Substance misuse interventions are never an easy process, and organizing an intervention for a teenager brings significant challenges. It is never easy to see your child in distress, so accepting that they are misusing substances can be a devastating but necessary first step. The good news is a professional interventionist can help you approach the process with care and consideration, supporting you to achieve the best outcome for your child and loved ones.
Intervention work can take place at any point in a teenager’s struggles. Early intervention is the most beneficial form as it can stop a substance abuse disorder from fully developing, but even if your teen is in the depth of addiction, intervening can significantly improve their condition.
A successful intervention will encourage an adolescent to change their behaviors and accept help for their issues. There are a number of challenges that can be thrown up during this process; we look at some of them here and offer advice for enacting teen interventions.
What Is a Substance Abuse Disorder?
Substance use disorder (SUD) is the term used when somebody is unable to stop using substances such as alcohol or drugs despite the negative impact on their psychological or physical health. Substance use disorders can refer to a number of conditions relating to substance misuse, including addiction and dependence.
The most commonly abused substances by teens are alcohol and marijuana. Past evidence suggests that by 12th grade, approximately two-thirds of teenagers have tried alcohol. Abusing drugs, including alcohol, can have significant consequences on brain development in the teenage years. Additionally, early use of drugs can increase the chances of developing a substance addiction in adulthood.
Many troubled teens begin using alcohol or other drugs as a way to manage or feel in control of underlying mental health issues. Unfortunately, this is not an effective method and they often end up needing to use more and more drugs to numb the distress they feel.
How Do Family Members Impact Teen Addiction?
Education around substance use varies, which means although some young people receive excellent education and knowledge about the impacts of drug use, some adolescents are ill-informed, leaving them vulnerable to problems.
Teenagers learn a lot from their home environment, and this includes what they know about substances. If parents are particularly nervous and strict about even talking about drugs, this can lead teens to misunderstand the impacts. On the other hand, if teens are around drug use in the home or family, this can increase their chances of developing a substance use disorder too.
Having open discussions about drugs and drug use is usually found to benefit young people and their approach to substances. This includes sufficient education and guidance in school environments.
If you believe your teen, or a teenager in your life, is engaging in problematic substance use, seek help as soon as possible. Noticing early signs can stop a problem before it has developed into a full-blown drug addiction. Being aware of what attitudes teenagers absorb in regard to substances can help you to relate to how they feel and think.
It is common in the United States for teenagers to try alcohol and drugs, but this does not make it safe. On the contrary, using drugs in adolescence before the brain has developed can have severe and lifelong impacts. To maintain the safety of your child, address any concerns honestly and clearly when they arise.
What Is an Intervention?
Interventions come in a number of forms and vary according to specific circumstances. Early intervention is used to prevent substance misuse from progressing into a substance use disorder. An intervention may also be used after a substance use disorder is already established to encourage an individual to acknowledge their problems and seek help.
Interventions can take place in a number of environments such as schools, mental health facilities, substance abuse treatment centers, and general health care settings. An intervention could involve members of the family, friends, doctors, mental health care professionals, counselors, and any other important people in the teen’s life.
Teen interventions serve a number of functions including:
- Offering information about using drugs and addiction
- Educate children on healthy choices in regard to substances
- Highlight the correlation between substances and mental illness
- Assess the presence of any teen mental health conditions
- Increase recognition of substance use and high-risk behavior
- Establish a plan to reduce or end substance use
- Encourage a child to begin treatment
When Is an Intervention Needed?
If you suspect your teen is abusing drugs, regardless of what substance they are using, intervening early is advised. There is a common misconception that a problem develops gradually over time but in fact, things can deteriorate quickly when it comes to teen drug abuse.
Coming together in this way can provide troubled teens with the support they need to turn around their behavior.
Indicators an Intervention May Be Needed
- If a loved one is binge drinking alcohol on a regular basis
- If they are being dishonest about their substance use
- If they are no longer showing interest in activities previously enjoyed
- If they have begun spending all of their time with people who regularly engage in substance abuse
- If they are missing school due to their substance use
There are various approaches to intervention that can be employed. It’s advisable to discuss your options with a professional interventionist so that you choose the most appropriate option for your teen.
The Johnson Model
Created by Dr. Vernon Johnson in the 1970s, the Johnson model is a commonly used approach that has several important components.
- The team. This is the group of people who will intervene. In the case of a teen intervention, it will likely consist of parents, guardians, other relatives, doctors, mental health practitioners, and religious leaders. Usually, this wider team is guided by a health counselor.
- A clear plan. The first stage is creating a clear and well-understood plan. This will include where and when the intervention will happen. Each participant should plan what they want to cover during the conversation.
- Emphasis on care. This is a crucial element in order to achieve success with the Johnson Model. The intervention should be a compassionate conversation, leaving anger and blame at the door.
- Addiction focussed. The initial intervention should be focused solely on substance use, not any other behaviors. Making the teen feel attacked or criticized is not going to achieve the end goal.
- Looking to treatment. Having some suggestions for the next steps is part of this intervention model. This can help things move forwards from the initial intervention.
Created by Ed Speare and Wayne Raiter, the invitational model is also known as the systemic family intervention model. This is a particularly effective approach for teens as it encompasses all family dynamics, rather than focusing solely on the individual. Based on the idea that all components of the family impact each other, the invitational model looks at full system changes to tackle the person’s addiction.
As with the Johnson model, this approach is led by an interventionist. Throughout the session, they will educate the family on addictions, teen mental health, and the impact on the wider family. There is a focus on how the teen’s behavior and the behavior of other family members affect one another, ensuring that each person understands and takes responsibility for their role.
An invitational approach will look at options and encourage a young person to enter treatment through open and honest discussion. The goal is that, through the meeting, the teen will understand the concerns of their family, and they will feel safe enough to accept the path of recovery.
What to Expect from an Intervention
It’s important that the process is planned carefully to ensure a safe and successful outcome. This is a chance for parents and families to articulate how their teen’s drug use is impacting them, how concerned they are for the future, and how prepared they are to support their recovery journey. Showing your struggling teen that you love and care for them is one of the most important outcomes.
Interventions are likely to be stressful and sometimes upsetting situations. It is helpful to prepare yourself for some distress and, at times, anger. As a parent or caregiver it’s crucial you find ways to stay calm during the process, this could mean going out for air or taking a short break.
The environment is an important factor too. Holding the intervention somewhere familiar can be helpful for the teen, but most importantly it should be calm, safe, and private.
The Role of an Interventionist
The role of an interventionist is to support families and troubled teens who are struggling with substance abuse. An interventionist is trained and qualified in holding interventions, and they will be prepared for how the meeting could play out. They will have ways of steering the conversation in helpful directions and suggestions for how to move forwards after distressing points in the discussion.
Whether or not they have met the young person before, through the meeting they are likely to understand the severity of their condition and they can accurately suggest the treatment needs.
Before the intervention takes place, an interventionist will help families prepare for the conversation, guide them to helpful topics, and give tips on how to be mindful of everyone’s well-being – including the parents.
Substance Abuse Treatment Options
It is common for an intervention to end with suggestions, plans, and preparations for treatment. A successful intervention will see a young person accept the care of their family and cooperate with the idea of treatment.
Regardless of what substance is being used, there are now a wide number of evidence-based treatments available to support troubled teens through their disorder. When planning a treatment program, it’s important to consider the specific circumstances of the young person.
Each treatment facility is different, and they are likely to offer diverse treatment modalities and options for outpatient and residential treatment.
- Individual therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Group therapy
- Alternative therapies, such as art and music
- Experiential therapies
- Life skills sessions
Teen Interventions at Feinberg Consulting
Feinberg Consulting is an independent case management, intervention, and coaching company specializing in supporting families through mental healthcare crises.
We know how difficult it can be to see your teen in distress, and we understand the pressure you feel to help. Our team of specialists are experts in teen mental health and can offer you support to achieve sustainable recovery outcomes for your child.
Substance abuse can have a profound impact on everyone around, this is especially true for close family. We have seen how successful interventions, approached with compassion and care, can offer a safe space for all members to engage in communication, strategizing, and recovery.
We believe that every case is unique, and we reflect this in our bespoke and specialized healthcare solutions. Adolescence is a pivotal time in life, and we are dedicated to helping teens find happiness, health, and normality.
If you would like support in planning or staging an intervention, get in touch with us today. We are ready to begin building a better future for your family together.