What Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kawi Leonard and I have in common

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Louise Stanger is a speaker, educator, licensed clinician, social worker, certified daring way facilitator and interventionist who uses an invitational intervention approach to work with complicated mental health, substance abuse, chronic pain and process addiction clients.

I guess you might say “PIVOT” is the name of the game. While the NBA Championship is over and teams are busy resting, recuperating and figuring out who and what the next best strategy will be, my assumption is all the positions in this intimate game are being examined, reviewed, lauded and refined.

Part of the success of any basketball team lies in the players ability to “pivot” – to keep one foot in one place while holding the ball and moving the other foot a step in any direction. In other words, all players have the ability to pivot and the task is to ward off the defender.

Though the use of the pivot skill is essential to a winning basketball team, the various positions play their part in working as a team. Traditionally in basketball, positions include point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center. Each person was to stay in their position. 

Today’s game has changed because the size and skill of players have evolved. Players play multiple positions, different players bring the ball to the court like Lebron James or Kevin Durant. While both are forwards they play like guards. And players frequently change adapt new moves and plays all with the same intent of keeping the ball in play away from the opposing team and score points. Passing, screening and taking shots are commonplace.

Now while I do not portend to be in the same league as Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Lebron James, Chris Paul or fellow San Diego State University alumni Kawhi Leonard, I am presumptuous enough to imagine their skill, agility, and flexibility in making plays is similar to what one has to do when facilitating and organizing interventions. Let me elaborate. Like the players of today, interventionists must be adept at changing plays, ready to ward off the defender – in this case influences and perceptions which facilitate continued alcohol or other drug use that stand in the way of seeing the world clearly and being the best player in life.

As a skilled clinician/interventionist, much of my work with families mirrors the sport of basketball. Basketball and interventions are both intimate and performed by a well-organized team with a coach guiding from the sidelines. In this respect, my job and that of my teammate is to help the team, the cadre of loved ones pivot and take the best shots they have with love and compassion to uncover the honeycomb of denial and confabulation holding their loved one hostage in a disease of shame. The goal or bucket shot is ultimately to shepherd their love into much needed treatment. Surely that requires setting up plays, being mobile, light footed and nimble movement and working in concert with others ever mindful that the opposition may continue the cycle of addiction and disease. The ability to pull major pivots throughout an intervention is a must.

As a clinician and interventionist, I work directly with families and their loved ones on alcohol and other drug misuse and abuse, process disorders, mental health, and chronic pain issues. To unpack and address the complex nature of these issues, I find it helpful to use what I call a “Collective Intervention Strategy,” a play in my playbook that is effective at unpacking complex issues. Like basketball, CIS is:

Collective in that we need a team of families, friends, colleagues, associates, business partners, managers, or co-workers to work together towards change.

Intervention in that we seek to move (i.e. motivate) a person to a place of change.

Strategy – in that nothing is set in stone; we may adapt the process as needed.

In the same manner basketball teams pull from their playbooks and develop strategies, Collective Intervention Strategy (CIS) offers you protocol, process, tools, and ideas. The interventions that I facilitate requires that I think on my feet. I must be flexible and contextual. Therefore, the strategy that I develop – tailored to each unique intervention – is not followed blindly, rather, evolves and pivots as we go. I encourage all clinicians willing to explore the domain of interventions to adjust the Collective Intervention Strategy to their own practice.

Plus, we know that one form of addiction bleeds into another: co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, juxtaposed with medical problems such as chronic pain, legal or school issues further complicate these issues. The complexity of what’s really going on is a mystery to most families. That’s why they usually call you in the first place.

So the next time your eye is glued to the game, think about the collective strategies which must be used and how you must adapt and change.

For more information, be sure to check out The Definitive Guide to Addiction Intervention: Collective Strategies, which will be published in October Stanger & Weber, Routledge,Taylor and Francis, NY and London 2018.

To learn more about Louise Stanger and her interventions and other resources, visit her website. 

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