Intervention Roundtable

Recovery Unscripted banner image for episode 42

Episode #42 | November 1, 2017

Featured Guest: Louise Stanger, Sara Counes, Phil Plant and Arthur Westinghouse

Today, I’m excited to bring you a roundtable discussion all about interventions. What makes them successful? What are their challenges? How could they be improved? We’ll answer those questions and more during this three-part conversation featuring Louise Stanger, Sara Counes, Phil Plant and Arthur Westinghouse.

Podcast Transcript

David Condos: Hello, and welcome to this episode of Recovery Unscripted. A podcast powered by Foundations Recovery Network. I’m David Condos, and today I’m excited to bring you a roundtable discussion all about interventions. What makes them successful? What are their challenges? How could they be improved? We’ll answer those questions and more during this three-part conversation.

In the first segment, we’ll hear from Dr. Louise Stanger, an interventionist with over 35 years of experience helping families heal from trauma, addiction and mental health issues. She sat down with me at the Recovery Results conference in Dallas, where she started by describing what intervention means to her.

Dr. Louise Stanger: I really believe interventions are just really invitations to change. Usually, people call me with very complicated mental health, substance abuse or process disorders. Once I engage with a family and if you were calling me up, I’d probably just start drawing pictures and asking you questions because I would start doing with you a family map. Because it’s really important to learn about the origin in the family. Was there any mental health? Was there any substance abuse? Was there divorce? Was there bankruptcy? Was there suicide? I mean, is there any extreme religiosity in the family?

If you go back generations, it gives you an eye way of being able to anchor whoever that identified loved one is that you’re trying to intervene and you can see not only a progression of genetic predisposition, but also how resilient this family is. When I’m doing an intervention, I always before I do them, I interview all the potential participants individually. That takes between 60 and 90 minutes.

And the questions are all what you would consider to be qualitative research. They’re pretty much the same. First, I want to learn something about you, and I learn about what makes you special. What makes your heart tick? But then I want to learn what is your relationship, what was your relationship, to the loved one that everybody is worried about? What makes him or her so special? What’s in your memory bank? What is that magical thing that really made your heart sting?

Then I want to learn why is your heart breaking? What’s going on right now that’s causing you so much pain? What is the thing you miss about your friend, your son, your daughter, your brother, your husband, your spouse, that makes your heart ache? And it has to be in behavioral terms. If it’s like, “Last week when he took my little sister and he was intoxicated and high and put her in the car, I felt so frightened and powerless”.

We’re also looking for an outlier, because what I’ve learned is sometimes it’s the person they say, “Oh, we don’t want you to talk to that person.” That’s the person that actually moves that person to change. In research, it’s called a qualitative snowball sample, where you’re asking one person and then you’re always getting permission to talk to someone else. Because you interview separately, you come away with a portrait. Because if you talk separately, people will tell you more.

David: And engaging the family isn’t just helpful for piecing together an in-depth portrait of the situation. It’s also the first step toward breaking the stigma so that each person involved can start working on their own recovery. Here’s Louise with more.

Louise: In the beginning, they’re all really focused on, “How can we help John? How can we help Sally?” But over time, it’s really, “How can you begin to take care of yourself? How can you take care of yourself physically, emotionally, in consistent with your values, or spiritually? How do I help you detach somewhat with love and to begin to do the things you need to do so you don’t have to lose anymore sleep?

David: Yes, because a lot of it comes down to helping the family as much as helping the person.

Dr. Louise: I’d say 97% of it is helping the family. And also, over time, because we know it takes 90 days to change a behavior. That’s evident space. So, if you’re wanting the family to change, you really have to help them. Bridge them to the treatment center. Bridge them to whatever other auxiliary supports there are, and then allow them to experience and also learn about what substance abuse or mental health is.

At the same time, have them begin to take a look at their own behaviors. Because we know that if someone has a disability or if you have a kid that’s– a child who’s autistic or someone that has an illness, a family will coalesce around that and they start operating on a conscious and unconscious level like that. So, families that have a loved one that’s identified as sort of the problem today with a substance use, they’re operating around that constellation. And even though they don’t want to have that, that’s how they’re used to doing it.

David: Yes, so they — because they adapt. Right?

Louise: That’s right. It’s very adaptable.

David: Even if it’s unconscious.

Louise: That’s right. The first person they really have to deal with is who they are. They have to embrace who they are. They also have to — well, the reason we do a family map is so they can look at where they came from. They’re not the only one. It’s amazing how many people think, “Well, I’m the only one in the family that cause problems. I’m the only one who did that. But wait a minute. Aunt Sally, uncle George, my cousin Jim.”

What you can tell them is, “What a resilient family. Because look, you’ve all done that, but you have to come to grips with who you are. What relationship did you have in that family? What were some of the words, norms, values transmitted? What was sort of the messages that were going to help you shift?” For me, which if you heard my story yesterday, my father committed suicide when I was eight years old.

One of the ways I got soothed over was with the chocolate chip cookie. And because– How do you feed that empty soul? And there were messages. What did your family say? How did they say it? And how does that help define you? Then once you’re sort of satisfied and you’re able to sort of come to grips with, “I’m okay. Look at this survival. Yes. There are things I did that I’m not okay with that I can make amends for, but when I look at it, I can change history. I can change the generational push.”

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David: Something we’ve talked about in other interviews for this podcast too is kind of the way that family is gradual and it adapts and it forms this bubble of what’s normal. So, that’s kind of where you come in and give another perspective on that and try to-

Louise: Well, you have to– First of all, you have to start where your client is or you’re never going to have a client. So, first, you have to meet your client where they are. You may have to roll somewhat with their resistance. You can’t come in on a white horse confronting them and saying, “You know, you need to do this, this and this and this.” So, you have to sort of like–it’s sort of like doing a dance.

David: I imagine that a lot of families that they come to you, they’ve been dealing with this for a while. They may have tried a bunch of different things. What do you tell them to encourage them to stick with the process and that there can be change?

Louise: First of all, I say, “It takes such courage to call a stranger and I just want to honor you in that.” If we’re engaged, I have them send me their photograph so I know what they look like, so that their family can become my family. They tell you that they messed up. They tell you they’ve done wrong and I say, “You know what? A long time ago, I was sort of blessed. A nice social worker named Ann told me that she gave all her families, the first time she met them, sort of no-fault insurance that you did the best that you could do with your resources you had.

“And now that you and I have met, maybe we can do things a little bit differently. And I just want to honor you for that because I know your hearts are hurting. I know that there will be a solution.

David: Just keeping that hope alive.

Louise: And there is hope. When you’ve worked as long as I have, you have some very grateful families who you can connect. Another family said, “Would you like to speak to another family?” So, if you have someone whose son has been in seven rehabs and is still back out on the street, and you’ve had a client that son has been in seven rehabs and jails but now they’re not, it’s a great person because they need to give you their service.

David: Great. Well, I just want to wrap up with this last question. You’ve obviously devoted a lot of your life to this world over the past few decades. Could you tell us a little bit about why helping people find recovery is important to you?

Louise: I grew up in a house beset with mental health, substance abuse, sudden death and suicide. As a young girl, I remember I had a mentor. He owned a camp and he was a social worker, Leon Robinson. And I don’t know what he knew about– I mean, he knew my father killed himself. I don’t know if he really knew my mother was an alcoholic, but he saved my life. I have a philosophy: if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.

That means that I can be this little stuck along the way, that perhaps you and I in our lives intersect. And in that moment of intersection, perhaps I helped you find the way. But then you can make all the difference. And the goal is for your client, for your family, to actually kill the Buddha to far surpass you in what they achieve. So, I guess that’s my life’s work and I’m just honored to be part of profession that shifts the conversation.

David: Awesome. Thank you for your time today. Thank you for sharing that with us.

Louise: Well, thank you. It’s been an honor and a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me.

David: Coming up, we’ll hear three more perspectives about what can make interventions effective for healing the whole family. But before we get back to the round table, let’s take a quick break to hear from Jordan Young and Chip Henslee about Foundations Events next conference Recovery Results, coming up in Dallas November 28th and 29th. They’re here to give us a brief preview of what to expect from this event and highlight some of the education and networking opportunities they’re excited to offer attendees this year. So, welcome Jordan and Chip.

Jordan: Thanks, David

Chip: Thanks for having us

David: All right, good to be here with you guys again. Recovery Results coming up here next month. I know this is just the second year for the conference, it’s your newest one. So, to start out, could you give us a little bit kind of the history or the backstory of this conference?

Jordan: So we were contemplating, a couple of years back, doing a fourth conference. We had just introduced our summer conference Innovations in Behavioral Healthcare and it was such a success that we were looking to do a fourth conference. So, we were looking at the industry, looking at the locations that conferences take place. The times of the year when most people have conferences. And we decided that Texas, we thought, would be a great market for a conference.

So, we wanted to put on this conference in Dallas, great major airport hub, lots of great treatment centers there. We thought later towards the end of the year when people have more or less let their travel die down, we thought this could be a great opportunity if there were some people who wanted to make new connections to close out the year.

The 2-day format, we like this two-day conference ourselves because we feel like people can get in, they can set up their booths, and it’s not going to consume basically a whole weekend and a whole week. It’s a shorter more concise conference that people can just bang out in a couple of days and get a lot of value out of.

David: Nice, all right. So, now that you’ve given us some of the backstory, Chip, could you say a little bit about what’s special about this particular conference?

Chip: Well, like Jordan said, this Texas conference is unique. Texas market is such a phenomenal place. There’s incredible treatment centers and incredible people working in the recovery field in Texas. So, we really wanted to bring the conference to them, this kind of smaller more intimate conference, where they can have the chance, and people from outside of the great state of Texas, can have the chance to build these relationships. And that’s really all of our conferences, but specifically, our smaller two-day conferences like Recovery Results.

In this day and age where there’s all kinds of talk about SEO, and pay-per-click, social media marketing, it’s really important to actually sit down and have these intimate very personal relationships with the people you’re doing business with. Because this isn’t selling somebody a copier, these are people’s lives, and you really want to know who you’re dealing with. You want to be able to sit down across the table from someone, look into their eyes and see what kind of person they are.

And so, bringing that into Texas, which is sometimes thought of as pretty insular and already very relationship driven, we thought was a natural opportunity for those inside and outside of Texas.

David: Stay tuned for part two of my talk with Jordan and Chip later in this episode. But now, let’s get back to the round table. My next guests are independent interventionist Phil Plant and Director of Resource Development for Caron Renaissance, Sara Counes. They joined me at the Innovations in Behavioral Healthcare conference in Nashville, where they gave a presentation titled “The Parent Trap, The Double Intervention.”

They offered their thoughts on what makes working with families with adult children such a unique challenge, and shared some specific case studies that illustrate their discoveries. Let’s jump right into this conversation with Phil and Sara, explaining their reasons for exploring the whole family system before, during, and after in intervention.

Phil Plant: I’m a firm believer in taking everything from the family system model. And when you have someone that’s struggling with substance abuse and mental health, it’s not just that individual person that suffers, it’s the entire family that suffers. The parents, the brothers and sisters. Anyone really that the addictive individual comes in contact with.

Sara Counes: And I think it’s important. And something that we spoke about yesterday is a lot of times the family, is dealing with the same stigma and shame as the patient, and it can be a big barrier for their own treatment and their own health. Because it’s very easy to say, “Well, I’m not the one with the problem here. Fix them, I’ll be okay.”

And when we can get them in and really start treating a system and showing them how in fact a lot of their focus, a lot of their actions and behaviors are very parallel to the addicted loved ones, and if we go back and look over the years from their parents’ parents and everything else, these generational things start to repeat themselves.

David: Yes another thing you covered in your presentation I saw, was a set of case studies demonstrating the value that including the family can have. Would you be interested in sharing one or two of those?

Sara: Sure, yes. So, we talked about a case study where we had a husband and wife, and they had three adult kids at the age of 24, 22 and 18. The 24 year old was the one that they were actually going to do the intervention on. She had been using, still at home, just struggling to kind of move forward in life. Well, what we find when we get the client into treatment, is mom is like very over involved.

She’s calling every day, she wants to know the littlest miniature things. Like how she like her room, is her roommate nice? All these things that really don’t matter. So, we start to see that mom is the one that really emotionally holds this family together. Dad, his father died when he was 15 years old. Mom’s parents divorced when she was 12 and she basically took care of her two younger siblings. So, we start to see these family of origin things that have basically brought us to current day. And dad was very hard to get involved at first with the treatment.

He just wanted to write the check, and that’s all he wanted to do. Mom comes into treatment, she talks about how she felt as a child, being abandoned by her parents. Bringing the current day, she talks about feeling abandoned in her own marriage. So, now we start to shift the focus away from the client, the identified patient, and start to shift the focus on their marriage.

His dad didn’t realize it at the time, but he really picked the most perfect partner for him. Somebody who could come in and be in charge of the emotions and manage the family. It turns out when his father died when he was 15 years old, he became the sole provider for his entire family at 15 years old. So, what did he know how to do? Provide.

David: I guess he didn’t view the emotions as his Job. It’s like he’s doing his job over here and someone else is going to take care of that.

Sara: Exactly. So, just by being able to get that information so that we don’t set the stage for reenactment, we can kind of start to reverse some of these things and get mom and dad to focus on their marriage, and trusting that their 24 year old is in treatment, she’s safe, she’s capable of doing everything that needs to be done. And they can start to look at themselves and each other. And I think the important part of that story is, the only reason why dad did something different is because mom did something different. It only takes one family member to shift, to get the rest of the family system start to shift with them.

David: So, another important step of the intervention process is what happens after the intervention and after treatment. So, what are some of the options available for families to set them up for long-term recovery?

Phil: In the pre-intervention, I just tell parents, “If they ask you how long they’ve got to be gone, don’t say word. Let me do the talking.” Because too often, families want to negotiate. “I just want to get them to treatment.” “Oh, 28 days.” Now, 28 days is what the insurance says. Even once the patient leaves the treatment facility, time to step-up the recovery. So, once we go, I start the process, I’m good about you getting the client sober, I need you to help the client learn how to live sober. Because it’s an entire different change in lifestyle.

Sara: Yes, and the families too have to start to get to a place where when they start seeing their young adult as capable and treating them that way. That’s really a great set up for relapse prevention, where people start doing things for themselves. The Identified patient and the family start seeing that they are in fact capable and there starts to be that self-worth and everything that’s brought in to it. For the family’s long term recovery, I mean, having them do their own work.

If you identify that there is something with the marriage or somebody is a workaholic, or getting them involved in their own recovery separate from the patients. Understanding that the sobriety of the patient is the responsibility of the patient alone.

David: It’s really empowering. When you do that you are empowering your child, your young adult, to really be an adult.

Sara: And you’re letting yourself kind of focus on the mom or the dad, or whoever it might be, being able to say, “Okay, you know what? I’m going to take care of me. That’s the only person I can be responsible for right now.” To move forward in life, you really got to trust that process, that they’re going to find their own way. And every time they have a little struggle and maybe trip up a little, the more they do that without returning to destructive behaviors or addictive substances, the more they start to realize that things will get better.

David: Yes. And just like with anything else, you have to go through that to learn. Like that’s the best way to learn, is to mess up and grow through that.

Phil: We tend to focus on developmental stages in the early years of life, but we go through developmental stages all our life. And it’s really how you transition. And that’s a big transition from having your baby transition into an adult. And you spend all of this time focusing on, you know, “I want his life to be right,” or, “I want her life to be right,” that when it comes to that transition, you’ve really as a parent got to be cognizant, “I need to let my baby fly.”

David: You’re right. That’s a very important step. I’m a father of a one-year-old, and so like I’m very much in the phase of, “Oh, I got to catch him.” He doesn’t know anything, but it’s like even now, as he gets a little bit older and as he’s trying some different stuff, it’s like I have to let him learn. Like, “No, you have to hold on to the railing because you fall sometime.”

Phil: You don’t have to let them touch a hot stove to know it’s hot, but you do have to let them stumble, because that’s when they learn to get back up and learn to walk and go. If you don’t, I’ll leave you one of my cards with you. Call me in 12 years.

David: Yes, cool, let’s wrap up with this final question. You guys have both devoted a lot of your lives and your time to this field of helping people specifically with addiction recovery. Could you wrap up by telling us a little bit about why helping people find recovery is important to you?

Phil: Basically, it’s helping families find recovery. And when you look at, and I believe that’s why I enjoy the young adult so much– families with young adults, there is so much of their life to live. A lot of times, as I said before, you see families who are dysfunctional and struggling, and that’s their norm. Nothing makes you feel you’ve done what you need to do when a family starts kicking it and they get in this cycle of really not only prospering in life. When I say that it’s not just financially, it really is getting out a life which you need to get out of. It’s just sort of an adrenal rush. Sort of a high when you get to be a part of that.

Sara: Yes, I think it goes to that old saying like, you don’t know what you don’t know. And a lot of these families, they don’t know that there are other options out there. They don’t know that there is a different way of life. And even the addicted person or the families dealing with it, a lot of times they just need to– I love it when a family can call and they sit there and they tell you everything. And they say, “Oh my gosh. I don’t think I’ve ever told anybody all of this. And then for me to be able to stay, “You know what? Me too,” or, “You’re not alone.”

Like those powerful words of letting people know that there’s a different way, and with a little bit of work, that they can really change the course of their life. Because a lot of people, I mean, we are kind of brought up in this day and age, like you’re born in this lot that you were given. And letting people know that there’s different ways out there, to really improve a quality of life that is not just worth living, but is worth staying sober for. Nobody would stay sober if it was just the same old junk.

But when you give them a life that’s worth staying sober for, that’s when you really see the light bulb come on and this that we do every day starts to get passed on to the next person.

David: Awesome. Well, thank you guys for your time. Thanks for being with us.

Phil: Thank you, I appreciate it.

Sara: Thank you.

David: Next up, we’ll hear one last viewpoint that explores why the invitational model can be so effective even in seemingly hopeless situations. But first, we’re going to take another quick break for part two of my talk with Jordan Young and Chip Henslee from Foundations Events, previewing their upcoming conference Recovery Results. Looking ahead to what’s coming up here next month, Jordan, could you tell us a little bit about what people should plan for, what they should be looking forward to for this year’s event?

Jordan: Some of the particulars may change for Recovery Results, but the fundamentals remain the same. So, there’s going to be great speakers, great exhibitors. We’re going to be providing a forum for the industry to come together. It’s for people to meet one another. Like Chip was saying, to connect with people on an intimate level. Get to know people who you are working with, who you’re making referrals to, and decide who you want to work with and who you don’t want to work with.

Some of the things I get most excited about leading up to a conference is seeing all the people that I’ve gotten to know over the years, but I get just as excited about all the new people that I’m going to meet at new events. The new people that I’ll meet because I always walk away from a conference with one or two or three new quality connections. So, I’m excited about that and also excited about the new things that I’ll get to experience, the new things that I’ll learn from the presentations. So, that’s what I’m personally most excited about.

David: Yes, nice. And I know you mentioned speakers, I know education is a huge part of all the conferences you guys put on. So, could you give us just a quick brief summary of some of the speakers that you’re most excited about bringing to attendees this year?

Chip: The education component of our conference is really the foundation of it so we can get quality education out in the field and really help everybody provide better treatment. In doing that, we have several keynote speakers. But one that I’ll highlight quickly is Dr. Eboni Webb. She is a DBT expert from right here in middle Tennessee. Her session title is “Restoring Connection, Trauma and Addiction,” and it’s using the DBT method in dealing with addiction and often underlying trauma.

She’s a phenomenal and engaging speaker, and I couldn’t be most excited about her.

Jordan: One of the things that I’m most excited about is the evening event with Herschel Walker. Herschel Walker is former Heisman Trophy winner. He played in the NFL, he played for the Dallas Cowboys, and now he speaks publicly on his own battles. He battles Dissociative identity disorder. Basically, that’s multiple personality disorders.

He’s very entertaining. I’ve had a chance to watch several of his videos. He shares his stories from his life from childhood, NFL, college. He’s a man of faith, you’re going to definitely want to invest some time just hearing what he has to say.

Chip: And one more quick shout out to Noah Levine. This is a shout out for all the Dharma Punks out there. Of Refuge Recovery Noah Levine is coming in and he’s going to blow the doors off with another incredible keynote that I am pretty pumped for.

Jordan: Yes. So, we’re going to have a lot of great breakout sessions with people who are industry giants, well known speakers. The Clinical Director of Lakeview Health, formerly of Pine Grove, my boy Philip Hemphill, he’ll be presenting in a breakout session.

David: Former guest of the podcast.

Jordan: Former guest of the podcast, yes. As well as new conference speakers. Also, my boy Mr. Nate Hartmann of JourneyPure. Nate and I were actually the first two lead advocates for the Heroes in Recovery Movement.

David: And Nate’s another former guest of the podcast. So, yes-

Jordan: I didn’t know that-

David: – you’re bringing a full circle.

Jordan: Here we go.

David: Nice, all right. Well, thank you guys so much for all that insight. Looking forward to next month.

Jordan: Thank you, David. We’ll see everyone in Dallas.

Chip: Thanks for having us, David.

David: Thanks to Jordan and Chip for stopping by to preview the Recovery Results Conference taking place November 28th and 29th at The Ritz-Carlton in Dallas. For more, visit discontinued events. Now, for the conclusion of our intervention round table, I welcome independent interventionist Arthur Westinghouse.

He sat down with me at the Innovations in Behavioral Healthcare Conference in Nashville, and was kind enough to share his own journey to becoming an interventionist and his insight about how to use an invitational model to help clients and families who may have some resistance about the process. Arthur starts the conversation by explaining how he was initially reluctant to work in the intervention field after hearing the news that his own sponsor had relapsed. He picks up the story from there.

Arthur: I was really resistant to working in this field for years because of that and what I found out was a lot of people in this field run up against a lot of things with clients that they haven’t worked through yet.

David: Kind of their own things.

Arthur: Yes, exactly, and things get triggered. And before you know it, they relapse and they don’t even really fully understand why they’re relapsing. There’s a lot of things that they don’t see, a lot of blind spots. So, 16 years sober, I finally decided after trying everything else [laughs]. So, I got my first job at Sheridan penitentiary about 10 years ago.

David: As an addiction counselor?

Arthur: As a non-certified addiction counselor, with the agreement that I would have my credential within two years. And I walked in, next thing I knew, I was carrying a caseload of 20 men. I ran a three-hour group with them every morning. And there was always some counselor who called out sick, so I’d have to go run their three-hour group in the afternoon and somehow get paperwork done for all these people [laughs].

David: It’s a lot of work then.

Arthur: Yes. And tell you what, I walked into that setting, and I walked out a different man. That first caseload I had, that’s where those guys taught me a lot of things that I still use today. Those clients taught me a lot of things. It’s amazing. You ask a guy to tell his life story to the group, and I’m not telling them any of my story. I’m not telling them. I’m not telling them anything. Well, just tell them a little bit and see what they do with it. And I’d get one guy to do that, and the next thing you know, at the end of that group, would be like four guys in alliance saying, “Hey, can I do my life story line?”

David: And since that time, Arthur has taken what he learned from running those groups and transitioned to founding his own intervention practice now called Westinghouse Intervention. I’ll let Arthur take the story from there.

Arthur: That was five years ago. I’ve been doing interventions every week for the last five years. And somewhere halfway through that five years, I started my own business. I understood interventions. It’s not just showing up and trying to talk somebody into treatment, it’s providing a full comprehensive education for the family, and really guiding them to something better.

David: Yes. So, I guess, why did you decide to start your own private practice? And that’s with your wife, you said?

Arthur: Yes, with my wife Diane. For the longest time, I had my nose into the work, into the intervention work and working with families. And not realizing a lot that was happening around me within this industry, and some great things and some really not so great things going on, and I said, “I want to create something that’s committed to doing things the right way and having integrity.” And just, I’m committed to helping people. It’s a beautiful thing that I’m able to have a livelihood that’s around helping people.

Over the time I’ve been doing it, I’ve sort of developed more of my own style, which more so lately has been moving more and more toward an invitational approach. I guess you would call it a Johnson Model, but I’ve been sort of combining that with an invitational. Where the person’s invited before they show up. Maybe the morning of that they’re invited, but they’re invited. I’ll tell you what, I’ve been finding more and more higher level of willingness with that.

David: Do you encounter some clients who are resistant to it? How do you approach that?

Arthur: Out of the last, I’ll say the last probably 10 to 12 interventions that I’ve done, 10 or 11 of them, no hesitation came and walked in. Second to last one I did, was more mental health going. There was addiction, but there was definitely a mental health presence there. He stalled for about three hours with his best friend that he grew up with who we sent over there to get him. Stalled for about three hours, but ultimately did come. We just had an extra patient day.

David: Yes, and I bet I can only imagine. Like for those families, are they surprised that their loved one comes or do they just think it’s hopeless and it’s not going to work?

Arthur: Absolutely. They kind of sad-started with this one particular case where there was a lot of tension in the room with this family, and they were told that the intervention was going to go one way by somebody else. And then I showed up, and based on what we were presented with, said, “Well, I recommend we go this route with it.” And they really didn’t like that. Well, the father was an engineer. An engineer likes everything mapped out, and something comes in to change that mapping and it’s like, “Whoa.”

So, down to the morning just before, they’re all sitting with arms crossed. I said, “All right, we’ve got to have a talk here. Anybody has anything they need to say, now is the time to spit it out. Because we have a higher purpose and a higher goal here that we want to achieve today. So, we need to clear the air.” And they were progressively open about the fact that they didn’t believe she was going to come out of the house. She was a 53-year-old woman who’d been on opiates since she was 17 for migraines. She did not leave the house, and they were convinced she wasn’t going to leave the house.

I said, “All right. We’re going to do this, best friend, best friend’s mother, you’re going to go and tell her exactly what’s going on here, and just invite her. Make it available.” Did not hesitate, put her clothes on, headed to the intervention. Walked in stood there didn’t say a word to me. Stopped directly in front of me looked me up and down and continued walking across the room and sat on the couch with her family. And it turned out to be a successful intervention.

Actually, she’s the first person I’ve ever seen do this. She walked out before she agreed, she walked back and she handed everybody their letter back. Walked in front of me and her first word she said to me in the whole thing was, “All right, let’s go.”

David: In your view, you said it’s almost always that these people they’ll put their clothes on, they come, they’ll go through the process. Is that because they know they need help and they’ve just been waiting for somebody to kind of call them on it?

Arthur: That’s a good question. Probably some, yes. I actually had a guy who turned out he broke into his wife’s emails. So, he was aware of the intervention, but he didn’t know that I was aware that he was also aware of the intervention. He actually showed up with a letter entitled, “Just in case.”

David: Be prepared.

Arthur: He had his statement in response to the intervention. And after about two hours, he finally threw in the towel, “Let’s just get out of here. Let’s go.” So, he knew he needed help. He was dealing with chronic pain. He resisted taking the pills for a good amount of time and then just gave in because the pain was too much. So, he knew he had a problem. Not everybody knows they have a problem. That’s a long answer, I guess.

David: Yes, it depends, yes. Well, I guess we’ll wrap up with this final question. You’ve devoted a lot of your time in your life to this work to helping people through interventions now through your own private practice. Could you spend a little bit trying to describe and sum up why helping people find recovery is important to you?

Arthur: I was 18 years old going into high school. So, actually it’s 17 years old when I was still in treatment. They had me out at 60 days sober, 30 days before I was set to leave, walking into a high school talking telling my story to these kids at a DARE program. That was the first time I ever felt like I had a purpose in my life. And from there, I went on to share my story in jails. I remember telling my friend, my mentor, I said, “It’s a gem. These guy’s it. We’re wasting our time here.”

He’s like, “No, no. But remember that one guy at the end was asking questions.” I said, “Oh, this is all for that one guy?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “All right. I got it.” There’s a part of it is giving back, the other part is, “I’m comfortable with this calling that I have. And I believe it’s a calling. When you get that call client that you intervened a couple of years ago and he looked you up and he’s calling you asking, “How do I go about intervening at my neighbor or another family member?” Or want you to come out and visit their treatment center, this beautiful treatment center that he and his wife had opened.

I mean, the pay back outside of the financial, the payback just it can’t compare.

David: Yes, man, it’s people’s lives.

Arthur: It’s people’s lives. I was a rescue mission in my recovery and I’m comfortable with going out on a lot of rescue missions.

David: Yes, man. All right. Thank you for your time today, Arthur.

Arthur: All right. Thanks a lot, David. I appreciate it.

David: This has been the Recovery Unscripted podcast. For more on Louise Stanger, visit For Sara Counes, visit For Phil Plant, visit And for Arthur Westinghouse, visit See you next time.

Unlearning Toxic Masculinity

Episode #105 | January 8, 2020

In a culture that often encourages a toxic version of masculinity, how can treatment providers help men unlearn harmful stereotypes and uncover their own trauma?

We’ll answer this with SCRC clinical director Hedieh Azadmehr on this episode of Recovery Unscripted.

Cultivating an Environment of Innate Listening

Episode #104 | October 2, 2019

As the healthcare industry evolves, how can treatment professionals turn off the noise and really listen – to emerging trends, to their patients and to themselves?

We’ll dive into this with speaker, coach and founder of human connection company BluNovus James Hadlock on this episode of Recovery Unscripted.

The Realities of Self-Harm and Suicide

Episode #103 | August 15, 2019

What can behavioral health providers do to better understand the realities of self-harm and to know how to respond when they spot the signs in their patients?

We’ll discuss this with non-suicide self-injury specialist, author and counselor Lori Vann on this episode of Recovery Unscripted.

For more about Lori’s work, visit

Integrating Buddhism and the 12 Steps

Episode #102 | August 8, 2019

How can ancient principles from Zen and Tibetan Buddhism integrate with modern treatment programs to help more people build lasting recovery?

We’ll discuss this with author Darren Littlejohn on this episode of Recovery Unscripted.

For more about Darren’s book, The 12 Step Buddhist, visit

Can LGBT-Affirmative Therapy Help Re-Write Internalized Messages?

Episode #101 | July 17, 2019

In a heteronormative culture, how can providers use affirmative therapy to help LGBT individuals re-write the false messages they’ve internalized?

We’ll answer this with psychologist, author and activist Dr. Lauren Costine on this episode of Recovery Unscripted.

For more about Dr. Lauren’s work, visit