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Intervention Guide
December 9, 2015

The Complete Guide to Drug and Alcohol Intervention

Intervention Guide

You did not picture things turning out this way. It is heartbreaking to watch your loved one continue to destroy themselves and their future. You’ve had it with the sleepless nights, lies and dysfunction. You are afraid of what may happen next. You’ve talked to other people in the addict’s life, and you all agree that things can’t go on like this. An intervention may be the only solution left.

An intervention is a face-to-face meeting of concerned friends and family members and a person struggling with drug and/or alcohol addiction. The goal is to communicate the seriousness of the problem and demonstrate how the addiction is affecting important areas of the addict’s life. By nature of their illnesses, many addicts are in denial and don’t realize the toll their dependence is taking on those they love. An intervention sends a clear message that the addiction will no longer be tolerated. Ultimately, the goal of an intervention is to convince the dependent person to go to a qualified treatment center for help.

Here are some tips on how to organize a successful intervention:

Think about hiring a professional.

An addiction professional can help you plan a successful intervention. This person may be a psychologist, social worker, addiction counselor or interventionist. The professional will look at your loved one’s individual situation and suggest the best possible approach. He or she will guide you in choosing the best treatment facility and follow-up strategy. It may be especially important to hire a professional to help you with the intervention if your loved one has shown suicidal tendencies, has a history of violence, has a mental illness, or may be taking a combination of mood-altering drugs.

Choose team members wisely.

The typical intervention consists of four to six people close to the person struggling with addiction. An intervention specialist can help you decide who should join the team, but in general, team members should be people the addict respects, loves, likes, admires or depends on. An intervention usually involves friends and family members but may also include co-workers, clergy members or others who care about the person with dependence. Do not include anyone who:

  • also has an unmanaged substance abuse problem
  • your loved one dislikes
  • is likely to make negative comments
  • could potentially sabotage the intervention.

Do your homework.

An intervention is most likely to succeed if it includes educated participants. Group members should take time to research the type of addiction and extent of the person’s problem prior to the intervention.

Find a treatment facility.

Discuss the best type of treatment facility ahead of time and plan to have transportation ready and waiting at the intervention should the loved one choose to get help. The best type of treatment facility will depend on the severity and type of addiction. An addiction professional can help you decide the most appropriate treatment options. You can also contact national organizations, local clinics or online support groups for treatment advice.

Plan carefully.

Members of an intervention should work together as a team. A poorly planned intervention may cause the addict to feel attacked, which will make him or her less likely to seek treatment. The group should meet ahead of time to come up with a date and location, take on specific roles and create a consistent message. The addict should not know anything about the intervention until the day it takes place. Here are some additional aspects to plan:

  • Give each team member a specific role. It’s often a good idea for non-family members to keep the discussion focused on the facts and to try to deflect emotional responses.
  • Think about what to say ahead of time, and come to an agreement on which points to make. All team members should plan to describe a particular incident during which the addiction caused them emotional, financial or physical harm.
  • Plan to include positive points, such as your love for the person and combined expectation and hope that he or she can change.
  • Come up with an agenda that clearly spells out who will speak when. In an emotionally charged situation like an intervention, organization is key.
  • Decide on specific consequences. Each team member should be prepared to present actions he or she will take if the addict chooses not to get help. For example, asking the addict to move out, cutting financial support or ending contact with children.
  • Hold a rehearsal intervention, where everyone practices when they will speak and what they will say.
  • Discuss how you will get the loved one to the location of the intervention.

Expect resistance.

An intervention is a very confrontational situation. As such, the addict may react defensively. He or she may get angry and feel resentful and betrayed. Plan calm, rational responses to the objections you are likely to get.

Demand an immediate response.

Ask your loved one to give the group a decision about whether or not he or she will accept the offer for treatment. Don’t let him or her take a few days to think it over, which will only encourage further denial or a binge.

Recognize the potential for failure.

Many interventions succeed, giving addicts an important first step toward recovery. However, some interventions do fail. Emotionally prepare yourself for your loved one to refuse treatment, but remain hopeful for the best. And remember, even if the initial intervention fails, it may get the wheels turning in an addict’s head and lead him or her to seek help down the road.

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