Interventions, Life, Art and Storyboards

Does life imitate art or does art imitate life?

In the news of late, many articles dealt with the word intervention. Intervention is a powerful word, it grabs our attention and we are never quite sure if the storyline will be about war, drugs, climate change, a new television show, a family in crisis…the list is long. For example:
  • Following the horrific deliberate downing of Germanwings flight 9525, many specialists are observing “what if” the co-pilot’s employer, doctors or family members would have combined their efforts and intervened to insist that he get treatment for his mental illness(es).
  • This past week a few “rich and/or famous” families are in the news because family members are organizing interventions to help their loved ones who are struggling with addiction and more.
  • Some communities around the country have issued press releases to announce the establishment of crisis intervention specialists who will work with “at-risk” youth and young adult populations in an effort to prevent long term and perhaps irreversible damage resulting from exposure to drugs, alcohol and crime.
  • On March 22, 2015, television fans were pleased to see A & E bring back the series Intervention.

So the aged old question remains; does life imitate art or does art imitate life?  It is true that real life events take place and artists, writers and producers are inspired to create paintings, sculptures, novels, movies, television shows…and suddenly we have art. Then again, more than a century ago Oscar Wilde opined that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” This philosophical discussion will go on.

Mad Men returns for its final episodes…

It was last May when we published a blog about Don Draper’s intervention. While Don’s partners insisted that he take some time off, a leave of absence to deal with his alcoholism (albeit they avoided saying the word), they never insisted that he needed to go to treatment. Don, the character, knew he had a problem and his co-workers, among others, knew it, too. Interestingly, in the first episode of Season 7, (which aired April 2014) Don meets a woman on a flight from Los Angeles to New York. The stranger speaks of being a widow and when Don observes that she looks too young to be a widow, she offers that her husband died at age 50. Don asks what could have happened to a man so young. She answers: “He was thirsty, and he died of thirst.”

Last month it was reported that Jon Hamm (Don Draper) recently sought treatment for alcoholism. It was also reported that many fans were shocked and Mr. Hamm shared that he had the support of his family and asked for consideration and privacy.  At least one news outlet referenced “life imitating art.”

The power of storyboards

While Don Draper is a fictional character who works for a Madison Avenue advertising firm, there is a lot we can learn from the process of building an ad campaign. Storyboards! Do you recognize the term? Storyboarding dates back before the 1930s, but the use of storyboards in business has taken on a role of its own in Mad Men, not unlike alcoholism. You will always hear Don Draper asking his team “what story are we telling?” And from that simple question the creative team draws the storyboards to present to the client. It is important to remember there are multiple boards and they can be shuffled to create a whole new story!

The intervention process is similar…the interventionist works to determine the real story and where to go from there. The process begins by having a conversation with the interventionist about the loved one you would like to help. Imagine each family member arriving with their storyboards. Because of professional experience in the field of addiction and recovery, the interventionist has heard it all – there are no stories or situations that haven’t already been heard and no story or situation will be judged, it will all be kept with the utmost level of confidentiality. Although it seems trifling to tell personal details to someone you don’t know, upon sharing your situation your reservation will be met with warmth and understanding and the weight you feel will begin to lift as solutions are proposed.

One last thought from the fictional Don Draper: “Everyone has their own story to tell. It can only go in one direction. Forward!”

Consider Prevention Interventions With Adolescents

How we learn about interventions 

How much do you know about the intervention process? Chances are that prior to March 2005 the word “intervention” was seldom used in homes across the United States; however, on March 6, 2005, the A&E Network debuted their reality show that deals with addiction and specifically about the process of families intervening to convince their loved one to seek treatment for their addiction. The series is called simply INTERVENTION.

The series received the Emmy Nomination twice for Outstanding Reality Series and won the Emmy in 2009. Additionally, INTERVENTION has won the PRISM Award five times, an award in the entertainment industry for accurate depiction of social issues. Over the past seven years with 13 seasons INTERVENTION has been a teaching tool that families could use to learn more about addiction and how to work with their loved ones to begin the road to recovery. The episodes were brutally honest, but at the same time hopeful and David McKillop, the executive VP of Programming at A&E Network and Bio Channel explained when announcing that the final season would begin June 13, 2013:

“As Intervention comes to an end, we’re proud to have paved the way for such an original and groundbreaking series. We’re honored to have been a part of the 243 interventions since its premiere in March of 2005, leading to the 156 individuals that are currently sober to this day.”

So now we are into the final episodes, but along the way we have learned so much. We have learned that interventions can be a new beginning for the entire family and we have learned that facing our own reality is the first step. And maybe, just maybe, INTERVENTION has been a catalyst for the parents of younger children to be aware and cognizant of their children’s behavior.

New study examines impulsive adolescents

On June 25, 2013, the journal ADDICTION published online the results of new research conducted by scientists at the University of Liverpool: Multiple behavioural impulsivity tasks predict prospective alcohol involvement in adolescents.

Study’s parameters


  • The study took place in North West England
  • 287 adolescents were studied
  • 51% of the students were male
  • Students were 12 or 13 at the time they enrolled in the study
  • The participants repeated computer tests every six months over a two year period


Study’s results

According to ScienceDaily:


Results showed that those participants who were more impulsive in the tests went on to drink more heavily or have problems with alcohol at a later time.
The study did not, however, show that alcohol consumption led to increased impulsive behaviour on the computer tests. This suggests that there is a link between impulsivity and adolescent drinking, but that alcohol may not necessarily lead to increased impulsive behaviour in the short-term.

As one of the researchers, Professor Matt Field, expresses so eloquently: “Our results show that more impulsive individuals are more likely to start drinking heavily in the future compared to less impulsive individuals. The next steps are to take these results and apply them to prevention interventions that are tailored to individual characteristics, such as impulsivity. We also need to conduct studies where we follow-up young people for longer than the two years that we did in the present study. This will help us to understand whether heavy drinking over a longer period during adolescence has an impact on impulsive behaviour.”

Going forward…

As with any research, this is another step in understanding human behavior. Parenting is a journey that takes us on many winding roads. If you feel you need to discuss your child’s risky, impulsive behavior take time for yourself to get solid answers.

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