Effective and Inclusive Interventions: A Conversation for Addicted Family Systems
If you have a loved one who misuses substances or struggles with mental illness and life challenges of the like, you may have thought about the need to intervene. Perhaps you interpret an intervention as an underground strategic meeting or have experienced an intervention depicted on television as a surprise confrontation, both of which are intended to persuade someone to address their substance misuse or enter treatment.
These approaches are not what will be discussed in this article. Instead, we will be discussing the Inclusive Intervention Model that can be defined as a way to reframe the colloquial stigmatic approach you may have seen before. Inclusive Interventions can best be defined as a professionally delivered service that is trauma-informed and family specific. Furthermore, it is transparent, collaborative and includes the “Identified Patient” as early as possible.
“Confrontational approaches in general, though once the norm even in many behavioral treatment settings, have not been found to be effective and may backfire by heightening resistance and diminishing self-esteem on the part of the targeted individual”
– 2016 Surgeon General’s Report
What Makes an Inclusive Intervention different?
First and foremost, Inclusive Interventions consider the entire family unit as the client and no plan matches the previous one, nor the subsequent. To successfully shift the symptomatic involvement and the dynamics of families, we first need to clinically evaluate and assess the family unit as a whole– psychologically, physically, culturally and systematically. This can be defined as a trauma-informed approach and when performing interventions using this method success rates soar, families are quicker to the uptake and see far more conducive and positive results.
The underlying goal of an Inclusive Intervention is to facilitate change for the entire family system–shifting the key dynamics and their symptomatic manifestations in the family – ultimately making things less problematic for everyone affected.
The Three Key Principles
A trauma-informed intervention approach has three key principles: Inclusion, Transparency, and Collaboration.
Inclusion refers to involving and understanding the entire family system and all of its parts, including the targeted individual. Rather than jumping into a family system within a grueling first 24 or 48 hours, Inclusion means to matriculate the pace of things – or rather to slow down the perception of what families think is happening– in order to encapsulate a bigger picture, allowing every angle to be measured and evaluated. The first 24- to 48-hour period can be better utilized assessing and evaluating the family dynamics, ensuring that our entry does not disrupt the entire family system. Our entire goal is to be positive and supportive, not detrimental to an already potentially fragile system.
Misleading or surprising the targeted individual can be harmful and often leads to heightened levels of resistance. The principle of transparency allows direct engagement and communication with individuals of interest as early as possible. Transparency also provides families with plans that are meticulously formulated and mutually agreed upon: plans with which the family can feel comfortable and supported before, during and after an intervention.
As professional interventionists, it is our job to educate families on the significance of decision making. It is also our prerogative to know the parameters of each possible scenario, while still allowing and respecting a family or individual’s choice to make that decision. Lastly, transparency refers to redefining what success looks like, given certain situations. Not every individual struggling with substances or mental health issues may follow every treatment recommendation, or do so continuously over time. Furthermore, not every recommendation will work for every individual and must be purpose-built to follow suit. Educating families on healthy expectations early on helps redefine progress and measures of success that may otherwise be dismissed.
In collaboration, we never place an expectation or judgment on a family. This is imperative to working successfully with families. As professional interventionists, we may be the expert on mental health, treatment, substance abuse, or trauma, but we have to respect the fact that the family is the expert on their loved one. By collaborating with family members in our areas of expertise, we can walk alongside them; building alliance and trust with conviction.
“The primary goals and general management methods of treatment for substance use disorders are the same as those for treatment of other chronic illnesses: to reduce key symptoms to non-problematic levels and improve health and function status”
– 2016 Surgeon General’s Report
The goal of working with families before, during and after an Inclusive Intervention is to provide education, support, and respect. A wife’s husband may have not stopped using substances entirely, but we were able to help the family set better boundaries, redefine relationships and interaction patterns. This can dramatically shift their everyday family dynamics, ultimately leading to the substance use changing and having many different effects on the family as a whole, resulting in better conditions for the individual in particular, as well as those around her/him.
In providing a trauma-informed, professionally delivered, family-specific service that is inclusive, transparent and collaborative, we ask ourselves a pointed specific question: Did we leave a family system healthier than when we entered it?
For more information on Inclusive Interventions for complex mental health disorders, eating disorders, substance misuse, trauma, and domestic violence, please visit Doyen Consulting Group.