When It’s Time To Intervene: Tips on Selecting an Intervention Specialist

By Kate Caravella, CAC, NCAC 1, BRI 1


A family intervention, when well executed, can be an extremely powerful and potentially life-saving tool. The act of coming together as a family (with friends, other supports) to discuss a person’s substance abuse or other addiction can make the difference between a person accepting help, and a person continuing their downward and often deadly spiral deeper into their addiction(s).

It is not an easy decision to make and is generally accompanied by a lot of fear, stress, and anxiety. An intervention is typically something a family/support system needs to seriously consider when any of the following scenarios exist:

A. The addict will at times admit that he/she needs help, but does not take action to enter treatment and/or obtain professional help.

B. The addict either minimizes or denies that his/her addiction requires professional despite it being obvious to nearly everyone around them.

C. The addict begins to suffer serious and continued negative consequences as a result of their addiction (legal, medical, job loss, accidents, etc) and continues to refuse to accept help.

By the time an intervention is decided upon, family and friends have typically employed various attempts at getting the addicted person into treatment to combat their addiction. Participants may feel like “what is the point” of hiring someone to help us do the same thing we are doing?

It is important to know that a qualified interventionist does not just facilitate the intervention meeting with the addict and his/her family. He or she also provides ongoing participant support and familiarizes the dynamics of the family system as a whole. The interventionist collects a thorough history, makes treatment program recommendations with identified level of care, facilitates the admission process and provides some level of continued care throughout the time the person is in treatment. They serve as a source of support not only for the addict, but for the participants as well.

It is equally important to be aware that since the advent of the popularity of intervention becoming an accepted and viable means of helping to get into treatment, the interventionist pool has greatly enlarged.

Interventionists generally have training and education that qualify them to facilitate these important family meetings. However, not all share the same philosophies, have the same level of expertise, and/or employ the same clinical approach.

It is critical for the benefit of your family intervention that you select an interventionist that is the best suited for your family. Fortunately, you have a lot to choose from. The following are things it is recommended families look for in an interventionist and consider prior to retaining one.

• Currently, there is no certification or licensure which regulates the intervention industry. However, there is a voluntary registration board that interventionists can apply for. This registration is called a Board Registered Licensed Interventionist. This means that the board registered interventionist is professionally qualified to facilitate interventions and that they have submitted documentation proving their experience, supervision training, licenses, peer reviews, and education requirements to the professional board. By selecting a Board Registered Interventionist to facilitate your family intervention you can eliminate the need to have to personally verify his or her qualifications (also recommended).

• Consider if your loved one has an additional or secondary issue such as an eating disorder, trauma history, or other mental health diagnoses. It is important that the interventionist you select not only has experience with these challenges and can address them appropriately, but has also received professional training in these areas as well.

• Consider the age, gender, socioeconomic status, and personality make up of your loved one when choosing an interventionist. Will your female loved one be threatened by a male interventionist (or male/female); will your 70 year old mother feel comfortable with a 25 year old interventionist? These things are important.

• Ask the interventionist if they are professionally aligned or affiliated with any one (or more) particular treatment programs. This can be important as one key task for the interventionist is to carefully assess what treatment program would be the absolute best for your family member. If an affiliation exists, this may color the assessment and may lead to a program that does not meet the needs of your client.

• Take the time to interview (in person when possible) at least three different interventionists. Trust your gut, if something an interventionist says makes you feel uncomfortable or does not sit right with you, move on down your list.

• Ask the interventionist what their typical intervention approach consists of. Some interventionists take a more confrontational tone while others utilize softer approaches. It is up the family to decide which approach may be most effective with your loved one.

• Be sure to ask the interventionist for their fee breakdown, what may not be included, how finances are managed, and ensure that a contract for services is available for review before you officially sign on.

Making the decision to retain an interventionist and proceed with planning an intervention need not be too complicated if you are aware of what you are looking for and who is available to you. Your interventionist will be spending a lot of time with you and your loved one, so selecting the right one for your family can make or break the experience for you.

If you do choose to go the intervention route, know that many families have been very successful at convincing their loved one to accept help and many lives have been saved as a result. Good luck!

Kate Caravella, CAC, NCAC 1, BRI is the owner of ICM Associates, Inc. – a Florida based firm established in 2001. She is a board registered interventionist specialist and holds the position of lead intervention specialist and lead case manager. Kate has twice been published in academic journals.