An informative magazine that is designed to help parents, families and others who have loved ones addicted to drugs and alcohol.  View Magazine PDF



By Dr. Louise A. Stanger Ed.D, LCSw

An Intervention in all of its many forms and iterations is an invitation for clients and their families to seek health care treatment so that their lives may be enriched. while much has been written and talked about on TV, licensed mental health and health providers do interventions everyday in residential settings, crisis clinics, government offices, private practices and hospital settings. we as licensed professionals (MDs, general and Psychiatrists, Certified Alcohol Counselors, Certified Rehabilitation Counselors, Psychologists, Nurses, Licensed Clinical Social workers, Licensed Marriage and Family Counselors) are always inviting our clients to explore ways

to improve their lives. we try to empower them to be the captains of their well-being. An intervention is merely an invitation to seek additional care. Viewed in this way, it does not become a drama, but rather a reality of everyday practice.

An intervention is a highly stylized caring respectful invitational process that helps everyone involved accept that the person they value, care about and love has a serious problem. It may be diagnosed as a substance abuse disorder (alcohol, legal drugs, illegal drugs), or
a process addiction disorder (food, sex, gambling, debt) and/or a mental health disorder (depression, bi-polar, mania, borderline). In acknowledging this fact, participants learn about the nature of the disorder – its etiology, history, and progression – and learn to understand that it’s a disease similar to medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

The overall purpose of an intervention is to create an opening in the denial system of the Identified Loved Patient One (ILO), their family and friends so that all may learn new ways of relating to one another and taking care of themselves. This is accomplished by helping the IP and everyone involved accept the difficult reality of the current situation. Treatment options are then explored and arrangements are made for the ILO to accept the treatment being offered.

Family interventions are difficult and delicate matters. Anger and profound sorrow often result when someone is forced to look at his or her own behavior. Family members often experience mournful rage, deep sadness and guilt over failed efforts. It is imperative for a professional to be present to help coach you along the way. As a professional interventionist, I’ve learned that a safe, comfortable, and respectful atmosphere is essential for success.

while all persons in a family share traits and mannerisms, each person is different; each is unique and each requires different tools and strategies to help the patient and themselves heal. I carefully assess each person’s needs, being mindful of trauma and other mental health issues. I then provide skills that facilitate growth.

After careful coaching, planning, and wise deliberation, the intervention is conducted in a loving, caring manner in which all participants come together for a common cause – helping their loved one get treatment. In doing so, they strengthen their respect for each other and the patient.

Lastly is the follow-up process. while the ILO is in treatment, I provide case management services with the treatment center. I continue to work with the family


By Mary Detweiler Continued from page 12

caretakers learned to base their self-image on what they did for others. Because of this caretakers did not learn to take good care of themselves, and the people in their lives learned that they never really had to take responsibility for their actions and the consequences of their actions, because the caretaker was always there to fix it for them.

It is important to acknowledge that the caretaker is not doing what he or she is doing for the other person. The caretaker is doing it for self, to medicate emotional pain and to create feelings of self-worth. The caretaker is not a helpless victim or a martyr. Caretakers need dependent people around, so if there aren’t any dependent people handy a dedicated caretaker will find or make some. Not surprisingly, caretakers get dragged down from time to time. They’ll say to themselves, “I don’t have a single responsible person in my life!” Of course they don’t. If caretakers were surrounded by responsible people they wouldn’t be able to engage in their addiction. So the real question isn’t “why are all the people in my life so irresponsible?” the real question is “why do I find myself in the same predicament over and over?”

One final point: an addiction is a relationship. whatever substance and/or behavior you are addicted to, you are in relationship with it. It’s just like being in a relationship with a person and your relationship with your substance or behavior of choice is the most important relationship in your life. you will do anything to protect it and keep it active. you will deny it, lie about it, cover it up, minimize
it, change jobs, relocate, and change the people in your life, whatever. you will likely keep this process up until the consequences of your addiction hurt more than your fear of giving it up, and when the pain finally outweighs the fear you are ready for recovery and then hope is finally possible.

Mary Detweiler is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and an Adult Child of an Alcoholic who worked as a mental health professional for 27 years. She is currently leading a Celebrate Recovery ministry in Manheim, PA and is the author of When Therapy Isn’t Enough and When Religion Isn’t Enough. Her blog/website is


providing Solution-Focused Coaching and help them discover a plan for their own healing. I can also provide support and guidance during the transition from treatment to home or new living situation.

What an intervention is not:

Interventions are not like the scenarios played out on television screens. As a licensed professional, I believe the TV show, Intervention, turns the despair and pain of families faced with addiction, and turns it all into a soap opera. I assure you that doing a confidential intervention is very different then what you see on TV. There
are no cameras lurking in the background trying to catch your loved one shooting up or engaging in harmful activities and other indiscretions. Based on my professional training, I believe that’s unethical. Confidentiality and discretion is paramount. Finding the best treatment centers available is my task. your task is choosing the one that fits best and is most likely to create positive change.

Lastly, public drama – though great for TV – is not the place for the private trauma most families experience when a loved one has a serious addiction or mental health disorder.

Interventions are not group or individual counseling. Loved ones come together for
a singular, specific purpose – to help the identified patient. when other semi-related but not central issues come up, I refer participants to therapists, doctors and self-help groups for more intensive counseling.

Interventions are not everyone talking at once. An intervention is not a free-for-all. you are taught a highly stylized way of communicating. Any individual sessions for participants are part of the assessment process, not the actual intervention.

Interventions are not conducted when a person is intoxicated, under the influence, suicidal, known to be violent, extremely depressed, in mania, or suffering from another serious mental health disorder. Cases are carefully assessed to confirm that this method is the right approach. For example, extra precautions must be taken when doing an intervention on a male patient with a history of acting out violently, when a patient is addicted to cocaine and is also in a manic stage or when a young girl is suffering from both anorexia and depression.

Dr. Louise Stanger is an expert clinician with over 35 years’ experience working with families and conducting interventions. Her interventions are extremely beneficial for families who have loved ones experiencing mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders, including alcohol and other drugs, process addictions such as eating disorders, gambling,
or sex addiction. She has been a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW, BBS #4581) for over 35 years, and specializes in substance abuse disorders, process addictions, mental health disorders, sudden trauma, grief and loss. She serves as the Membership Chair of the Network of Independent interventionists and is a Member of the Association of Independent Interventionists. She is also an accomplished educator, trainer (SDSU) and researcher having been PI or Co-PI on over 4.5 million dollars of US Dept. of Education and NIH-NIAAA grants.