Should Young Children Be Involved In A Parent's Intervention?

Last night's Intervention was perhaps the most intense of the series. Two children took part in the intervention of their alcoholic father, who was not receptive to their pleas. What went down seemed incredibly emotionally damaging — and dangerous.

When it comes to reality television, my bar is set incredibly low. However, I was extremely disturbed by this episode: While I do think that Intervention is typically a responsible show—as well as helpful and educational for people going through similar problems with loved ones suffering from addiction—what took place on last night's installment left me questioning whether young children should be exposed to this level of melodrama.


Here's the backstory: Bret had been an alcoholic for 10 years. He didn't seem like a sloppy drunk, but a mean drunk with a dark side. (He'd recently purchased a shotgun that he kept loaded in his closet.) Although Bret's wife of over 20 years—Amaya—divorced him after a previous intervention and rehab stint failed, for this attempt at getting him sober, the family decided to involve Bret's two children—a teenage girl, Kelsey, and a boy, Kyle, about 9 or 10. (At the pre-intervention meeting, Bret's daughter Kelsey said she felt a lot better after hearing what the interventionist had to say, and found his counseling helpful. Kyle seemed particularly troubled by his father's alienation from the family, and blamed himself for his dad's absence in his life.)

The intervention didn't go well. Bret became enraged almost immediately and ran out of the hotel conference room where everyone was meeting. (The family screamed and cried and chased him down in the parking lot to continue reading their letters.) Bret proclaimed, essentially, that he wouldn't stop drinking for anyone, including his children, which caused his son to collapse on the ground with his mother and sob uncontrollably. He then began walking home.

Concerned that Bret was going home to kill himself with is shotgun, the interventionist piled everyone into the car—kids included—to speed over to Bret's condo, break in, and get the gun. It seemed like a situation that could put these children in extreme danger. It left me wondering if Kyle would have been better off, emotionally, if he had been shielded from this mess.

I understand that probably Bret's kids really needed to confront him with their feelings, and since he was obviously a stubborn case, the family probably felt his children would be the most convincing at getting him to go into treatment. But allowing the children to go into Bret's condo and look for his gun? Completely irresponsible.

In the end, (and off-camera) Bret agreed to go into treatment only after his family threatened him with legally getting him involuntarily detained for psychological evaluation. After completing 80 days of treatment, Bret was diagnosed with advanced esophageal cancer, which is linked to alcoholism. He passed away three weeks later. He had been sober for 104 days. His son's speech afterward was heartbreaking.

Intervention has posted up an update on Bret's family on its website.



I still question any family that decides to do something like this on television. I know people with substance abuse problems and the idea of having an intervention with them on TV seems crass to me. This is reality TV at it's worst, making money on someone's disease and the pain it causes them and their family.