How to do an intervention

When it is time to take action - how to do an intervention

When it is time to take action – how to do an intervention

The following is a copy of Nik Robinson, Features Producer for The Morning Show, WSFL TV interviewing Celebrity Life Coach and Human Behavior Expert, Patrick Wanis Ph.D. for insights and advice about interventions as part of the Taboo Tuesday series: “Interventions…. If you had a friend or family member who was out of control and nothing works…what would you do to help them? “

 The videos of Patrick Wanis’ appearances of four segments on the TV show will be posted shortly. Meanwhile, here is one of the videos: https://southflorida.sun-sentinel.com/videobeta/6ffd5862-3115-4f4a-9b97-f56b7cf6709c/News/Taboo-Tuesday-Interventions

Nik Robinson: Why is it so hard for us to effectively point out to someone that they need help?

Patrick Wanis PhD: First challenge for us is our own fear of speaking up and approaching our friend; we fear rejection, disapproval, conflict, confrontation, loss of friendship.

Second challenge is our friends usually do not respect our opinion because 1. We are not professionals and 2. Our friend is in denial – they usually do not want help or interference – they are engaging in destructive behavior for a reason – to avoid pain (escape something) or to punish themselves for a perceived wrongdoing (death wish)

Third challenge we face in trying to effectively point out to our friend that he or she needs help is that we lack the training and experience to know how to approach them and; we often approach them with fear, anger, frustration, guilt, self-blame or our own stuff and judgments

Nik Robinson: Is it right to tell a friend or loved one they need help even if they’re likely to push you away?

Patrick Wanis PhD: If you truly care about someone and believe they are in danger, then you will stop being so selfish (thinking about your potential loss of their friendship) and you will put them, their safety and their health first. Think of the example of your friend who is drunk and wants to drive himself home; what do you do?

Nik Robinson: How can you broach the issue with a friend or loved one effectively so they hear you and seek change?

Patrick Wanis PhD: Do all of your research – ensure you have the facts about their problem; are they really in trouble? Are they really in danger? What is the evidence?

Research the issue or problem – symptoms and signs of a problem

Seek out a neutral setting with no distractions and a time when the person is obviously sober or not engaging in the self-destructive behavior

Speak with family and friends to create a united front – discuss the scenario – who will say what and how will this person respond; Who will lead the talking and intervention; most interventions occur after one person has already tried many times but failed to convince the other person that he or she needs help

Consult with a professional if you are going to do an intervention so you can get specific advice pertaining to your situation.

Discuss, define and explain the behavior (the problem); the losses and the effect of the behavior (immediate consequences loss of money, relationships, job, etc); list the consequences and issue the ultimatum but follow through with the ultimatum (if you say “I will not give you any more money” or “I will leave” – then do it.)

Propose immediate treatment and help – have a plan in mind before you begin the intervention.

Repeat throughout the discussion that you want to help, you love and care about him/her and that he/she is destroying his/her life and that is the reason you are here right now. End on a note of love – “this is just as hard for me to say as it is for you to listen –  I love you and won’t let you destroy your life; I will do whatever it takes to help you – even if it seems like it hurts you now…”

Nik Robinson: What things/words should you avoid?

Patrick Wanis PhD: Key point is to focus on disassociation: disassociate the action and behavior from the person and instead focus on the problem and not the person i.e. “I am concerned or worried by the/that drinking”;

Avoid using the word “You” in an accusatory form i.e. do not say “You and your drinking are screwing up my life”;

Do not attack the person but rather address the behavior and its consequences.

Do not diagnose and do not label; do not say “You are an addict…you are a junkie”; Labeling is wrong; talk about a problematic behavior; If you label and attack, he or she will shut down, become defensive or attack you back and the intervention fails immediately.

Be prepared that most likely he or she will tell you that you are wrong about his behavior; do not give in, do not agree, stand firm in your thoughts, beliefs and feelings.

Nik Robinson: What if they refuse to hear you or refuse to change?

Patrick Wanis PhD: If your friend’s life is in danger or if they are in some way a threat to the life or safety of another human being (their child, spouse, etc), then it is your duty to take drastic action. Charlie Sheen’s father, Martin sheen, called the police on his son for violation of parole when he was engaging in drug activity. So yes, call the police or for example in California, the law allows for a person to be held for 48 hrs for psychiatric review if that person appears to be a threat to himself or someone else.

Nik Robinson: Would Lindsay Lohan be in this situation if she wasn’t so insulated from reality – if people had raised a mirror to her and showed her why she needed to change?

Patrick Wanis PhD: Recently, Lindsay Lohan was seen towing in hand a book about toxic friends – critics and cynics say that she is the toxic friend but these critics don’t get it; Lindsay Lohan became toxic because she hung out with equally or greater toxic friends; who do you think was inviting her to all the parties? Who do you think was going to the parties with her or drinking and doing drugs with her? Her toxic friends.

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