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MAC MBA CAP LMHC
Drug & Alcohol Counselor/Therapist

Recovery is possible at any age. However, similar to the treatment of many diseases, disorders, and conditions, the sooner the correct treatment regimen is started, the higher the prognosis for long-term recovery.

Whether you have strong reason to believe, or you know for a fact that your teenager has a problem with drugs or alcohol, you may very well need take some form of immediate action. Given the exponential surge in the use of designer synthetic drugs alone, there is just no time to wait for that perfect time to talk to your teen about your concerns. Although you might not necessarily make any headway, as long as you come from a place of heart-felt understanding, and you keep your cool, you can’t mess it up.

Just remember you used to be in their shoes, experiencing some of the same peer pressure, experimenting with life, all with the desire to fit in and find a place of acceptance. In the event that your teenager does admit to having a problem with drugs or alcohol, be prepared to get them to the appropriate treatment provider as soon as possible.

On the other hand, if your teenager is unwilling to address your concerns, or does so with manipulatively divisive and disruptive oppositional defiance, you may want to seriously consider planning a professional teen intervention before the situation at home becomes progressively more complicated, unmanageable, and toxic for everyone involved.

Planning a successful teen intervention can be broken down into 7 basic steps:

STEP 1:

Case Conceptualization

Planning a successful teen intervention is analogous to planning for major surgery, in that each strategically loving move must be made with attention to detail and with surgical precision, even in the heat of the moment.

Although many families try to conduct the intervention on their own, without the guidance, direction, and support of a trained professional interventionist on site, it is almost impossible for them to collectively maintain the steady and objective hand required to effectively maneuver through the process alone. This is one of the main reasons that it strongly suggested to secure the services of a well-trained, competent, and caring professional teen intervention counselor. If you are in need of one, feel free to reach out and I will help you find one that meets your individual needs.

Case conceptualization is the foundation for the teen intervention. It provides the historical detail necessary to help paint the picture from the perspective of both the teen and their and respective family members with definition and clarity. Since I may have to take a person to the edge, show them what’s down below, and how far it can go, I have to be able to carefully gauge each person’s limitations and strengths. And by understanding some of their most significant milestones, deficits, and disorders, I am able to create an intimate and personal bond which I then use to help strengthen the foundation of the intervention. In other words, just like in public speaking, you have to know your audience. Furthermore, the professional teen intervention counselor must be able to relate to the family on a personal level, while at the same time, maintain order, control the chaos, all the while leading with commitment, conviction, and compassion, ultimately bringing everyone back safely to the solution.

And finally, case conceptualization is an integral part of establishing an initial plan for treatment. Like I said from the beginning, “the sooner the correct treatment regimen is started, the higher the prognosis for long-term recovery.” So with that said, it is imperative to select a treatment center and/or a course of treatment that is not only able to address the issues present at the time of the intervention, but one that can also effectively treat major issues potentially lying dormant just beneath the mantle of teenage angst as well.”

STEP 2:

Establish Healthy Boundaries

From my experience, one of the most powerful therapeutic tools to effectively bore right through the sometimes seemingly impenetrable bedrock of teenage denial and resistance is the healthy boundary.

The healthy boundary essentially represents a specific targeted action that a person, or a group of people are prepared to support as a means by which to strategically move another person to take responsibility for their maladaptive decisions and behaviors. By working closely with a well-trained and caring professional intervention counselor, the family is able to establish, and if need be, implement and uphold these healthy boundaries from an objective standpoint, thereby increasing the efficacy of their use during the intervention process. In conjunction to sound professional guidance, direction, and treatment recommendations, I firmly believe that the success of the teen intervention is firmly rooted in the collective loving power of the family to hold and uphold these healthy boundaries. Below are some of the most significant factors to consider when establishing effective healthy boundaries for a professional teen intervention:

  • Personal finances
  • Housing options
  • Legal issues
  • Family relationships
  • Reputation
  • Spiritual beliefs
  • Education
  • Medical conditions
  • Significant others
  • Employment

While healthy boundaries are being established, it is important to recognize that they are meant not as a punishment, but rather as a means by which to help raise your teen’s bottom, thereby creating just enough strategically loving discomfort to help nudge them in the right direction. At this point, it is also important to thoughtfully consider how your teen is going react and respond throughout the intervention process. Carefully consider secure contingency plans to address the following scenarios:

  • Becomes belligerent
  • Threatens/attempts to harm self
  • Runs away

STEP 3:

Share Hope

In addition to establishing a well-defined set of healthy boundaries, as well as a series of comprehensive contingency plans, in my opinion, it is essential to begin the teen intervention with a positive message of hope for the future with a warm and candid look at redeeming personal qualities and cherished memories.

I actually encourage intervention participants to share photos and mementos, such as trophies and plaques during the first part of the teen intervention. And as far as who should actually participate in the intervention, for the most part, it should be limited to the people who mean the most to the teen and who are in full support of holding and upholding the healthy boundaries established to support the intervention process.

STEP 4:

Express Concerns

Once a positive and empathetic intervention tone has been established, each member of the family and invited friends are asked to highlight concerning changes in appearance, behavior, and attitude in the second part of the intervention. I then ask them to express how those changes have negatively impacted their own individual lives.

Without actually asking the teen to admit to having a problem with drugs or alcohol, the goal of the second part of the intervention is to simply help the teen recognize that their actions are negatively impacting the lives of those around them, the people that they love the most. As a matter of fact, in the event that the teen begins to admit to the problem prior making a firm commitment to accept the help outlined in Step5: Offer Treatment, I usually redirect them to hold off until they are ready and willing to do so.

STEP 5:

Offer Treatment

Besides researching my professional background on the internet, families tend to ask me a lot of challenging questions as part of their due diligence. I actually expect them to ask tough questions. It comes with the territory. I understand that people need to have confidence in my ability to get the job done, and then trust in the intervention process itself. Therefore, I have to be able to address their collective concerns with an honest, candid, and solution-focused approach. One of the most commonly asked questions is: “Has anyone not gone to treatment after the intervention.” Once again, similar to surgery, there is no way to guarantee an outcome. As a matter of fact, I suggest that families stay far away from any practitioner that does. Nevertheless, I do guarantee to plan accordingly and to apply all the intervention tools and resources at my disposal to significantly increase the prognosis for a successful outcome.

From my experience, offering the best possible and most clinically sound treatment option is one of the most important factors impacting the long-term success of the intervention process. As I stated in Step 1: Case Conceptualization, “it is imperative to select a treatment center and/or a course of treatment that is not only able to address the issues present at the time of the intervention, but one that can also effectively treat major issues potentially lying dormant just beneath the mantle of teenage angst as well.”

After each family member has had an opportunity to express their individual set of concerns, they are then directed to ask the teen the following simple question: “Will you please accept this gift of treatment today?” The direction and mood of the intervention has a tendency to shift significantly following their response to the question.

If the teen agrees to accept the family supported plan for their treatment without any significant debate and/or battle, we can start to wrap things up with lots of loving support and encouragement, help them pack accordingly for their new environment, and judiciously head out on our way to the pre-selected treatment program. If the teen remains defiant and unwilling to choose to accept the gift of treatment being offered to them, it may be time to gradually begin Step 6: Introduce Healthy Boundaries.

STEP 6:

Introduce Healthy Boundaries

For most families, the most dreaded part of planning for a successful teen intervention is actually having to follow through with the set of healthy boundaries created during Step 1: Case Conceptualization. Although I naturally want the intervention to go as smoothly as possible, I also understand that healthy boundaries can help to reinforce the recovery process long after the intervention is over, like steel rods in cement.

In the event that your teen remains defiant and unwilling to accept treatment even after everyone has had an opportunity to share their fond memories and express their deepest heart-felt concerns, it is probably time to introduce healthy boundaries, gradually implementing each boundary as needed in order of expected level of impact with the most significant ones shared last.

As each boundary is crossed, the expectation is that the teen will ultimately agree to accept treatment as a means by which to stop any further discomfort-causing action. At the end of the day, it may not matter whether or not you actually had to share the healthy boundaries with your teenager, as long as they ended getting the help they needed and your family felt good about both the process and the outcome. As a matter of fact, sometimes it’s better to experience resistance at the time of the intervention, rather than having to try and fight an unexpected battle down the road all alone with a highly intelligent and equally manipulative teen, after all of the extended family has gone back home to cities like Boston, Miami, Dallas, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, or Newark.

STEP 7:

Support the Process

After your teen finally agrees to enter into treatment, and most of the emotional dust and debris from the intervention has settled down, it’s time for everyone to begin to support the recovery process. At the same time, make every effort to provide their counselors with as much historical detail as possible. Include both the redeeming qualities and the collective concerns of the family outlined during the intervention. And make sure that you keep a list of the healthy boundaries on hand at all times, just in case they need to be revisited at any point along the road to recovery. Without suggesting that anyone was to blame for causing the addiction, the family should be encouraged to take both an individual and collective look at their own unique set of issues and how those issues may have in some way contributed to the overall duration and severity of the symptoms.

The reality is that with enough love and leverage, your teen will ultimately go to treatment, there is a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, and teens do recover. Simply put, use the time apart to work on your own set of underlying issues with the goal of creating a more recovery-oriented home environment.

At some point, your teen will be coming home, perhaps even as an adult. Nevertheless, here are some recovery-oriented therapeutic interventions and support groups to help you do your part to support the recovery process for everyone involved:

  • Family therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Marital counseling
  • Al-Anon
  • Alateen
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • CoDa
  • Narcotics Anonymous
About the author Evan Jarschauer:
I am a Professional Comprehensive Intervention Counselor and Licensed Psychotherapist. I create, implement, and monitor comprehensive treatment plan solutions to meet the unique therapeutic needs of individuals and families impacted by symptoms of addiction and mental health disorders throughout the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
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Page last updated Aug 10, 2016

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