Behavior Intervention Plan

Is there such a thing as a behavior intervention plan?  I touched on this subject on the What Is Early Intervention page.  Having some knowledge about addictions and their progressive characteristics, made me want to better understand whether there are things that people (and parents in particular) can or should do to head off addictive behavior early.  If you believe that a person can have a genetic predisposition to addictive behavior, does that mean that families should take additional steps?  That's what I'm referring to when I speak of having a behavior intervention plan.

Discussions and research on having a behavior intervention plan are scarce.  As such, I reached out to Dr. Mitchell Wallick, an addiction specialists, to share his thoughts:

"Gambling has become as serious problem among young adults in our community!  College poker parties, high school card games, etc. are all becoming the rave.  Anecdotally, those of us who deal with gamblers are finding the average age of gamblers going down and down in an alarmingly steady trend.  Based on our experience at C.A.R.E., most of our gambling patients report early histories of gambling.  Starting in elementary school with matching pennies and flipping cards, it is often our finding that most of our compulsive gambling patients have started this way.  This does not mean that every child who flips cards will become a compulsive gambler, nor does it mean that they should be immediately rushed  into therapy and treatment.  What it does mean is that gambling in our society can be a serious problem.  It is a problem that often starts at a very early age.

Many communities are attempting to address this problem.  For many, the feeling is that they can control the activity.  For example, one East Coast community hosts card games for their young residents.  When questioned, community leaders explain that  they would rather have them gamble and drink in a controlled situation rather than participate in this activity without supervision.  To this end, the young men and women are allowed to bet up to twenty five dollars a night.  The hosts bring in a case of beer and permit their young guests up to one beer a night.   Unfortunately this gives a permission message that tells the participants it is ok to gamble and drink, both of which are illegal activities.  A similar message is being inferred by Las Vegas themed birthday parties, etc.

Recognizing the problem of addictive behaviors is easy.  The more important step is to implement a strategy that will deal with the problem.  The following is an outline of the steps that I would recommend to parents and communities:
  1. Education: Starting at the earliest possible time, children should be given as much information as they can handle regarding addictions.  This includes the dangers of alcohol, drugs and compulsive gambling.  For those who have an additional genetic risk, it is even more important to ensure that they have a proper understanding of the dangers involved.
  1. Lead by example:  Parents need to set a proper example.  This does not mean that parents should not drink and/or gamble, but rather they need to show responsible behavior.  This behavior needs to be pointed out to their children.  In other words, with privilege comes responsibility.
  1. Drugs should always be a NO NO.  Drugs are an illegal behavior and should never be tolerated.
  1. Alcohol is illegal for those under 21.  We all know that drinking behaviors often begin a long time before this age.  It is suggested that parents make it clear that this is not acceptable behavior.  They can point out the legal ramifications, talk about responsibility etc.  Under no circumstances should they encourage, enable and/or condone this behavior in their home with their children and/or guests.
  1. Teach children alternative, healthy activities.   Often people become addicted due to boredom. 
  1. Make certain that there is open communication.  Very often youngsters turn to addiction to bury feelings instead of expressing them.  We call this self-medicating.
  1. Pay attention to school problems like ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), etc.   Untreated, these emotional problems can often lead to addictive illnesses.
There is no way to predict who is going to have a problem.  For that reason the key word is, as with most  things, Educate.  Educate by word, and far more importantly, by Example.

Mitchell E. Wallick Ph.D. CAP CAGC
Executive Director of C.A.R.E. Addiction Recovery"

Thank Dr. Mitch (as people call him) for sharing your expertise on what a behavior intervention plan might look like with visitors to the site; your time is much appreciated!  I feel that taking heed to these steps becomes a worthwhile behavior intervention plan.  To hear more from Dr. Mitch, click over to Help With Addiction to learn how to download his free ebook: "Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired - A guide to addiction treatment & recovery for your friends family and you".

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