An intervention is an important event, created by family and friends of a person struggling with addiction, to help the person realize they have a problem, they need help, and they have support. While reality television shows have popularized interventions in recent years, these depictions often offer a false sense of how an intervention should be conducted. While interventions should always provide encouragement and incentive for the person struggling with addiction to seek help, they come in more forms than the classic family meeting frequently displayed in popular media.
An intervention is a carefully planned process. It is important that the friends and family involved avoid spontaneity in what they say, when they gather, and where they gather. This helps all team members to stay on topic, and to avoid placing blame, making accusations, or saying other hurtful things, which may lead the person to refuse help.
The intervention should focus on the positive. Although it is important for a person struggling with addiction to understand that their condition affects the mental and emotional health of their loved ones, the point is not to blame them for causing harm. Instead, it is to point out that the addiction causes negative changes in behavior, and there is a solution: detox and a comprehensive rehabilitation program.
Family and friends staging an intervention can make a plan for one on their own, or they can consult with a professional interventionist. This professional will structure the planning process, guide the intervention team, and lead the overall event.
When considering an intervention to help a loved one struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, there are some important steps that can guide the process.
Step 1: Get help. This may involve contacting a professional interventionist, social worker, or doctor. It could also involve contacting other family and friends. Support for the process is important, and it is important not to do all the work alone.
Step 2: Form the intervention team. This is the core group of organizers, and it may or may not include a professional interventionist. Generally, only close family members, friends, and coworkers should be included on the intervention team. If a person is currently struggling with their own substance abuse issues, they should not be included on the team.
Step 3: Make a plan. This includes scheduling a specific day, time of day, location, and guest list. It also includes an outline of how the process will work and what everyone will say. This is the overall guide to the event.
Step 4: Gather information. Learn about the substance of abuse, addiction, and the recovery process. Gather information about detox and rehabilitation programs, particularly those that suit the personality and needs of the person struggling with addiction.
Step 5: Write impact statements. Everyone at the intervention should have something to say about the person’s struggles with addiction. These should be personal statements, detailing how the addiction has harmed the person they love. Relationships can be deeply hurt by substance abuse. Written statements about the impact on relationships can help the person struggling with addiction to understand that their struggle does not impact them alone. These statements should be emotionally honest and focus on love. There is no place for personal attacks in these statements.
Step 6: Offer help. People attending the intervention should be willing to support their loved one in some capacity while the person goes through detox, rehabilitation, and long-term recovery. For example, offer rides to treatment once a week, or offer to attend family therapy sessions or support group meetings with the person.
Step 7: Set boundaries. If the person refuses treatment, relationships with friends and family must change. Everyone present should commit to ending codependency and enabling behaviors. Be clear that there will be consequences if the person refuses help.
Step 8: Rehearse. Emotions run high regarding substance abuse and addiction. To avoid taking too much time, blaming the loved one, or falling into self-pity, rehearse the whole intervention with everyone at least once before it actually occurs. Then, each team member will have an idea of what to say, when they will speak, and when to cede the floor.
Step 9: Manage expectations. While television nearly always shows the person at the center of the intervention accepting help, this is not always the case in real life. Even with a well-planned intervention and clear offers of help, the individual may not accept help for a variety of reasons. If they do not, then follow through on the outlined consequences.
Step 10: Follow up. Whether the person accepts help or not, it is important to uphold statements made during the intervention. Otherwise, the person may experience excessive stress, which could slow down their rehabilitation process, lead to relapse, or deepen substance abuse problems.
Even with preparation, there are important points to avoid during an intervention. These include:
To fully understand what an intervention should accomplish, it can be important to know what an intervention should not entail. According to the Association of Professional Intervention Specialists, an intervention is not:
The only way for interventions to be successful is if they are based in love, honesty, and support.
Discussions about emotional hurt, anger, fear, or concern should only come up if they reflect the love of family and friends.
An intervention is not a place to embarrass, shame, or scold the person struggling with addiction; these tactics are more likely to make the person retreat further into substance abuse patterns.
There are many different types of interventions to choose from. Many professional interventionists have a preferred intervention style they use.
Regardless of what style of intervention is used, the point of the process is to help someone struggling with alcohol or drug addiction realize that they have support to overcome this condition and real help is available. Support comes in many forms, including medical care, therapeutic help, and social support from loved ones.
If friends and family feel too emotionally charged while working on a DIY intervention, they can consult a professional interventionist, social worker, therapist, or other counselor at any time for help. They may ask the person to lead the intervention or simply seek guidance in planning the event. Professional assistance at any level can be extremely helpful, as an outside perspective can guide the process toward the most beneficial conclusion and keep everyone focused.
In some instances, hiring a professional is essential. Professional interventionists are highly recommended if the person who is the subject of the intervention has displayed any of the following:
There are several ways to find a professional interventionist.
Tips for a Successful Intervention
Interventions are most successful when they are planned and implemented well. If the meeting is structured, especially with help from a professional, interventions can be up to 90 percent successful in convincing the person to get the help they need. For a successful intervention, keep the following in mind:
Those struggling with substance abuse may be in denial about the harm they are causing themselves or others, but an intervention can help them understand that their behaviors are hurting those they love, not just their own physical and mental health. If the subject of the intervention knows they have support as they enter medical detox and a comprehensive rehabilitation program, they are more likely to agree to treatment.
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