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Could a Brief Intervention Help Your Loved One?

Watching a loved one struggle with substance abuse engenders feelings of powerlessness, despair, and anxiety. The good news is a brief intervention can build a bridge to a longer, more comprehensive substance rehabilitation program, even for those addicts who initially resist treatment. Here is how brief intervention has become an indispensable part of treatment programs nationwide and why you should consider it for your own loved one. An Issue of Public Health Addiction science has grown leaps and bounds since the introduction of the 12-step philosophy in 1939. Addicts and their families that suffered from feelings of shame and guilt as they tried to maintain appearances often had no place to turn for help. Today, however, substance abuse has become a public health issue, as many untreated addicts turn up in correctional facilities, social service, and employee assistance programs, according to These systems, which are not equipped to deal with the rigors of substance abuse rehabilitation, have resorted to the brief intervention as a stopgap attempt at addiction treatment. An Unexpected Result Perhaps surprisingly, the brief intervention — although not a substitute for long-term drug or alcohol rehabilitation or dual diagnosis treatment — has become effective at a variety of important early recovery goals. First, brief intervention improves the retention rate of those recovering addicts who seek specialist treatment. Also, because performing an early, brief intervention is preferable to simply languishing on a rehab facility’s waiting list with no treatment at all, the addict receives front-loaded guidance and is better able to self-activate change resources. The brief intervention is also effective at breaking down the addict’s resistance to substance treatment — which, according to, often works faster than expected. How the Brief Intervention Works The brief intervention’s duration varies but generally takes anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour or longer. For a brief intervention to have the maximal amount of effectiveness, six key elements — referred to as FRAMES in the alcohol recovery field — should be addressed. First, the client should hear Feedback regarding personally-relevant information about drinking and the resulting consequences. Next, the client must understand that the Responsibility for change lies within. A directive with clear Advice for behavior change and a Menu of options from which to choose follows, should the client decide to pursue a sober lifestyle. The client receives assurances that Empathetic counseling services will be provided to help during recovery and that successful rehabilitation is possible with Self-Efficacy. Of course, the principles of FRAMES apply to variety of addiction problems, not only alcohol abuse. Ultimately, modern addiction science believes that accepting a person’s autonomy while providing customized therapeutic options and a clear path to sobriety is the surest route to success. Quite often, this process begins with the brief intervention. (Photo via)

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