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Intervention? Detox? Treatment? Transitional Housing? The Professional’s Perspective Explains How They Work

I’m confused by the terms I am hearing: What is an “intervention,” and what is a “detox?” And how do these fit together with “treatment” or “transitional housing" or "sober living?”

The Professional’s Perspective is written by interventionist and family counselor Ricki Townsend. Ricki volunteers to run the Sunday Family Meetings at Clean & Sober Recovery Services.

An intervention is a process that helps people understand how their drug or alcohol use has become destructive to themselves or others. The goal of an intervention is to lovingly and respectfully encourage a loved one to seek help for their addiction to drugs or alcohol. An alcohol or drug intervention is often the first step in helping a person recognize the need for change and treatment. As part of an intervention, family and friends are educated about substance abuse so they can support their loved one’s recovery process in an informed and unified way.

Dependency on drugs and alcohol may call for a medically-supervised detoxification (“detox”) that reduces physical comfort while monitoring health and safety. Detox, ranging from five to ten days in length, is often necessary before an individual can benefit from treatment.

A drug detox or alcohol detox removes drugs or alcohol from the body and brain and creates a scaffold of abstinence, which gives the addict no insight at all into why he or she is using in the first place. That’s why residential or intensive outpatient treatment is essential: to help people learn about the brain disease of chemical dependency and fill their tool boxes with education, wisdom, coping strategies and other tools to live in a healthy and insightful way.

The final step in a comprehensive continuum of care would be transitional housing (often called "sober living.") Research shows that people who move from treatment to a transitional housing community are much more likely to build strong, healthy foundations of recovery. The more time someone spends in a sober, supportive community, the better the chances of avoiding relapse. Residents in a sober living community (sometimes called “transitional living” or “halfway houses.”) can rebuild self-esteem, regain health, develop life skills, and become self-sufficient with the support from a community of like-minded people who want the same thing:  sustained recovery.

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