Helping a loved one who's struggling with addiction can be challenging to say the least. Sometimes a direct, heart-to-heart conversation is enough to get 'em on the road to recovery. Many times though, a more coercive effort becomes necessary. When is it time for an intervention? And how do we make sure an intervention succeeds?

Reasons for Intervention

  • Alcohol Abuse: does your loved one frequently get drunk or exhibit other signs of a problem drinker?
  • Prescription Drug Abuse: have you caught your loved one raiding the family's medicine cabinet or doctor shopping?
  • Street Drug Abuse: has your loved one been arrested or spending time with an unsavory element?
  • What is an Intervention?

    An intervention is a carefully planned confrontation with a loved one who's struggling with addiction. It may be conducted by family and friends, preferably in consultation with a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. It may also be directed by an actual intervention professional (interventionist). Interventions sometimes involve a member of your loved one's faith or other associates who care about the person struggling with addiction. The given group gathers together to confront their loved one, make clear the consequences of addiction, then ask him to accept treatment.

    The intervention itself provides specific examples of destructive behaviors and how they impact each member of the group, as well as the loved one (generally via impact letters). It also offers a prearranged treatment plan with clear steps, goals and guidelines. Finally, the procedure spells out what each participant will do if their loved one refuses to accept and complete treatment.

    How Does an Intervention Work?

    A typical intervention usually includes:

    Making a Plan

    A family member or friend proposes an intervention and forms a planning group. Again, it's best to ask a qualified addiction professional for help in organizing an intervention. Interventions are  highly-charged situations. Consequently there's a significant potential to cause anger, resentment or a sense of betrayal.

    Gathering Information

    The planning group members determine the extent of a loved one's problem, research the condition and explore available addiction treatment options. The group may also initiate arrangements to enroll a loved one in a specific treatment program.

    Forming a Team

    The planning group forms a team that will personally participate in the intervention. Team members set a date and location and work together to present a consistent, rehearsed message, as well as a structured plan. Non-family members can often help keep the discussion focused on the problem at hand and reduce the amount of strong emotional responses.

    Setting the Stage

    Choose a time and a place that's comfortable for everyone, including your loved one. But above all don't let them know what you're doing until the actual intervention. People struggling with addiction don't like to face facts, and they most certainly don't like facing the music. So it's highly unlikely they'll want to do both.

    Being Prepared

    Make notes. Be specific. If an incident caused emotional distress, say so. If an action caused financial worry, make it known. The toll taken by addiction needs to be told loud and clear. Begin with "I was upset when..." Then take it from there. A loved one can't argue with facts. And he definitely can't argue with feelings.

    Accepting the Consequences

    Each intervention team member needs to decide what action(s) to take if a loved one doesn't accept treatment on the spot. A loved one may be forbidden from the family residence or asked to move out. An employer may request a resignation or insist on termination. Authorities may even need to intervene. But don't threaten a consequence unless you're truly ready to follow through.

    The Intervention Team

    A typical intervention team generally includes four to six people who a loved one loves, likes, respects or depends on. These may include:

  • A Parent or Guardian
  • A Best Friend
  • Adult Relatives
  • Colleagues
  • A Member of a Love One's Faith
  • They should not include:

  • Anyone a Loved One Dislikes
  • Those with an Unmanaged Mental Health Issue
  • Those with a Substance Abuse Problem
  • Anyone Unwilling to Stick to the Intervention Plan
  • If you think it's important to have someone involved but worry that it may create a problem, consider having that person write a short letter that can be read aloud during the intervention.

    What Makes a Successful Intervention?

    Here are a few tips for conducting a successful intervention:

    Don't hold an intervention on the spur of the moment

    It can take several weeks to plan an effective intervention. Keep it simple though, otherwise it may be difficult to get everyone to follow through.

    Carefully plan the date and time

    Make sure you choose a date and time when your loved one is least likely to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

    Do your homework

    Research your loved one's addiction or substance abuse issue so that you have a good understanding of it. Then find out how a particular addiction can best be battled.

    Appoint a point person

    Having a single liaison will help the team communicate and stay on track.

    Share information

    Make sure every team member is on the same page re your loved one's addiction, as well as the intervention itself. Meetings and/or conference calls help to share updates and present a united team.

    Stage a mock intervention

    Here you can decide on a speaker rotation, seating arrangements and other details. This way there's no fumbling during the real intervention.

    Anticipate objections

    Have calm, rational responses prepared for each reason a loved one may give to avoid treatment or responsibility for behavior. If there are children, pre-arrange child care. If work is an issue, pre-arrange a leave of absence. And if a loved one is afraid of being alone, offer to attend counseling or family therapy sessions. Whatever you need to do, make sure there's no excuse.

    Avoid confrontation

    Interventions require love, respect, support and concern — not anger. Be honest, but don't use the occasion for hostile attacks. And above all, avoid name-calling and angry or accusing statements.

    Stay on track

    Veering from the plan can quickly derail an intervention, prevent a helpful outcome and worsen family tensions. Be prepared to remain calm in the face of a loved one's accusations, hurt or anger. It's often intended to deflect or derail the conversation.

    Ask for an immediate decision

    Don't give your loved one time to think about whether to accept the treatment offer. Even a few days to think it over can gives them a chance to continue denying a problem, go into hiding or go on a dangerous binge.

    Treatment Options

    Recovery Boot Camp offers many addiction treatment options to offer during an intervention, including:

  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
  • Outpatient Program (OP)
  • All treatment programs begin with a pre-admittance evaluation and include one-on-one and group therapy, extensive coursework, family recovery services and life skills counseling. Furthermore, IOP and OP treatment is available to residents and non-residents alike. RBC also offers Aftercare at our adjacent Healing Properties sober living facility.

    If you have a loved one who's struggling with addiction, please give us a call. We can help.

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