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Addiction Intervention

Truth in Love 212

The biblical goals of an intervention are to glorify God and call the person to repentance.

Jun 24, 2019
Dr. Dale Johnson: This week on the podcast, I’m excited to welcome Mark Shaw. Mark holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in biblical counseling and he’s been ACBC certified since 2002. He currently serves as the Director of Counseling for Grace Fellowship Church in Kentucky where a familiar face to ACBC, Brad Bigney, is the pastor. Taron Defevers, who is our Communications Coordinator, was able to catch up with Mark and have a discussion on the issue of addiction and, specifically, addiction intervention.

Taron Defevers: Thanks, Dale. Mark, much of your ministry has been involved with addiction ministry. We’re really thankful for all the work and publications that you’ve put out there serving biblical counselors in the church with addictions ministry. You recently spoke at an ACBC conference about addiction intervention and we’d like to discuss that a little bit on the podcast today. Could you help us by first describing what you mean when you use the term addiction intervention?

Mark Shaw: The term “addiction intervention” is a secular term understood more in that realm, but with the problem of opioid abuse and increased drug addiction, biblical counselors need to be able to understand that concept and offer that as an opportunity for family members to get help for loved ones. To intervene literally means to come between disputing people or groups to intercede or mediate. This is a reconciliation, a peacemaking opportunity, and our definition biblically is a call to bring God into the situation. It’s a call to repentance and/or faith in Christ for the purpose of glorifying God by allowing Him to grant grace and peace into a person’s life.

By intervention, what we mean is that we come in as the third neutral party into a situation where an addict is living life as a drug-addicted person that is out of control and making really bad, sinful choices that are going to destroy their lives and the lives of others. That’s one party. The other party is the family, friends, and loved ones who want this person to get the help that they need—maybe in a residential program, somewhere, a treatment center, a detox, or even live with someone in their home and be discipled personally by a couple or someone. Getting some intensive residential help is typically what the next step is. This intervention is an opportunity to step into the situation and confront, in a gentle, loving way, the addict with the fact that they need help and it’s time now to do something, and to help the family and the addict walk through that process.

Taron Defevers: You also mentioned that there is a form of pre-intervention that you find helpful before you get into an addiction intervention—there are steps to be taken before that. What are those steps that you recommend?

Mark Shaw: Before the addict ever sets foot into the room, you want to prep the family and the friends who are there to do this intervention. When I think of intervention, I think of a handful of people. The smaller the group the better. It could be as small as maybe a parent or two parents. I like it to be a little bit larger group than that: Maybe a couple of parents, a sibling, a grandmother. Four or five people is probably the ideal size. These folks are sitting in the room and when the addict comes in they tell them how much they care for them and they want to see them change, etc. But before you ever get to that step, you do the pre-intervention work, and that is preparation where you talk about the goals, set the ground rules, and you want to make sure you establish what this intervention is going to look like and what the biblical goals of it are.

For me, the biblical goals are clarity and, before that even, God’s glory. I want the addict to say things to help make things very clear for the family to understand where the addict is. Are they even interested in taking the next step and getting help or are they going to reject that? Either way, you want them to get the help they need. If they don’t, the family needs to understand where the addict is.

Part of the pre-intervention work is that you’re helping the family to understand that if the addict rejects, then everyone needs to be on the same page in terms of how they treat the addict moving forward. We can’t have Grandma helping Little Johnny get money and resources he needs for drugs, and the parents are in a different place than she is, and they’re saying no, but he’s going to Grandma for the yes, for the money, and for the things he wants, and he’s just going to spend it on drugs. That’s part of the pre-intervention plan. The plan is: if they reject, here’s what we’re all going to do. We’ve got to stick with this, and if he accepts the help, then that’s great. That’s a win. But, if he doesn’t accept help, a lesser win is having everyone united around how we’re going to treat him and what we’re going to do.

The pre-intervention work is prayer, it’s preparation, and it’s heart preparation. A lot of times, the family members will want counseling for themselves, they’ll want to understand better how they can interact with the addict moving forward, and all of that goes into the pre-intervention stuff. There’s a little bit of work, or maybe a lot of work, that has to go into the pre-intervention preparation part of this whole thing.

Taron Defevers: Say there’s a Johnny and his family are at our pastor’s church who are listening to this podcast. Grandma’s at the church and the parents are at the church. Maybe Johnny doesn’t attend a church, but he’s struggling with a drug addiction; he’s not wanting to repent of this, but the family is distraught and they come to the pastor. How would you counsel this pastor or equip this pastor to do an intervention and a pre-intervention? What steps would he need to start taking as a pastor or someone who’s a counselor in this church?

Mark Shaw: He calls a meeting first to interview and counsel these family and friends. It’s important to get everybody there at the same time. I always dislike it when someone is added to the group later. Everybody needs to hear the same things and be there. Whoever is going to be part of the intervention needs to be at this first meeting where the pastor can interview and counsel the family and friends and walk them through the process of church discipline in Matthew 18—that part about confronting privately, then involving one or two others, and then telling the church. The pastor can walk them through that.

Usually, interventions are that second step. The addict has been confronted, but now we’re involving one or two others to try to bring positive change to the addict. The pastor meets with them, tries to build unity, clarifies biblical goals about glorifying God, sets the ground rules, and then devises a practical plan of repentance with Johnny.

They would talk about where we’re going to meet. We want a private place, a place that respects him and is quiet. It could be a church setting or a conference room type of setting that’s a little more formal. It could be in a home. I’ve done a few of these in homes and that’s fine as well; it just depends on what’s best for that family in that situation. Sometimes in a home, they don’t take it as seriously and other times in a home it’s more warm and inviting. You could go either way. They talk through the where and the when. I don’t love surprises, so they need to plan out a time and a place at a scheduled place for the addict to come.

The tricky part is the addict doesn’t want to be there if they know that they’re going to be confronted. I don’t want to spring it on them and surprise them. There are television shows that do that and that makes for good TV with the drama, the heightened emotion, and the excitement. I try to tone that down by asking the addict to be there and letting them know something about what we’re going to talk about.

We have the where, the when, who attends, who speaks, and what is said. Those are things that the pastor would go through with this family about who’s going to start first, and I would have each family member prepare a statement. It doesn’t have to be long but just a statement outlined. I utilize second Timothy 3:16: “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” I utilize the teaching part, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. I outline that in one of my books: The Divine Intervention. I outline that for families to use as a guideline in their content of what they want to say what they should say.

Recommended Resources
The Heart of Addiction: A Biblical Perspective, Mark Shaw
How Not to Raise an Addict, Mark Shaw
Divine Intervention: Hope and Help for Families of Addicts, Mark Shaw