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Family members and friends often share the consequences of an addict’s behavior, and they are often the ones to confront an addict about the problem. In some cases the situation requires the help of a third party who can provide unbiased, professional help for an addict and his or her family. This is the role of a family mediator.
What Is Family Mediation?
A family mediator helps families and loved ones confront an addict and encourage him or her to enter rehab. A mediator wants to help families conduct the most successful intervention possible. He or she can provide quality assistance, because he or she is not emotionally involved. A family mediator plays an important role because approximately 75-90 percent of addicts are considered “high functioning addicts,” which means that they can maintain their lives—their jobs, relationships, academics—while being addicted. These addicts are highly skilled at hiding or justifying their behavior. A family mediator is skilled at seeing through an addict’s denial and challenging the addict to face his or her addiction. According to the Mayo Clinic an interventionist or mediator is also recommended when the following is true:
- The addict also suffers from a mental health issues
- The addict has acted out suicidal behavior or expressed suicidal thoughts
- The addict is or could be taking mood-altering drugs
Even if the above characteristics do not apply, family mediation is helpful, because every member of the family needs a voice. Having a family mediator present ensures that every family member has the opportunity to express concern, anger and frustration.
Achieve before an Intervention?
Family mediation can accomplish many things within the context of drug addiction and recovery. It is helpful to think of a mediator’s role in three phases: before, during, and after an intervention. At an initial meeting before the intervention a mediator will ask several questions to assess the situation and determine the extent of your loved one’s painkiller addiction. These are not intended to be intrusive, but rather to give the mediator the most complete information possible. The mediator will help you determine a date for the intervention.
The mediator will also ask family and loved ones to prepare written letters that will be read to the addict during the intervention. He or she will ask family and friends to determine consequences that will be enforced, if the addict refuses treatment. This may include asking him or her to move out, choosing to distance yourself from the user, withdrawal of financial support, and/or removing children from the home.
Achieve During an Intervention?
A mediator will be present during the intervention to bring expertise to the situation. He or she has experience in dealing with the many twists and turns an intervention can take. Actions a mediator takes during an intervention include the following:
- Guiding discussion
- Ensuring that everyone is heard
- Diffusing emotionally heated moments
- Helping the addict not feel “ganged up on”
- Holding the addict accountable for behaviors instead of denying or rationalizing them
As an intervention can be an intense experience for all people involved, the mediator provides a valuable service for everyone affected. An intervention can take place without a mediator, but it is not suggested.
Achieve after an Intervention?
The role a family mediator plays will be determined by the addict’s and family’s needs. Some services a family mediator may offer after rehab include the following:
- Short-term mentoring
- Advocacy for the addict regarding community services
- Bridging the gap between rehab and an ongoing recovery community
- Counsel to family and loved ones after treatment
- Help to secure ongoing services for addicts with a high likelihood (or history) of relapse
Be sure to ask about the extent of services offered under the agreement you make with your mediator.
How Do I Choose a Mediator?
Questions to ask a potential mediator include the following:
- What do you charge and what does that cover?
- Will you travel? How are travel expenses covered?
- What services do you provide to the addict, loved ones and family?
- Do you have a contract that we would sign?
- Do you assist the family in finding support services?
- Are you affiliated with a particular treatment center?
- What is a typical intervention model that you carry out?
- Are you available by phone before and after the intervention?
- Do you have any references we could contact—families who have used your services?
Interviewing several mediators before choosing one will ensure that you find the person who will best meet the needs of the entire family. Make your decision carefully.