10 Benefits To an Intervention Team

Teaming provides a more robust service and gives families, friends and their loved ones a more comprehensive service. Dr. Stanger outlines several reasons and examples of this process.

  1. Broader Scope – Combining skill sets leads to a synergistic response. Working with another clinician or physician during an intervention gives you the ability to encompass areas of expertise that you are not be familiar with. It allows you to combine skill sets lead to a more extensive approach. This broader scope allows for the Intervention team to have a larger ‘toolbox’ to better assist their clients. For example, working with an interventionist who is also an experienced attorney helps grant access to the courts, probation and other strategic partners. Conversely, partnering with an interventionist like myself, who is a veteran clinician can bring in several advantages when there are mental health concerns and a need for clinical input.
  2. Clinical Navigation – In working with groups it is well known/evidence-based (Yalom, 2005) that having two co-facilitators work well, because it gives clinicians an opportunity to relate to different clients. Viewing it in this light we all have people we relate to better then others. There is no order of importance in matters of the heart or a way to predict who will reach that resistant loved one or help a struggling family member find his voice. The truth is the collaboration produces many more moments of possibility and break through when talents are blended.This process closely aligns with such therapeutic modalities such as Solution-Focused Therapy (Insoo and Berg, 2012), that talks about the importance of collaborating with another professional while you are with your client. Miller and Rollnick, (Helping People Change, 2012) who founded Motivational Interviewing, further demonstrated when they combined the talents of a soft-spoken professional with a pragmatic active professional movement towards health and wellness takes place.
  3. Intervention GPS – I believe that we as professionals often need to consider collaboration with a teammate to pinpoint a difficult location, and in this GPS sense everyone benefits from having another cell tower. My perspective alone, however inspired and informed by my own experience and knowledge, is often not going to be sufficient to obtain the best and most useful information. This is so important when we as interventionists are supposed to go into the field and track coordinates as ever shifting and elusive as those of spiraling addiction, denial, unmanaged mental health disorders and the chaos of a family system in crisis.For as we know, a wealth of research has shown that it is only through the triangulation of data sources that we obtain truly precise, honest and transparent results.
  4. Synergy – Many interventionists with strong recovery backgrounds, but no clinical training or family expertise, partner with me to add a necessary clinical and familial system dimension. Together we have comprehensive access and strength, more than either of us can offer alone. Sometimes when you need the right word you need a thesaurus, rather then a dictionary.
  5. Complex Cases – Today we are all seeing more and more complex cases with many moving parts that require agility, flexibility and a broader range of services. My team approach has evolved to meet the needs of cases requiring a broader skill set and a richer ability to respond. Bringing in an additional expert such as a Board Certified Psychologist with psychiatric hospital admitting privileges, a trained nurse or a trained retired police officer for security and safety is a must! In other words bring in those resources which you do not have and can benefit the family.As professionals we are often expected to have all the answers. What I have learned is that partnering on interventions gives clients and families more answers to the myriad of challenges that are presented. Too often the physical logistics and limitations of just having a single interventionist are overlooked. The family is often left behind while the loved one is transported to treatment. This is a missed opportunity to process and work on systemic family change. This may be the only opportunity left to speak to the intervention team as a group and in person. For some of the intervention team (family and friends) the experience has been powerful and raises many feelings, and questions about their own well-being. From a clinical standpoint this intervention (accountability team) is just as important as the identified love one and requires an after intervention plan as well.
  6. Safety and Security – When thinking about safety and security issues having two seasoned professionals present an advantage. I have experienced several situations in which having a partner facilitate the process, helped calm the situation. For example, when an identified loved one indicated he was going to kill himself, as a mandated reporter I needed to work with the police department and emergency response unit, until help arrived 16 minutes later.
    My teammate was able to contain the loved one who was a large 6-foot gentleman who fell down in a closet while I spoke with family until the police arrived. Or when a mother clearly was neglecting her children due to her substance abuse disorder and being “nonintentionally emotionally unavailable” (Stanger, 1999) having a partner who is able to keep the situation calm while one calls CPS is a great advantage.
  7. Division of Labor – The scope of my pre-intervention work and capabilities has expanded considerably by partnering. I employ a qualitative research methodology, known as “Portraiture”, (Lightfoot, 1997), which creates a composite picture of the identified loved one and their family and friends support system. I have found that speaking with each person individually first yields more truthful and richer data. This requires every potential team member to be interviewed individually. This type of a more extensive interview yields a much more comprehensive, far-reaching and three-dimensional ” portrait”. Other interventionist’s teams report that they are also able to divide their workloads.I can think of quite a few interventions, which involved sidebar discussions and some degree of caucusing. So much of what we do involves shuttle diplomacy and the process should not grind to a halt when loved ones or teammates need to have private conversations. Some of my proudest breakthrough moments have come when I am alone with the loved one at the edge of their recovery, outside the intervention meeting, on the patio where something intimate gets shared or a phone call gets made that changes everything. The family inside is not held in suspense while this is all happening as they are doing important work with my teammate and stay engaged with my teammate in the business of moving forward. One such discussion recently came down to a sweatshirt that belonged to a young women’s mother and the promise that if she went to treatment we would honor her concerns by helping her mother also get treatment. There is a good chance this conversation would not of happen at the group level, as there was too much fear and shame. At the same time, who would say she would agree to treatment had her family not allowed us to break up the team and follow our direction. It is erroneous to think you can be all things. With the higher number of problem families it’s imperative to have a partner who is present and aware.
  8. Leadership – Interventions demands solid leadership and are best modeled on democratic principles where everyone is encouraged to find their voice and work together. There is no question that families look to the interventionists as the one with all the answers. Partnering requires egoless leadership meaning that at any given moment your teammate may have a better idea then you, as might your client, and a spark of inspiration at just the right moment, allows the clients to receive the benefit of your partnership. If I am to inspire the intervention team to work together then I must be able to model that behavior for them and keep everyone moving forward towards the common good these works require. The famed Harvard Kennedy Center professor psychiatrist Ronald Heifetz in his book, Leadership Without Easy Answers, writes “…in a crisis we tend to look for the wrong kind of leadership. We call for someone with answers, decisions, strength and map of the future, someone who knows where we ought to be going – in short someone who makes hard problems simple. But problems… are not simple. Instead of looking for saviors, we should be looking for leadership that challenges us to face problems for which there are no simple, painless solutions-problems that challenge us to learn new ways.”
  9. Fun – In a word partnering is ‘fun’. When you are stuck in a hotel room not knowing what city you are in or wondering how it all went one way or the other, and struggling to have your client have a safe passage, the reassuring presence of your teammate is not only a relief, but can also be fun. Sometimes you start to feel like you are Don Quixote and Sancho Panza chasing windmills, Batman and Robin, Fred Astaire or Ginger Rodgers choreographing a dance of wellness or Cagney and Lacey solving a mystery, great tag teams that effect change whether fictional or non-fictional.
  10. Transport – Providing safe passage to treatment is an integral part of the intervention process. Making sure the admissions process is handled smoothly, the treatment center is there to welcome their new patient and have them gain entrance smoothly into a new place and new surrounding is important work requiring motivational skills. The person, who transports, needs to be as skilled as the person or persons performing the intervention. In our case 97% of the time I will stay back and process with family and friends who are often in amazement their loved one has chosen to go. This is a perfect time to teach accountability team members what is expected of them while their loved one is off to treatment and a great time for them to process what just happened and what will happen next. Shifting the focus from the ILO to them is critical. Staying behind allows for this process to begin. On the other hand my teammate is developing a rapport with the loved one and is rolling with whatever resistance may appear. Anyone who has taken an Identified Loved One on an airplane knows that there must be expert care and nourishing of a loved one as they leave. Often times they are frightened and resistant to care.
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