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October 7, 2015

Everything You Need to Know About 'Intervention Canada'

by Annette Bourdeau, posted Sep 7th 2011 11:00AM
Ever wish you could talk to an interventionist about what you just saw on 'Intervention'? The addictive show, which offers a window into the life of an addict, often leaves viewers thinking and talking about what they just saw for hours -- or even days -- after watching.

'Intervention Canada' is debuting this week on Slice, and AOL TV jumped at the chance to preview an episode and discuss it with one of the show's interventionists, Maureen Brine, and producer Karen Wookey. We decided to bring along superfan Trish Appleyard, a Kingston, Ont.-based lawyer, to represent 'Intervention's devoted fanbase in this unique discussion.

The episode we screened featured Andrew, a lovable young Windsor man who found himself sleeping behind dumpsters after his crack addiction led him to rock bottom. His older sister and grandparents desperately want him to kick the habit and get his life back on track. His troubled mother Leela also wants the best for him, but she's facing demons of her own. This moving episode culminates in a surprising double intervention -- something Brine and the producers didn't see coming.

The emotional screening left everyone in the cozy editorial room fighting back tears. After a moment, Appleyard began the discussion by weighing in with her reaction.

TA: You packed a lot into 44 minutes. It was excellent. Often, you find that when American TV shows come up north and you get the Canadian version it's a watered-down version of what you saw, but this wasn't like that at all. It was a really good story, too. What I really like about the show generally is this idea that you're rooting for the people in it to get better, and that prevents the show from becoming this thing where you're getting entertainment from somebody's struggles, because you're right in the fight with them and you want them to get better.

MB: I've done hundreds and hundreds of interventions, and I've never seen anything like [Andrew's reaction] in my life. For him to have been intervened on and then to be so eloquent to say your ghosts are your ghosts, they're not going away, you need help. At one point he said, "Mom, let's just do it." It was really him that tipped the scale for her. I've never seen that in my life.

What are the differences between this show and the American version? Do Canadians tend to react differently when confronted?
MB: The addiction itself is similar. Are Canadians more polite when they're intervened on? Not necessarily. [Laughs] Depends on the Canadian! I think that there is a subtle difference. We try to capture the neighborhoods, like an opening scene of the river for Windsor or buffalo when we go out west.

Where is the Alberta episode?
KW: There are two. In Sylvan Lake and Edmonton.

So there's no Fort McMurray story?
KW: Do you know how hard we tried to get a Fort McMurray story? From the very first day I said let's go for Fort McMurray.

MB: Because they desperately need it.

KW: You could do a whole series there. However, the problem is very few people there have whole families. You need a family. They're on a ride there. They're not going to hit rock bottom. They're making lots of money. They tend to hit a wall when they come home. A lot of them are from Newfoundland or the east coast. But while they're in Fort McMurray, it's party and work hard. I would love to do a story there. [Ed. note: This is also why we won't be seeing any stories from Vancouver's notorious downtown east side, because the addicts' families are not there.]

MB: I think another difference [from the US show] is Canadians are behind in terms of treatment facilities. I think it's an incredibly important show because it's also going to feature treatment facilities and get it out there that it exists here. I've been so impressed with how the production company has handled everything, with great sensitivity to the addict and the families.

KW: Dan Partland, the US 'Intervention' showrunner, gave me advice at the very beginning. He said keep the interest of the addict front and centre at all times. This is the most dramatic moment a person faces in their lifetime. All you have to do is tell it right. He emailed it to me, and I printed it out and gave it to everybody. When do you get a chance to transform somebody's life?

MB: You never know what's going to happen.

KW: With Leela, you could have never seen that coming. Both of them said that was the first time they had ever done it together. Which I tend to believe because why would Andrew lie? You could see the moment he started she knew exactly what she was doing. I didn't know she was a crack addict. It was very clear she had a lot of habits, but I wouldn't have counted that on the list. It was news to everybody.

MB: She couldn't hold back anymore. She tried.

KW: It's interesting, you learn the different drug personalities. We did three crack episodes, and all of them say the same thing: never try it because if you try it, you'll love it and you'll never get it out of your life. All of them say it. They become so crazy when they see a crack pipe. It makes you wonder, because other addicts don't have the same reaction. The meth addict would do it all day all night and would sleep for three days, and never look stoned. He did it to stay normal. He'd been a meth addict for so long that he needed it to be normal.

Why is it so important for interventions to be a surprise?
MB: If you tell someone we're going to intervene on you, they're either going to a) go out and use and could end up killing themselves, or b) they're going to end up coming to the intervention with all of their defenses and all of their denials ready to fight. Or they won't show. They disappear. So the surprise party is the preferred way to go so you can break through someone's defenses with love.

TA: Are all your treatment centres in Canada?

KW: Yes. Except for one. The episode with the eating disorder.

MB: There are very, very limited facilities in Canada for eating disorders that also have a concurrent disorder. She went to an American treatment centre, which was suited to her age. She had bulumarexia. That was a difficult intervention. [Ed. note: it airs Oct 21.] I'm very glad we did that one because there are a lot of kids with eating disorders out there who need help. She's only 18, very beautiful and smart as a whip and very, very sick. She had her own blog teaching kids how to do it. It was a very important show for those families. Those families are desperate.

TA: Do you intervene on an eating disorder the same way you would on a drug addiction? Is it the same process?

MB: Yes, it's the same process even though it's a process addiction rather than a chemical dependency.

KW: Of all the disorders, it apparently has the highest risk for death. They have to eat to live. It's very different.

TA: Is this sort of treatment covered through health care?

KW: There's no cost to the person on the show. That's why people participate. A lot of times friends ask me why would someone let you in like that? It's very easy if you have a family at the end of their rope with nowhere to turn. It's like a lifeline. It's help. That's what the show provides. This is a chance to change everything.

'Intervention Canada' premieres on Slice with back-to-back episodes on Friday September 9 at 8PM & 9PM ET. The episode featuring Andrew will air on Friday, September 30.

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