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The “Intervention” is a reality show program that airs on A&E network. In any given episode of the reality show, the program features two unsuspecting people who suffer drug addiction. Usually, this happens with the explicit permission of the family of the person being featured.
The television cameras document whatever the family member see as problematic behaviour done by the person as a result of the drug addiction. This television show has been analysed by different academicians. Van Over is one such few researchers who analysed data as evident over a series of 15 Intervention episodes. His aim was to look at the “self as a culturally constituted linguistic resource in interventions” (1).
This was analysed on the cultural practice of the intervention, whose aim was to tell the person features that “his or her current status (under drug influence) was inappropriate, inadequate, harmful or/and illegitimate to self and others” (Van Over 8). The assumption of the Intervention is that hearing such words from the interveners would motivate him or her to take the requisite corrective actions, which would include accepting to take up treatment as the first step.
At any one episode, the Intervention has four likely outcomes: first, the drug addict would question the legitimacy of the intervention and refuse to participate; secondly, the addict could accept the assertions made by the group and take up the recommended course of action; third, the addict may disagree with the assertion made by the group, but decide to take up remedial proposals; and finally, there is a possibility that an addict could accept the groups assertion but refuse to accept treatment.
While acknowledging all these four possibilities, Van Over claims that in all the 15 episodes he collected data from, the fourth scenario never occurred.
His hypothesis regarding this outcome is that the Intervention deliberately avoided airing shows where the intervention failed or the Intervention is such a convincing persuasion strategy that none of the people who go through cannot help but resonate with the assertions of the interveners and other participants (9).
Van Over’s review concludes that the intervention brings out the elements of identity, the self and the personhood whereby the “true” and “real” self seems lost when an addiction takes over.
Scheck argues that the Intervention show shows how “tough love” can work wonders in enabling people suffering from drug addiction to take up treatment (37). The author compares the television show to an era when young people would be taken to emergency rooms in hospitals where they would see some of the injuries that resulted from drug use.
In a similar manner, Scheck argues that the family members in the reality show as well as the general audience serve to open an addict’s eyes to the realities of drug abuse. Scheck calls this confrontational counselling (37).
Comparisons with films and documentaries
Hersey compares the Intervention program with other television programs or films, which feature people recovering from addictions and conclude that the depictions have created a cultural understanding of how people suffering from addiction should look and behave (467).
The author however notes that compared to Intervention and other reality shows, films such as “Clean and Sober”, “28 days” and “when a man loves a woman” are surprisingly univocal and unrealistic. The films also limit their recovery representation to “the white upper class” persons thus basing their addiction conceptual framework on only one group of people (468).
Hersey, Curt. “Scrip (ting) treatment: representations of recovery from addiction in Hollywood Film.” Contemporary Drug problems 32.4 (2005): 467-480.
Scheck, Anne. “Brief ED interventions Lower Drug and Alcohol Abuse.” Emergency medicine News 28.1 (2006): 36-37.
Van Over, Brion. “The self as a culturally constituted Linguistic resource in Interventions.” Research on Language and social interactions 28.4 (2008): 1-22.