People think that anybody can do an intervention. On TV it only takes 53 minutes: addiction, conflict, intervention, treatment. If only it was that simple. Here’s an excerpt from my recent interview with the Alta Mira team. 

The Reality of Interventions

“The clients that we are presented with these days are very complex. They have mental health and substance abuse disorders. They could also have something else going on. It could be physical difficulties, it could be legal difficulties; their families are very complex, and they have multiple problems.”

When Dr. Stanger begins a new case, she creates a “family map” or “genogram” to help her determine which problem to tackle first. She maps out her client’s family history of substance abuse, mental health disorders, or any dramatic recent changes such as a death, trauma, or finances, sexual addictions, shopping, spending habits, and even digital media usage.

“I’m trying to achieve a robust picture of who the identified client is, what they are doing, and where they came from.  Many times, the identified loved one feels like they are the only one with a problem. In reality, there is a long line of family members that have experienced complex problems. Helping to identify that also helps you when you are performing an intervention.”

To create this robust picture, Dr. Stanger will pursue multiple sources of information so she can triangulate her data. This means talking to as many people related to the client as she can. Her goal is to determine “if substance abuse is primary, mental health is prominent, and which came first.” She admits that it can be difficult:

“Sometimes, you can’t tell these days, especially when someone is in a substance-induced psychosis. There was one case I remember where there was a predisposition of schizophrenia in the family history. He was doing a lot of different drugs, but one of the things he was doing was melting down marijuana into something called “budder.” There has been some evidence that people with a predisposition of schizophrenia who have been melting down budder and using it, end up in a permanent substance-induced psychosis or early stages of schizophrenia. So was his psychosis the schizophrenia or the budder? You need to see the complete picture.”


family map