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ARISE®  Intervention: Healing the Whole Family

This is a guest blog written by James Ott is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) Certified ARISE® Interventionist and Executive Director of Red Willow Counseling in Salt Lake City, Utah who wrote the introduction blog about ARISE®  Intervention model.

We often talk about addiction is a family disorder. I think that most emotional difficulties are addressed more effectively by helping the whole family. This is done by addressing unresolved family trauma, or by changing the way a family currently functions.

The ARISE®  Intervention model is away for a professional to help a family that is struggling with a variety of issues. A family member may have a drug or alcohol addiction, struggling with disordered eating, have an incapacitating mental illness, or have a process addiction like gambling, sex, or work. For whatever reason, something is wrong.

A family member does not need to understand what is not working. Quite often, people sense that something is wrong, but they don’t know what it is. The ARISE® ® Invitational Intervention® is a trauma-informed, non-secretive, gradually-escalating process. It is the only Evidence-Based Best Practice family intervention. Having an ARISE®  interventionist involved can give you a professional assessment and understanding of what is not working and therefore create a plan of action to resolve the issue.

What is an ARISE®  intervention?

It is different from the traditional Johnson intervention model and what you know from television. The ARISE®  interventionist will work with families in the following ways:

  1. It is a 3-6 month engagement.
  2. It is based on transparency, honesty, and compassion.
  3. There is no ambush of the person of concern.   
  4. Addressing the issue directly, but not in a conflictual manner.
  5. It is a process of engaging the whole family system.
  6. It is collaborative through all three levels and into early recovery. 

The ARISE® ® Invitational Intervention® is a process.

Level 1: 

This is the first engagement meeting where the interventionist gathers information about the family and its history. Intergenerational trauma is often discovered, and the interventionist gains an understanding of how the family interacts. This is down in a very collaborative way and family members are able to talk about their concerns. At the end of this meeting an action plan is made for not only the person of concern, but for the whole family system.

Comprehensive Care: 

If a consensus is reached than the family goes into comprehensive care. The interventionist provides accountability and support to the family and the person of concern in following through with their commitments. Additional information is gathered and quite often issues that the family is struggling with is often is also identified. The family is also provided with education and understanding of the disease. During this time, family interaction and roles shift to be more productive and healthy in resolving the issue and strengthening connections.

In working with a family in comprehensive care, I helped a father see that the way he was trying to help his daughter (19 yo) was counterproductive. She had an active eating disorder, and he was setting goals for her and had daily “accountability sessions” with her to ensure that she was accomplishing the things that he believed would help her. He was able to understand that the controlling and perfectionistic nature of these meetings, combined with her lack of input, was actually creating barriers between them and activating her eating disorder. When she was able to feel that she had a voice and a choice, and allowed herself to make mistakes, was she able to get the support she needed from her family and professionals. Additionally, other family members changed the way they interacted with her. The whole family continued to heal.

Level 2: 

If the person of concern refuses to get help or except an appropriate level of care, the ARISE® ® interventionist works with the family to create change. This can be done by identifying and strengthening boundaries, providing healthier ways to protect and connect to the person of concern, inviting additional people to become part of the family network, and working directly with the person of concern to become part of the change process. After 2-3 meetings of this type, the person of concern usually accepts some type of treatment. The entire family is able to move forward in Comprehensive Care and address issues it has not been able to before.

Level 3:

This is a formal intervention. If after all of these meetings (and months) the person of concern continues to refuse help for whatever reason, a more formal intervention is facilitated. 

In my experience, the family usually does not get to this meeting because of the relationship and connection that has been established through this process. The formal intervention is not a magic bullet to create change, but occasionally it is necessary to get an incapacitated person to get stabilized.

In my experience, jumping to a Level 3 is a more extreme mental health or dual diagnosis crisis. One example of this,  I was called by parents, who lived out of state, their son was in SLC attending a local University.   Upon their in person visit, they found their 20 year old son paranoid and delusional. Because they were at a distance and had infrequent contact with him, they did not know how extreme and erratic his behavior was and that it was a health and safety concern.  In was in this case I did a level 3 intervention and the son, continued to refuse to go get any kind of help. During the meeting, the father told his son that he would call the police and have him mentally committed if he did not accept help. It was at this point that the son agreed to go to a residential program. In these types of situations a level 3 intervention is appropriate and effective.

The ARISE®  intervention the goal of an ARISE®  intervention is not necessarily to get a person to a particular type of treatment. I believe that by engaging a family in the ARISE®  intervention process, the family continues to get healthier and as a result of this, all family members get the type of care that they need. Treatment tends to be more of a byproduct rather than a main focus.

Are you looking to speak with a reputable interventionist? Browse our list of vetted experts, located throughout the US.

About the Author

James Ott, LCSW, Certified ARISE® Interventionist, and Executive Director of Red Willow Counseling and Recovery (IOP & outpatient services) in Salt Lake City, Utah.  His prior experience includes working on an intensive outpatient, residential, and inpatient psychiatric basis in Utah. He is a consultant for several addiction treatment facilities to bring them into compliance with Joint Commission accreditation standards. James is currently involved in the State of Utah Policy Implementation and Reform Committee, which diverts drug offenders from incarceration to treatment.