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Addiction interventionists need to know these ten things when working with ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs).
An intervention is an orchestrated attempt to help a loved one seek treatment. We would always advise seeking the support of a professional interventionist to manage the event and help contain everyone’s emotions.
Their skillset is vital, particularly if the individual is unwilling to seek help or is confrontational. Unfortunately, this is often the case with UHNWIs. Their power, lifestyle and success shield them from the consequences of their actions. As a result they may not accept they have a problem, which leads to more pain and delayed treatment.
Power and success can also be a barrier to a successful intervention. Working with wealthy and successful clients requires cultural competency and specialised training. Without it, interventionists may fail to understand the situation’s complexity and be less likely to succeed.
To help interventionists navigate these nuances, we asked our team of experts at Paracelsus Recovery for the top ten factors to consider when working with UHNWIs.
An intervention usually requires everyone involved, such as family members, to share how their loved one’s addiction has impacted them. While this is never easy, it is much harder when that person also controls your finances, career or reputation. As the interventionist, you need to fully understand what role the addicted person plays in everyone’s lives. If someone is afraid to speak up because they may be cut off, respect that this is a genuine fear. Remind them that just showing up to the intervention is enough.
Similarly, remember that UHNW families sometimes function more like a business than a family. It is important to understand what role each member plays in the person’s life and how they relate to each other.
For example, is the person in a codependent dynamic with their partner? Is the partner a second wife? Should his business partner be there? Should the mother of his children be there? Are the ex-wife and girlfriend on good terms? Always make sure that you know enough about each dynamic so that you can create a clear-cut plan to navigate the heightened emotions and stress.
TV depictions of interventions usually show the subject of the intervention accepting help, but this is not always the case in real life. On top of this, UHNWIs are accustomed to getting what they want and may become confrontational if someone they are trying to help does not want treatment.
To manage these expectations, ensure that everyone knows that even with an organised intervention an individual may still refuse the support on offer. Remind them that this does not mean the intervention is a failure. The seed is planted, and the person may decide to enter treatment at a later time.
Powerful people are accustomed to being in control of their lives, how they are perceived and the people around them. As a result, they may react negatively to being in a vulnerable position. To address this, find a balance between reassuring them that recovery is their decision to make, but there will be consequences if they do not go. For example, offer them two or three treatment options, so they can choose which programme they prefer.
There is a pervasive misconception that people who struggle with addiction are weak willed. In reality, they are often determined and highly motivated. The same is true of the ultra-wealthy and successful. However, a harsh inner critic can usually be found lurking beneath these attributes.
During the intervention, be prepared for the person to become a perfectionist-in-panic. This means their brain will enter flight-or-fight mode, and they can become confrontational. Encourage everyone to use anxiety management techniques to navigate these neurochemical reactions.
Wealth and success are highly stigmatised. If you are not careful, biases can seep into your work. For example, while reading this article, do thoughts pop into your mind such as ‘why are we treating them as though they are so special?’.
If yes, reflect on the stigma at work here and whether those thoughts are coming from a place of envy and disregard. These emotions will inevitably hinder the intervention’s chance of success. Recognising that a wealthy person’s life, worries and responsibilities are different from yours is part of being empathetic.
Substance abuse dependency almost never forms in a vacuum. It is often a coping mechanism for underlying issues such as stress, trauma, loneliness, depression, anxiety or eating disorders. Make sure you choose treatment programmes that address co-occurring mental health conditions.
Make sure confidentiality is a top priority when deciding upon the treatment programme. UHNWIs are risking a lot when they enter a rehabilitation programme, and the vast majority cannot take part in any kind of group therapy.
For example, imagine what would happen to a company’s stock price if the public found out the CEO was in rehab for prescription medication addiction. The net worth could plummet and people could lose their jobs. Not only should you choose a centre that takes confidentiality extremely seriously, you should make it one of the first things you mention to the person at the heart of the intervention.
You need to be flexible with your training when it comes to a UHNWI intervention. Usually, interventionists emphasise that the person must go to a treatment centre immediately. But for someone with lots of responsibilities that isn’t always possible. Instead, encourage them to decide there and then, but have a team in place that can help them manage their mental health until entering a treatment programme is possible.
UHNWIs are surrounded by opportunists, which means they are accustomed to second-guessing other people’s intentions. Make sure that only a small number of loved ones are at the intervention and expect them to feel uneasy or distrustful in your presence. Be willing to sign additional non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and do whatever the family needs to feel comfortable going ahead.
To conclude, remember that, as an interventionist, your priority is to help break the cycle of denial and to keep communication constructive, compassionate and beneficial to the wellbeing of everyone involved. If you take these top ten tips into account, you can do so successfully with UHNWIs and their families.