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Morning Star newspaper: London , July 19, 2005.

Shock tactics offer hope for addicts.

(Excerpted)

When Bill's partner took him to a clinic in central London to try to cure his alcoholism, he thought that he would be able to fob off the doctor as he had done in the past then return to his old lifestyle.

"I thought it'd be a case of �yes sire, no sir and three bags full sir,' then I'm away," says the 60-year-old, for whom all attempts to get him into therapy had failed.

Instead, he was ushered into a roomful of people, including his three teenage daughters, the family priest and an addiction counselor, all there to challenge him about the effect of his drinking.

One by one, the family read out letters that they'd composed in advance�

Rosemary Clough, the therapist who carried out Bill's intervention, says" "The surprise element is a factor � addicts don't have time to muster their defenses."

Intervention is believed to work because of the powerful effect of having the group together at one time all focused on the outcome and because, by the time that it is called upon, the family has usually tried everything else. They've begged and pleaded till they're blue in the face.

This technique � which many have never heard of � sounds brutal and shocking. Just how will someone respond�?

But Clough says that most addicts are relieved. "An intervention means someone's offering them sanity."

"The family's often very frightened, but they're dealing here with a dying person. Would they stand back and do nothing if they had cancer?"�

Interventions aren't often done in Britain , although their use is increasing.

In the US , however, interventions have been common for over 30 years. Family therapist and addiction counselor Jerry Wittman has carried out more than 100. �At first, it was a bit hit of miss because I had no experience,� says Wittman, �but now almost all work � 70 percent of clients go into therapy, which is our aim, while about 20 per cent don't go immediately but there's a delayed reaction.�

Interventions require considerable preparation. Wittman rehearses with those close to the addict and asks them to write a letter.

The real intervention is carried out early in the morning when it's unlikely that the addict is already �loaded� and so there a still plenty of hours left in the day to get them into treatment.

�Even if they walk out, the intervention's happened. They can never erase it entirely. We have tried to stop them dying.�