If you’re reading this, you most likely have some insight on how powerful the disease of addiction truly is. Even when someone struggling with addiction is in their absolute worst state, the cravings to use drugs and alcohol don’t just stop, if anything, they intensify. As the person continues to struggle coping with their undesirable circumstance, it can feel like there is no hope for a life of recovery. And families and support systems are left to wonder what they can do as it seems nothing they have done has worked.
It is at this point, that we might consider staging an intervention. Traditionally, an intervention is part of the pre-treatment model. It’s implemented at the very beginning of one’s recovery journey as a way to support them initiating change and get them in the appropriate type of care to support the recovery process, but I invite you to look at this transformative process in a new light.
After conducting hundreds of interventions myself, I have discovered that there is another opportunity for the intervention process to be used that can help build the foundation for a successful recovery by incorporating the techniques directly into the recovery process..
When you think of an intervention, what comes to mind? If you are not an industry professional, like most clients tend to be, the word intervention can be misinterpreted. An intervention is not meant to be cruel or vengeful, there is more to this method than blindsiding the addict, exploiting their negative behaviors, reprimanding them, and forcing them to get help. A modern day intervention is a loving and respectful approach focusing on supporting the whole family. The intervention is actually a process in which the entire family systems begin to orient themselves to recovery. It focuses on family strengths, family healing, and opening the door to work on underlying issues that may contribute to challenges within the family system. Even though the intended target may seem like it’s the “worst” person in the family who is actively using, it’s really the entire family unit that needs to be educated, supported and oftentimes treated along with their loved one who would be considered the identified patient. In order to combat the negative connotations associated with the traditional method of interventions, I have found success in taking a new approach.
Instead of calling it an intervention, I want families to begin a process in which they can participate in a family realignment and “reset” the system to better support recovery. Just by rephrasing the verbiage associated with the process has helped eliminate some of the misconceptions and makes the goal more clear for everyone involved. Conducting a family realignment allows me to build family cohesion and establish a long-term care plan by involving family throughout the treatment process, from beginning to aftercare. I’ve learned that mobilizing the family and leveraging their insight helps drive a better treatment experience because addiction doesn’t just affect the identified patient, it contaminates the whole family unit as the disease progresses.
Building Family Cohesion
There is always a tremendous amount of pain and damage, both mentally and physically, that occurs when someone is active in addiction. Families often sit by, feeling helpless as their loved one will do whatever is necessary to maintain their use, which means the family can be witness behavior that seems out of line with their experiences in order for their loved one to quell their intense cravings for more. In this continuous cycle, it doesn’t take long for them to create a divide between the identified person and their family, which causes once loving and supportive relationships to turn sour with distrust and resentment. In order for a family realignment to be successful, we need to first work on restoring the family cohesion.
In order to facilitate this, I have worked to include the principles and underlying philosophy of the intervention process and incorporated this into treatment. Often times, a person may self admit to treatment because they feel a certain level of discomfort. However, as they start to feel better, they may think they no longer need to continue with specific care and may choose to leave, no longer engage and return to their support system. Frequently, the support system is unsure of how to support recovery. If the support system stays in the dark and has no tools to support healthier system functioning, the return can be challenging for all involved. By incorporating the realignment process into treatment, it allows for initiation of the family into their own recovery while establishing what recovery oriented behavior for all would look like. There is no one size fits all and this approach can be used along with an abstinence based model, in patient treatment, outpatient, therapy and even harm reduction strategies.
To assist in building family cohesion, I have found it vital to have a family advocate as part of the clinical staff. Every client is assigned their own family advocate when they are admitted into treatment and will work with them to address the familial issues that we commonly see with addiction like enabling, codependency, and trauma. The family advocate acts as a liaison between the clients and their families and continuously works with both, individually and in group sessions, throughout the entire recovery process. The family advocate plays a key role in building the cohesion because they make sure the clients, their families, and the clinical staff are all on the same page with the recovery plan by keeping everyone involved and held accountable for their role in the process. A toxic family system will hinder the recovery process, but a family realignment allows us to create unity between the client and their family once again so they can resolve past issues and begin to focus more on the journey ahead.
Leveraging Family Insight
Leveraging family insight is another important factor that helps make family realignment successful because no one knows better about what’s actually going on than those who are living it. As we begin working on building family cohesion, we start to hear the family’s stories, thoughts, and feelings surrounding the issues that the addiction has created. When a person is active in their addiction, the mental state they are in is very unstable and influences cognitive and behavioral dysfunction. This causes them to act out in ways they normally wouldn’t and they will forget or recall things happening in a completely different way than someone who is sober. Having multiple accounts of what has been going on allows us to get the bigger picture, assess challenges, and forge a plan on how we should proceed going forward.
Establishing a Long-Term Care Plan to Build Better Outcomes
Now that we have had the opportunity to build family cohesion and apply family insight through the work we have done so far, we can begin to establish a long-term care plan. It is at this point in the recovery process that the client is oriented and operating in a recovery process. Ideally, they would begin to be more in tune with their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. The family is also more educated and has the tools and resources they need to address and resolve the issues that have been the source of the toxicity plaguing the family system in the past. Everyone involved should all be on the same page now, which makes establishing a long-term care plan much easier and increases the chances of successful recovery. This long term approach is similar to programs for high licensed professionals and drug courts which are successful at helping foster long term recovery. By creating a plan for both the identified person and family that is a minimum of a year as opposed to 30 or 60 days, an opportunity for recovery to take hold is better supported through structure and accountability.
Changing the Way We Think About Interventions
When we change the way we think about interventions and start thinking about it more as a family realignment, it significantly increases the chances for successful recovery. Conducting a family realignment allows you to build family cohesion and establish a long-term care plan by involving family throughout the treatment process. Addiction doesn’t just affect the addict, it contaminates the whole family. Addiction is not a “them” problem, it’s an “us” problem and using the family realignment approach allows you to really get the core problems that hinder successful recovery.
For more information on intervention, family realignment, addiction, mental health, or recovery, please visit www.kenseely.com or feel free to reach out to our office at (855) 924-1911