.

Some clinicians are unwilling to let go of their client and their client’s family so that the loved one in question can use the services of a skilled, licensed, certificated, and trained interventionist. I have witnessed clinicians who upon learning a family member has contacted an interventionist do the following:

  1. Be unwilling to explore or even talk to the potential collaborator-interventionist. Shut down communications.
  2. Proclaim, “I Know best” and you do not need any other professional.
  3. Say using outside help will be detrimental as we need to keep “all confidential”.
  4. Disregard building a vast knowledge of current treatment centers because that is not their area of expertise. They can then make faulty recommendations.
  5. Directly sabotage intervention efforts. As a result, the family stays stuck. The therapist can create entanglement in their issues and inadvertently keep the status quo.

The Flipside: Great Collaborations

On the flipside of that token, I have had grand experiences with clinicians who understand the complexity of substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. They join hands with a skilled interventionist and collaborate to get the family and their loved one much needed help.

And to all of you, I applaud your efforts.

Interventions are Adjunct Therapies

To all the licensed professionals out there I want to be perfectly clear.

Interventions are an adjunctive treatment to family therapy, psychotherapy, etc. These primary therapies help people and their loved ones unlock unhealthy secrets and behaviors that keep the system unhealthy and ill – and the loved one in question still using mind altering substances, being cognitively impaired, and engaging in harmful behaviors.

However, using the skills of a talented interventionist in conjunction with the work that you do allows clients to be present to their:

  • relationship patterns
  • underlying challenges
  • boundary setting,
  • subconscious patterns of shame and trauma

The experience of collaboration can give you a platform to work on a cornucopia of issues while working directly to move the “identified loved one“ into treatment.

But Interventions Enhance Your Work

Also, an intervention and the hiring of a skilled and talented interventionist and having a loved one enter an accredited JACHO (The Joint Commission) treatment center…


After working with a skilled interventionist, your clients have a more tangible ability to work through new issues that arise. Clients can find new ways of relating to themselves and others, so that there can truly be systematic change. Addiction intervention strategies for families can complement your work…it is meant to!

When Can Your Client Benefit from an Interventionist’s Help?

Your client (and client’s family, friends, etc.) might be a good fit for the skills of an interventionist if:

  1. They are still supporting (consciously or unconsciously) a loved one who is using mind-altering substances.
  2. Have difficulty setting healthy boundaries or even knowing what boundaries are.
  3. Have a history of complex trauma, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders in their family of origin.
  4. Have diminished capacity for functioning due to their fear of doing something different to change their loved one.
  5. Have gotten to a point of disconnecting from the world around them as looking at the situation is too painful.
  6. Experience somatic symptoms, lack of sleep, rage, endless tears, repeated illness, stomach aches, migraines, etc.
  7. Has been unsuccessful in addressing a loved one’s substance abuse, mental health disorder, chronic pain, co-occurring disorder, legal trouble, or school and professional failures.

How To Find An Interventionist

If you think you may have a client and family who might get unstuck by working with a skilled interventionist who is highly trained in this arena, reach out and call and interview a trained interventionist. Some interventionists are licensed clinicians, some have other trained experiences through an integrated collaborative approach.

You can find out who they are on the NII website (Network of Independent Interventionists Member List) or AIS (Association of Intervention Specialists). You can check their credentials, licenses and certifications.

Getting Beyond the Caricature

You may also want to take a class which more clearly explains the invitation to change process, as it is far more than what is portrayed on TV. Or, you may want to read several books or web sites and do check out references so you may more fully understand the processes.

It is wise to imagine an interventionist as a skilled orchestra leader conducting for the moment in time a symphony. You need the conductor’s expertise for that concerto. It does not replace your individual talents rather working collaboratively creates a synergy of health and wellness.

A Final Call to Work Together!

With substance abuse, mental health process addictions (gambling, disordered eating, shopping, spending, love and or sex addiction, digital addiction, gaming, etc.) and chronic pain, moving someone into appropriate treatment takes a village of concerned persons.

Resources: Network of Independent Interventionists
Association of Intervention Specialists
Books and Writings on Interventions:
Johnson, Vern “I’ll Quit Tomorrow”
Picard, Frank “Family Intervention: Ending The Cycle of Addiction”
Jay, Debra and Jeff “Love First”
Laudau, Judith Inviting Change Through and Invitational Intervention: A Step-by-step Guide for Getting a Loved One Into Addiction Therapy 2007
Lamm, Brad How to Help The One you Love 2009
Stanger, Louise –Learn To Thrive 2016
Storti, Ed Heart to Heart The Honorable Approach to Intervention 1995
Slide Share on Different Intervention approaches : Giving The Gift of Health Clinical and Reverse Interventions
About the author
Louise Stanger, Ed.D. is a clinical social worker LCSW and Certified Intervention Professional CIP with over 35 years experience in substance abuse and mental health disorders, grief and loss. She has been a university educator (SDSU & USD) and researcher. She is active in the Network of Independent Interventionist and Association of Intervention Specialists and is also a Motivational Interviewing Trainer of Trainers. More at All About Interventions .
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