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“Intervention” Creator Sam Mettler Talks to Social Workers

Inset: Intervention creator Sam Mettler. Photos courtesy of Mettler's Twitter page and A&E television.

Sam Mettler is creator and executive producer of “Intervention,” an award-winning reality series (Mondays at 9 p.m. Eastern on A&E)  that takes an unflinching look at addiction.

Addiction is a serious problem in the United States and social workers are at the forefront in providing counseling and treatment to people battling addictions and their families. More than 23 million Americans aged 12 and over needed treatment for illicit drug and alcohol use in 2007, according to a survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Mettler sat down with SocialWorkersSpeak.org to talk about why he created “Intervention.” He also responded to criticism the show may be exploitive and explained why social workers do not have a noticeable role on the program:

 Q: “Intervention” is now in its eighth season. Are you up for a renewal for a ninth season?

A: Yes. I’ll say stuff is in the works. “Intervention” is going so strong both in terms of viewership as well as a critical success. It just came off winning an Emmy(2009) for outstanding reality program. And so we don’t see an end in sight right now. We just feel really blessed to have this wonderful show and have continued success.

Q: I read the idea for the show came from you wanting to have an intervention to get your father from using a certain cologne. Is that true?

A: Really, the impetus of the show came from someone in my life who needed an intervention but one was really never performed. I wrote a very personal pitch – an essay – about the importance of intervention.

 Q: Who was this person? Or do you really care not to say?

A: I’d rather not actually. If this person were out in the open about it and agreed to release their anonymity I would talk about it. But of course in recovery everyone is entitled to their anonymity.

 Q: There has been criticism from some social workers that the program exploits people with addictions and their families. Could you comment on this? 

A: Well, let me talk first (about) the exploitation. These people understand that they are doing a documentary about their addiction. Even the intervention is still a documentary about their addiction. So there is really no bait and switch. In terms of it being an intervention surprise for shock value couldn’t be further from the truth. This is not “gotcha” television. An intervention is a surprise because therapeutically it is intrinsic and invaluable to the process. It is frankly dangerous to do an intervention and tell someone they are being intervened upon. Because in fact someone who refuses to stop using drugs,  if they learn an intervention is going to happen, they can come up with a million excuses or defenses on why they won’t go or can’t go. Before the questions are even asked, before they can hear their family out, they will have a lot of defenses. Secondly, if the person thinks that the family is ganging up on them, they can rebel and become upset and do something self destructive, again before hearing what  the intervention is. The intervention is a loving act. And when the family writes letters those letters are about how much they love their family member and how much they want to get their family member back. The confrontation is the last resort. The intervention is really about holding up a family mirror and saying “This is what your life looks like.” And lastly, by the way, if a person learns there is an intervention as I said they can do something self destructive and then have their great last hurrah of using too much and overdose. In terms of it being exploitive I don’t’ think that could be any further from the truth. We are covering these people’s lives. They want to tell their stories. They have a need for people to understand them. And we are also having treatment at the end of this. So we’re doing anything but exploit their lives. These are their lives whether the cameras are there or not.

 Q: Social workers work a lot with people dealing with addictions. Do you work with social workers as experts on the program?

 A: We work with therapists. Certainly there are counselors and social workers on the treatment side after these people go to treatment. We work with the psychologists and doctors in the production process.

Q: Why don’t you show more of what happens after the intervention when people go into treatment? Are there privacy concerns?

A: There are issues. Our big mantra on the show is that we don’t we don’t want to violate the sanctity of treatment by taking cameras inside. We will do follow-ups and you’ll get to see where they are. Sometimes we will film a (treatment) session. But our show is about getting people to treatment. The recovery process is not what the “Intervention” show is all about. But we do have some of that follow-up and things you can see on the Web.

Q: Would you consider including social workers on the program?

A: We are not about casting social workers and doctors. When these people go to treatment the treatment centers provide the care. That is really up to the treatment center.

For more information on how social workers help people with addictions please visit the National Association of Social Workers’ “Help Starts Here” Addictions Web page by clicking here.

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3 Comments

  1. i think its great what your doing .people need to know please keep up the good work.i saw another website realityshow(skidrow902911.com)about kids and adults on the streets of downtown los angeles and i cried .at the end of each show someone dies.i have seen three shows

  2. I could not find out how to find the area where you could email intervention I need your help please.my brother is addicted to meth he is currently sitting in our county haul for meth possession.my health is very bad I just lost my cousin in DEC 2016 to chf and then my brother died 3 weeks later he battleddrug abd alcohol addiction for years. I have no doubt it had some thing to do with him passing away.my Heath issues are chf,severe cold,pulmonary fibrosis I panic and my heart drips every time ny phone rings I think it is the call telling me he has passed away.we desperately need your help.

  3. Here is information from the Intervention program on where to find help:

    http://www.aetv.com/shows/intervention/exclusives/treatment

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