I hope you enjoyed Part One, of So You Want To Be An Interventionist!
I will now continue with Part Two. Please remember, in this series, I
am speaking to a new prospective person who is contemplating entering
the field of intervention specialty.
I would like to explain this subject in two parts. Many times when
you intervene, you are alone in a city, with the added pressure of the
case or for some–the feeling of boredom. You must be careful; you can
be vulnerable by being enticed or feel the need for some type of relief
I recall a case, where a woman called me, regarding wanting to drop
off some letters from family members that had just arrived. I was
staying in a hotel and she wanted to hand deliver the letters. She
asked for my room number and floor. I thought about it and responded
with, “I’ll meet you in the lobby.” Complaints have been filed
against interventionists regarding these issues (another series). You
must be careful–especially with perceptions. I cannot imagine a male
interventionist traveling with a female client alone–either by car or
plane and visa versa. One must be aware of accusation and liability
(another future topic). You must have boundaries or you could end up
paying a major price!
Boundaries regarding service. My entire work in intervening
has been around refining and motivating the addicted to enter a
treatment center. The art of engaging, presenting and motivating is a
study in itself plus managing it as a business. Once a therapist stated
to me, “Ed I admire you because you have boundaries in
intervening—you refer to treatment centers, to qualified therapists and
ongoing follow-up groups. You don’t cross boundaries, your forte is in
intervening, not therapy, and you understand it.”
I have always felt my art is in intervening not coaching; no
continued post therapy or directing my own outpatient groups.
Sometimes, I feel the interventionist sees the intervention as the lead
in to their therapy business and the therapy business is really their
passion or perhaps it pays better? I am not sure what is right, wrong,
plus or minus. Some folks are much better therapists than
interventionists and they may need to look at that aspect.
If you intervene—follow-up is a major part of the intervention
process. It is the package. When I refer to licensed therapists with
proper credentials to assist with the post follow-up intervention, I
exhibit honesty to not only the group but also to myself.
ARE YOU LIKEABLE?
This has to be one of the most intriguing topics. Do people like
you? Not sure? Some folks would be better off left in the back office
versus working up front with the public. I am amazed with high-end
treatment facilities that advertise the best of the best treatment for your loved ones
and are viewed on their brochure as picture perfect. There are times
when the patient is being transported from the airport–that the
representative from the facility–is the exact opposite of
professionalism (many of you know what I am talking about).
I have noticed in some treatment centers that the Intake/Admissions person should never be
the first person to greet the new client! Some interventionists are
angry people–yet, believe they are likable. Some come across as
arrogant, controlling and explosive. Some facility staffs will tell you
they do not like admissions from certain interventionists due to the
Remember, if people are attracted to you and enjoy being around you,
this can be a wonderful start toward a very fulfilling career. Please
also remember, there is sincere delusion in some!
WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO GET YOUR REFERRALS?
Many times, interventionists want the facility to refer clients and
the facility wants the interventionists to refer their clients. An
interesting wheel that keeps on turning.
When I started intervening in the mid seventies, you designed your
business around your catchment area (surrounding area). You then worked
off of your self-referrals (people telling people). I associated with a
few treatment centers. I appreciated their expertise/ethics and hoped
they might refer to me someday. Quite frankly, this still might be a
good business plan for new inductees.
Obviously, there is the web, pay per click, public relations firms,
and links to intervention businesses’. It goes on and on! Maybe what
needs to be said is that treatment centers have bombarded intervention
advertising and now have created a way to refer back to themselves
(having a cadre of interventionists primarily referring to one
facility). Thinking you can out-bid centers, corporations and big
business is not going to happen! Most interventionists that have spent
their individual money to advance themselves on search engines or links
have been disappointed regarding inquiries and paid interventions.
Little by little, business will arrive when you are ready; just do not
over-spend in doing so. If you build it–they will come!
CAN YOU BE OBJECTIVE?
This is sensitive. You receive a referral from XY center; you assess
the case and realize the case is not appropriate for XY center. I have
tried calling the center yet only to be told that this is the type of
patient they specialize in and look forward to handholding the patient
as well as the family through the process.
The client begins treatment and it is an immediate disaster (another
subject). The family is calling stating, “Why were we not told of the
nuances of this center; we are deeply disappointed and feel betrayed.”
As one family member stated to me regarding their experience with a
center, “At the beginning, they took all my phone calls but once I wrote the check, I couldn’t get anyone to call me back.”
From the very start of my career, I knew that it would not work to
admit to only one facility. I work with a few facilities and if I
receive a referral from one and the case goes to another facility then I
keep the first facility in mind when it is appropriate. I believe many
interventionists are this way; I have seen a few who are gunslingers or
bounty hunters. Yet, most do due diligence and refer the patient to
the most appropriate facility. Always trust your gut instinct.
Sometimes, the intellect gets in the way! Always do the right thing.
DO YOU WANT TO WORK WITH SICK PEOPLE?
Honestly, this topic seems so basic, but the truth is when the
patient or family is difficult you will get reactions from your staff or
interventionists saying the person is a pain and they are very sick
(one of the sickest of the sick)! Another is when the interventionist’s
ego is at stake and the war of words is fought. I have realized, over
the years, that many times it is not the patient it can be you! We
sometimes get to a place where our tolerance level is diminished or you
never had tolerance for un-healthy clients. Some want a career change
but do not know what to do and still others feel stuck and decide to
intervene thinking it might be the best of worlds but they do not
connect with ill people.
Compassion, empathy, respect and passion is something you have or
don’t have. You will be tested on these levels when you work in the
field of addiction as an interventionist. Please understand, my
tolerance of highly difficult cases has diminished and I realize it—that
is why I refer to others who have a zest to accept and perform these
types of cases. We need to know our limitations and accept them.
However, it is nice to know them before we jump into a career change!
CAN YOU HANDLE INDEPENDENT WORK?
When I left being an intervention specialist for a local hospital and
went on my own, I did not realize the loneliness. I became an
independent. I did not have the daily support, friendliness and
camaraderie. I seemed cut off. Colleagues and hospitals told me they
were happy for me and would certainly refer to me. Each day I patiently
waited for the telephone to ring, only to be disappointed because only a
few referrals came my way. I felt at times they were jealous or did
not care. The truth is you are only as good as the referents
understanding of intervening and their capability of deciphering
potential clients (true today). In addition, people were happy for me
but they had salaried or hourly jobs and saw me as the same. They did
not understand that it is one week or one month to the next paycheck.
My success came by not depending on any one entity but appreciating
each referral one at a time. Intervening is you, family and your higher
power. I am always proud when an interventionist reaches out and calls
me for my recommendation or thoughts. They have learned to reach out!
To be an independent intervention specialist takes discipline. Remember, too much free time is dangerous. The book, E-Myth, talks about being a great chef or mechanic but you might not be a terrific business organizer.
Just be aware it is a slow process and it is good to have a “business
sponsor” that you can meet with on a weekly or bi-monthly basis. It is
great to follow your dreams. You cannot live life wishing you should
have tried or wished it could have been different. Just be sure and
think it through, realizing the cash flow you need or don’t need and
then, follow your heart!
I hope you have enjoyed my thoughts and perceptions. My next article will be “The Ten Complaints From The Public About Intervention Specialists.”
Thank you for the terrific e-mails. I appreciate each one of you
taking the time to write me. Remember, keep your head held high,
shoulders back and breathe deeply!
In gratitude, Ed Storti