Intervention After Coronavirus

Other than a handful of infectious disease experts, and perhaps Stephen King, who could have ever imagined that we would have ever experienced a bat-borne pandemic in our lifetime. Looking back now, it all seemed to happen so fast, first appearing as an isolated outbreak in some remote part of the world that most of us had never heard of before, and then, almost all of a sudden, seemingly overnight, spreading like wildfire all across the globe, from Miami to Milan, New York to New Delhi, directly impacting every aspect of our lives. Perhaps just like you, especially during the early days of the Coronavirus pandemic, I instinctively went into survival mode. I found myself hunkering down with family, trying to buy enough canned goods and paper products to somehow ride out the yet undetermined forecast of the viral storm looming ominously somewhere just off the coast. Shortly thereafter, I also began to wonder whether or not anyone would be scheduling any professional mental health and/or substance abuse interventions during a global pandemic. Nevertheless, I didn’t have to wait too long to find out the answer. 

As conditions worsened with the number of infections skyrocketing daily, I began to experience a marked surge in calls for help with people in crisis from all over the country. Then, once all of the schools and businesses started shutting down, my caseload tragically exploded. Nevertheless, I don’t believe that the Coronavirus itself actually drove people to start abusing drugs and alcohol nor all of a sudden become clinically depressed and severely anxious right away. Instead, I am confident that the emotional fallout from the pandemic helped to expose a whole host of pre-existing issues that were either somehow overlooked, or for that matter, significantly understated for a long time. In essence, at least at the beginning of the pandemic, I think that the surge in my caseload had a lot to do with the fact that there was no more working late at the office nor partying hard at the University of Pick Your State. Essentially, there were no more places to hide any pre-existing symptoms of addiction and mental illness. Quarantining not only helped to stop the spread of the virus but in many cases, it appears to have inadvertently shed a spotlight on a plethora of real underlying issues, that were in many cases, in need of immediate attention. Either way, I started to feel as though the whole world was on fire, and I was out there trying to put out as many of the emotional flames as possible. 

As a professional interventionist, my job has been to help people come together with a unified and non-judgmental approach as they move forward with a compassionately comprehensive plan to help a treatment-resistant loved one in crisis battling symptoms of mental illness and/or substance abuse ultimately receive desperately needed help. And I have done so consistently and successfully for years by focusing on individualized action plans that have the power to essentially break through seemingly impenetrable walls of denial and resistance. And through my years of experience in the field, in addition to my own unique interpersonal metamorphosis as a person, I have definitely learned that if you want to change the fruit, you first have to change the root. Therefore, planning a successful intervention usually starts from the bottom up by working to carefully unearth healthy boundaries early on in the process to essentially help reset the foundation for recovery for all involved. Nevertheless, perhaps the most challenging part of my job has been to effectively break through years of long-standing family discord to produce one unified voice. Although I was working more than ever, I now had to do so by maintaining enough social distance to avoid contracting, and thereby potentially transmitting the virus, wearing both a facemask and surgical gloves, 

Although we have not yet seen the end of the Coronavirus pandemic, I am confident that this is an excellent time to explore simple intervention strategies for our new-normal post-pandemic world. First and foremost, similar to trying to perform open-heart surgery on your own family member, even if you were a world-renowned cardiac surgeon, unless there was absolutely no one else in the world available to help, perhaps you shouldn’t even attempt to prep the patient yourself. How could you honestly be expected to keep a steady hand and a completely objective approach, given the fact that you would naturally be emotionally connected to the outcome of the procedure? As a matter of fact, you might actually be more helpful by sharing your input instead, especially given the intimate nature and rich history of your observations, insight, and experience. Therefore, whether I can be of service or not, I strongly encourage you to find a well-trained and strategically caring professional interventionist who can help. 

5 Simple Intervention Strategies for a New-Normal Post-Pandemic World

1. Be Patient 

We are only now beginning to come out from under the cloud of one of the darkest episodes in modern history. The psychological impact of the Coronavirus pandemic will inevitably be felt for some time to come. However, rather than taking a wait-and-see approach towards mental health and substance abuse recovery, now may be the best time ever to get help, hopefully before things get any worse than they already are. Obviously, by the time you find yourself seriously considering a mental health or substance abuse intervention, time is of the essence. Nevertheless, although your loved one needs help now, you may still need to meet them somewhere close to where they are at. While carefully considering the severity of their condition with professional guidance, try to set a realistic timeframe for positive change through some form of mental health and/or substance abuse treatment. At the same time, if there is no time to spare, be prepared to move quickly with a solid plan of action. Lastly, although there may be a lot of debate about what is the best time of the day to conduct the intervention, Coronavirus pandemic or not, I strongly suggest that the morning is best so that you can take full advantage of the day ahead. 

2. Be Prepared 

No matter how many rolls of toilet paper or bottles of hand sanitizer you may have stockpiled in your garage, none of us were fully prepared to emotionally survive a global pandemic. 

First and foremost, be sure to select the best possible treatment center for care. In addition to researching quality of care, insurance coverage and costs, and location, you now need to learn about Covid 19 safety protocols in place as well. Then carefully prepare a comprehensive plan of action that takes into consideration any pandemic-associated protocols and concerns that may still be in effect or relevant. Confirm who will be attending the intervention and in what order they will be speaking. And of course, be sure to review exactly what will be said to your loved one in advance. The intervention should be looked at as a powerfully loving and cathartic experience for all involved, not an opportunity for emotional payback. Furthermore, given both social distancing and travel concerns, be prepared to accommodate for remote participation. Thoughtfully coordinate where the intervention will be held, and of course, all of the logistics required to actually get them there safely once they have agreed to go to treatment. 

Understanding that you may very well face steep opposition and resistance from a variety of directions, be prepared to present the intervention plan in an organized manner to include individualized impact letters full of concrete examples of your loved one’s personal strengths, as well as both the immediate and long-term concerns that you have for their welfare. Refine what will be said during the intervention. Furthermore, to help streamline the admission process as much as possible, try to complete as much administrative paperwork in advance of the intervention as you can. Lastly, be prepared to introduce a comprehensive and constructive list of the healthy boundaries that you are prepared to implement to help support your loved one in making a recovery-oriented decision, especially in the event that they are highly resistant to care at the time of the intervention. To this extent, I strongly suggest that you include factors that carefully take into consideration personal freedoms through court-ordered care; personal finances, especially if they depend upon you for any form of economic support; and the significance of family relationships. 

3. Be Educated 

We have all had to learn how to adapt to avoid being infected by the Coronavirus, for example by using face masks, washing our hands regularly, using copious amounts of hand sanitizer, and by social distancing. I don’t know about you, but at first, it was an uncomfortable and often awkward process. Then as time went on, many of us just learned to accept it for what it was, part of our new normal. So before you approach your loved one in crisis, try to learn as much about their experience as possible to demonstrate that you took the time to understand the situation from their unique perspective. Furthermore, be sure to learn as much about the treatment experience as possible. Although in many cases you may not be able to actually take the time to visit a treatment center far from home, beyond glossing over websites with pristine images and carefully positioned testimonials, you may also want to take the time to schedule a call with the clinical director at the program to learn more about the care they provide firsthand. 

4. Be Understanding 

We are only human. There is only so much that we can put on our plates before things start falling off of it. In other words, there is only so much emotional pain you can endure at one time before ultimately breaking down. Although many of us appear fine from the outside, there is no doubt that each and every one of us has been affected in one way or another emotionally on the inside by the collective trauma associated with the Coronavirus pandemic. Whether your loved one relapsed after years of sobriety and mental stability or only recently began using mood-altering substances to cope with debilitating symptoms of anxiety and depression brought on by the pandemic, approach them from a place of compassion. 

5. Be Determined

In the face of insurmountable odds, and against the backdrop of immense global pain and suffering, the Coronavirus vaccine is now being distributed. At the end of the day, although not soon enough for all of the people who have tragically perished so far due to infection, it appears that even the most deadly diseases can be prevented if enough of us get together to work hard on the solution. Perhaps we can tackle cancer next? Nevertheless, and no matter how many obstacles appear to be getting in the way, when you finally approach your loved one during the intervention, convince yourself that you will ultimately be successful in your efforts to help them. People can sense confidence, and determination often fuels momentum. Whatever your timeline, they need to know that you are not going to give up the fight to help them until they ultimately agree to accept the help that you have to offer. 

Similar to the relationship between an earthquake and a tsunami, the Coronavirus may have actually set off a massive tidal wave of mental health and substance abuse issues that we have not yet experienced. Like I said earlier, at least from my experience as a professional dual diagnosis interventionist during the pandemic, the initial wave of cases was due in large part to exposing pre-existing underlying issues that were unearthed while in quarantine. Now, I am beginning to see a new wave of cases with neither a history of mental illness nor substance abuse. The fact remains that we are only human, there is only so much emotional pain and suffering a person can take before breaking down. Although we may now be able to track Coronavirus-associated infection and subsequent mortality rates with clarity, there may be no way to actually measure the broader emotional toll that the pandemic will have had on society. 

By the peak of the pandemic, I was working harder than ever before. However, my world was beginning to look and feel more and more like the set of a post-apocalyptic horror movie rather than the nationwide clinical workspace that I had created for myself as a professional dual diagnosis interventionist. Although things now appear to be returning back to some semblance of normal, I will never forget what it was like traveling around the country on empty airplanes and landing in major metropolitan cities that looked and felt more like ghost towns. But perhaps most of all, I will never forget the fear and anxiety that I experienced having to leave my family behind to help others.

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