Announcement: The Evolution of Addiction Intervention

Announcement: The Evolution of Addiction Intervention

An Interview with Board Certified Interventionist Roger Canevari

By Meghan Vivo

If someone doesn’t want help for their addiction, there’s nothing anyone can do. This is a myth that has been debunked by decades of successful interventions. A group of caring friends and family can “raise the bottom,” helping an addict recognize the seriousness of their drug problem and find the strength to recover – even if they don’t fully buy into the process at first.

Addiction interventions have saved millions of lives in the past 50 years, and they are becoming even more effective as our knowledge of addiction grows. Roger Canevari, a board certified interventionist with more than 25 years of experience in the field of addiction and owner of Recovery Found, notes a few key ways the modern addiction intervention differs from interventions of the past.

A Loving, Respectful Approach

Early on, interventions were viewed as opportunities to vent long-held resentments and to blame and shame an addict into getting help. In the past two decades, addiction interventions have evolved into a respectful expression of love and concern, explains Canevari. Rather than condemning the addict, family, friends and co-workers respond with compassion and an understanding of the impact addiction has had on the individual’s ability to make healthy decisions.

“Our role as professional interventionists is to guide the intervention on a loving and respectful course,” says Canevari. “We encourage the family to make decisions based on what they are emotionally and physically capable of following through on, and then express themselves in a healthy way.”

Not Just About Drugs

In the past, experts assessed the need for an intervention based on the type of drug being used and the extent of abuse. Now, it is just as important, if not more so, to evaluate how the addictive behaviors have impacted the individual’s quality of life.

“Drug use is a symptom of an underlying problem,” Canevari explains. “If we focus on the drug, the individual comes out of rehab and uses a different drug or a compulsive behavior like gambling or sex. The intervention has to delve beneath the drug use into the real issues.”

Entering drug rehab is not something that is forced upon the addict, but rather a decision they are actively involved in. If the addict is reluctant to get treatment, Canevari presents more than one drug rehab center to choose from and asks that the addict at least tour the facility to see what they’re saying no to.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

After decades of research, we know that addiction treatment is most effective when it is tailored to the needs of each individual. The same is true for addiction interventions. While the structure of interventions has largely remained the same over the past 20 years, according to Canevari, the modern approach is flexible enough to meet clients wherever they are.

Canevari doesn’t routinely recommend a particular drug rehabilitation center for every client, but rather works with the family to understand the type of care that would be most effective for the individual. The intervention participants and the individual struggling with addiction then make the final decisions.

“Intervention should be a very individualized and creative process,” says Canevari. “We do not use generic models or a cookie cutter mold; we design a specific plan to meet each patient and family’s needs.”

A Long-Term Process

Despite becoming more widely available, most people’s knowledge of addiction interventions is limited to television portrayals on shows like A&E’s Intervention.

“Television shows highlight one moment in time, but an intervention is so much more than that,” explains Canevari.

The intervention is only the first step. Addiction recovery is a lifelong process, which is why interventionists like Canevari are focused on the long-term success of their clients.

In addition to guiding the intervention, Canevari educates his patients about relapse prevention and remains involved throughout the treatment process. He serves as a liaison between the drug rehab center and the family to help facilitate a smooth transition from treatment to daily life back at home.

The Critical Role of Family

Traditionally, interventions have been designed with one purpose in mind: getting the addict into treatment. For Canevari, the primary goal is making changes within the family system, which typically has the effect of convincing the addict to enter drug rehab.

“What we’re really doing is teaching the family how to do an intervention,” Canevari explains. “It is critical that the message comes not just from a professional but also from the people the addict cares about most.”

Canevari recommends that the family stay involved throughout the process, from beginning to end. When the intervention ends, the family doesn’t put their loved one on a plane and go back to life as usual. Instead, Canevari recommends that they accompany the interventionist and the addict during the admissions process, spend the first few nights in a hotel near the drug rehab, and actively participate in the center’s family program. Not only does family involvement increase the likelihood that the addict will complete treatment, but it also helps the entire family begin to heal.

“It is very helpful for the family to physically see the facility and make a connection with the staff for a smooth admission and treatment stay,” says Canevari, who was rescued from addiction by a life-saving family intervention in 1983. “In the most successful addiction interventions, the addict doesn’t feel like they’re being tossed away. The family’s message is, ‘It’s not just about you, it’s about all of us.’”

A Growing Field

When Canevari first started conducting addiction interventions nearly 20 years ago, he was part of small group of specialists doing this work. Since then, thousands of interventionists have joined the ranks.

When choosing a professional interventionist, Canevari advises families to find someone who is board certified and highly experienced, and to interview more than one to determine if their philosophy is a match. A professional intervention is one of the most effective ways for addicts and their loved ones to begin the healing process, but it requires experience and know-how to ensure that it is done right.

Since 1995, Canevari has conducted interventions throughout the U.S. and South America with a 97% success rate of getting addicts into treatment. He has more than 25 years of experience as a nationally certified alcohol and drug counselor and board certified family interventionist. Although he is not affiliated with any particular drug treatment center, Canevari works closely with some of the best drug rehab centers in the world, including Promises in Malibu, California.

“I consider it a privilege to guide others into recovery just as I was guided over 25 years ago,” says Canevari. “For me, an addiction intervention is not a confrontation but a celebration of life in recovery. By taking away some of the shame, fear and denial surrounding addiction, we can create a window of opportunity where one may never have existed.”