Crisis Intervention Strategies - Bringing the Bottom Up

In this crisis intervention strategies section, I describe the fundamental principle (i.e. theory) behind why interventions can work.  If you haven't yet read the introduction to this topic, please visit the Addiction Intervention page, or the previous Page 2 - Mental Health Intervention (Next Steps).
Crisis Intervention
How does an intervention work?
To this point I've discussed some of the mechanics of the intervention, as well as some of the signs that one might be necessary.  However, how does it work?  What are the underlying crisis intervention strategies?  Generally speaking, it's really quite simple.  I should clarify that the theory is simple and logical, however, good execution is far from easy.  People who love and care about the problem gambler come together and express your concern.  Someone who's strongly in denial won't likely respond to reason.  Even though problem gamblers are commonly said to be highly intelligent, and statistically have higher IQs than the average person, when they're in their addictive state of mind, standard reason and logic are typically ineffective.  Just know that the person you love is still there; they're simply being consumed by this horrible disease of gambling addiction.

So, the next step is to "bring their bottom up".  In other words, you can wait until you're financially devastated, the kids have been traumatized, you're divorced and homeless, or you can accelerate that "bottom".  And what does that mean exactly?  It means that if they don't agree to go to treatment, there will be consequences.  The consequences are usually things that will eventually happen if they don't seek help.  What you're doing here is accelerating the timeline, and avoiding a lot of heartache along the way to the natural progression to the bottom.  This might sound cruel, but rest assured that the bottom will come.  It may not be for another six months, year, or even a decade or more, but it WILL come.  So "bringing up the bottom now" saves everyone time, pain, and certainly money.  And most importantly, it can save your marriage (if you're the spouse), their relationships with their family and friends, and even their life.

The consequences must be meaningful, and everyone involved MUST follow through with them in order for the intervention process to work.  This is a key amongst the crisis intervention strategies.  Depending on the relationship of the participant to the problem gambler, the consequences will be different.  Not giving them any money is fundamental, and not inherently meaningful at this point (this should have occurred long ago!).  Some consequences might include severing ties so they can't see their brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, whatever the case may be.  A spouse will usually file for divorce, and take full custody of the kids.  The key point is that you can't put forth a consequence that you can't commit to following through with 100%.  Please don't get me wrong, this is the most difficult part of the process.  You love them, and the last thing you want to do is to hurt them.  If the consequence that you impose is not extremely difficult and hurtful to you, then chances are they're not meaningful enough to have the convincing effect you're seeking in this process.  If you don't believe in this part of the process, then you're not ready to do an intervention!

Page 4 - Family Intervention
(What's the intervention process?)

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