So You Want to Be an Interventionist! (Part Two)

I hope you enjoyed Part One, of So You Want To Be An Interventionist! I will now continue with Part Two. Please remember, in this series, I am speaking to a new prospective person who is contemplating entering the field of intervention specialty.


I would like to explain this subject in two parts. Many times when you intervene, you are alone in a city, with the added pressure of the case or for some–the feeling of boredom. You must be careful; you can be vulnerable by being enticed or feel the need for some type of relief or diversion.

I recall a case, where a woman called me, regarding wanting to drop off some letters from family members that had just arrived. I was staying in a hotel and she wanted to hand deliver the letters. She asked for my room number and floor. I thought about it and responded with, “I’ll meet you in the lobby.” Complaints have been filed against interventionists regarding these issues (another series). You must be careful–especially with perceptions. I cannot imagine a male interventionist traveling with a female client alone–either by car or plane and visa versa. One must be aware of accusation and liability (another future topic). You must have boundaries or you could end up paying a major price!

Boundaries regarding service. My entire work in intervening has been around refining and motivating the addicted to enter a treatment center. The art of engaging, presenting and motivating is a study in itself plus managing it as a business. Once a therapist stated to me, “Ed I admire you because you have boundaries in intervening—you refer to treatment centers, to qualified therapists and ongoing follow-up groups. You don’t cross boundaries, your forte is in intervening, not therapy, and you understand it.

I have always felt my art is in intervening not coaching; no continued post therapy or directing my own outpatient groups. Sometimes, I feel the interventionist sees the intervention as the lead in to their therapy business and the therapy business is really their passion or perhaps it pays better? I am not sure what is right, wrong, plus or minus. Some folks are much better therapists than interventionists and they may need to look at that aspect.

If you intervene—follow-up is a major part of the intervention process. It is the package. When I refer to licensed therapists with proper credentials to assist with the post follow-up intervention, I exhibit honesty to not only the group but also to myself.


This has to be one of the most intriguing topics. Do people like you? Not sure? Some folks would be better off left in the back office versus working up front with the public. I am amazed with high-end treatment facilities that advertise the best of the best treatment for your loved ones and are viewed on their brochure as picture perfect. There are times when the patient is being transported from the airport–that the representative from the facility–is the exact opposite of professionalism (many of you know what I am talking about).

I have noticed in some treatment centers that the Intake/Admissions person should never be the first person to greet the new client! Some interventionists are angry people–yet, believe they are likable. Some come across as arrogant, controlling and explosive. Some facility staffs will tell you they do not like admissions from certain interventionists due to the above issues.

Remember, if people are attracted to you and enjoy being around you, this can be a wonderful start toward a very fulfilling career. Please also remember, there is sincere delusion in some!


Many times, interventionists want the facility to refer clients and the facility wants the interventionists to refer their clients. An interesting wheel that keeps on turning.

When I started intervening in the mid seventies, you designed your business around your catchment area (surrounding area). You then worked off of your self-referrals (people telling people). I associated with a few treatment centers. I appreciated their expertise/ethics and hoped they might refer to me someday. Quite frankly, this still might be a good business plan for new inductees.

Obviously, there is the web, pay per click, public relations firms, and links to intervention businesses’. It goes on and on! Maybe what needs to be said is that treatment centers have bombarded intervention advertising and now have created a way to refer back to themselves (having a cadre of interventionists primarily referring to one facility). Thinking you can out-bid centers, corporations and big business is not going to happen! Most interventionists that have spent their individual money to advance themselves on search engines or links have been disappointed regarding inquiries and paid interventions. Little by little, business will arrive when you are ready; just do not over-spend in doing so. If you build it–they will come!


This is sensitive. You receive a referral from XY center; you assess the case and realize the case is not appropriate for XY center. I have tried calling the center yet only to be told that this is the type of patient they specialize in and look forward to handholding the patient as well as the family through the process.

The client begins treatment and it is an immediate disaster (another subject). The family is calling stating, “Why were we not told of the nuances of this center; we are deeply disappointed and feel betrayed.” As one family member stated to me regarding their experience with a center, “At the beginning, they took all my phone calls but once I wrote the check, I couldn’t get anyone to call me back.

From the very start of my career, I knew that it would not work to admit to only one facility. I work with a few facilities and if I receive a referral from one and the case goes to another facility then I keep the first facility in mind when it is appropriate. I believe many interventionists are this way; I have seen a few who are gunslingers or bounty hunters. Yet, most do due diligence and refer the patient to the most appropriate facility. Always trust your gut instinct. Sometimes, the intellect gets in the way! Always do the right thing.


Honestly, this topic seems so basic, but the truth is when the patient or family is difficult you will get reactions from your staff or interventionists saying the person is a pain and they are very sick (one of the sickest of the sick)! Another is when the interventionist’s ego is at stake and the war of words is fought. I have realized, over the years, that many times it is not the patient it can be you! We sometimes get to a place where our tolerance level is diminished or you never had tolerance for un-healthy clients. Some want a career change but do not know what to do and still others feel stuck and decide to intervene thinking it might be the best of worlds but they do not connect with ill people.

Compassion, empathy, respect and passion is something you have or don’t have. You will be tested on these levels when you work in the field of addiction as an interventionist. Please understand, my tolerance of highly difficult cases has diminished and I realize it—that is why I refer to others who have a zest to accept and perform these types of cases. We need to know our limitations and accept them. However, it is nice to know them before we jump into a career change!


When I left being an intervention specialist for a local hospital and went on my own, I did not realize the loneliness. I became an independent. I did not have the daily support, friendliness and camaraderie. I seemed cut off. Colleagues and hospitals told me they were happy for me and would certainly refer to me. Each day I patiently waited for the telephone to ring, only to be disappointed because only a few referrals came my way. I felt at times they were jealous or did not care. The truth is you are only as good as the referents understanding of intervening and their capability of deciphering potential clients (true today). In addition, people were happy for me but they had salaried or hourly jobs and saw me as the same. They did not understand that it is one week or one month to the next paycheck.

My success came by not depending on any one entity but appreciating each referral one at a time. Intervening is you, family and your higher power. I am always proud when an interventionist reaches out and calls me for my recommendation or thoughts. They have learned to reach out!

To be an independent intervention specialist takes discipline. Remember, too much free time is dangerous. The book, E-Myth, talks about being a great chef or mechanic but you might not be a terrific business organizer.

Just be aware it is a slow process and it is good to have a “business sponsor” that you can meet with on a weekly or bi-monthly basis. It is great to follow your dreams. You cannot live life wishing you should have tried or wished it could have been different. Just be sure and think it through, realizing the cash flow you need or don’t need and then, follow your heart!

I hope you have enjoyed my thoughts and perceptions. My next article will be “The Ten Complaints From The Public About Intervention Specialists.” Thank you for the terrific e-mails. I appreciate each one of you taking the time to write me. Remember, keep your head held high, shoulders back and breathe deeply!

In gratitude, Ed Storti

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