What Is an Intervention?
An intervention is a process by which loved ones of an addict express their concerns regarding a substance use problem and encourage the addict to seek professional treatment and rehabilitation for their condition. According to SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “when an addicted person is reluctant to seek help, sometimes family members, friends, and associates come together out of concern and love.”
When coming together to intervene, the key to remember is love. This principle will aid you at every turn as you stage an intervention. You will soon discover that the process can be incredibly frustrating and emotional for all involved. Whether you are the one staging the intervention or you are the addict for whom the intervention is staged, perspectives will be different, and emotions will run high.
Because interventions are difficult to manage, they can often end up going anything but smoothly. If you want a positive reception and a successful result, planning is key. Per SAMHSA, in a successful intervention, “the family, friends and associates are usually able to convince their loved one — in a firm and loving manner — that the only choice is to accept help and begin the road to recovery.”
Let’s explore the ways in which you can conduct a smooth intervention with good results. Below, you will find strategies for the intervention process along with key points to help you stay focused and calm so that you can help your loved one see rehabilitation as the first step along the road to recovery.
How Is an Intervention Conducted?
The first thing to bear in mind when planning an intervention is that every situation is different. From the type of addiction and the age of the addict to the amount of time your loved one has been addicted, there are endless things to think about when trying to successfully conduct an intervention.
Next, remember to remain calm and receptive at all times during the intervention. If you are overly critical, engage in manipulative tactics or employ too much emotion in your strategies, you may alienate or anger your loved one. Ask yourself these questions before you conduct an intervention:
- Can I successfully host this intervention without causing my loved one to become angry or violent?
- Can I gather a group of other caring and concerned friends and family members to aid me in the intervention process?
- Can I successfully conclude the process, including encouragement toward rehabilitation, even if I am unable to do so without a negative reaction from my loved one?
These may seem like simple questions, but you may be surprised by how much of an emotional response they draw. If you cannot answer affirmatively to these three questions, you may not be the appropriate person to conduct the intervention. Consider asking another loved one to do it if this is the case.
Decide on the Location
The best location for a successful intervention is an environment in which your loved one will be at ease. Don’t try to stage an intervention in an unfamiliar place, such as a vacation resort or a new acquaintance’s home. For the best results, your loved one should feel comfortable. This should minimize negative reactions and the desire to flee the scene if emotions are running too high.
Steps for a Successful Intervention
A successful intervention may be entirely necessary in order to prod your loved one toward recovery. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to.” This means that, even when a loved one understands that they have a problem and may want to quit, they may be psychologically incapable of taking steps to do so without your help. For a successful intervention:
Create a game plan
Your intervention plan should include your loved one’s closest friends and family members. Seek out individuals who are also concerned about the health and welfare of the person dealing with substance abuse. These are the people who will both support you in your efforts to intervene and who will have the highest likelihood of persuading your loved one to seek help. Your loved one will care about the opinions of those they are closest to, which is why you need these people present at an intervention.
Remember to keep the group fairly small. Too many people may be overwhelming, and keeping your loved one calm and receptive is important. Having a larger group may be so threatening to an addict that they may consider walking away when they realize what is about to happen.
Practice your speech
Prepare your message carefully. You will more than likely need to have a strong impact in a very short amount of time. If you are not able to express your main points clearly and quickly, you may lose your loved one’s attention before you are finished.
The other members of the group should also have speeches prepared. Words should be chosen carefully and lovingly, and speeches should be kept short. Too much speaking time, as with too many group members, may cause your loved one to shut down due to being overwhelmed or angry.
Remember to include ultimatums in your speeches. These are the points at which you will express the consequences should your loved one refuse to follow through with treatment. Often, these ultimatums are what push an addict to seek help.
Consider professional help
While a professional interventionist is not necessary to conduct a successful intervention, in some cases, they may prove extremely helpful. There are many different careers that can include the role of a professional interventionist, including social worker, drug abuse counselor, psychologist and psychiatrist. Such individuals may be able to assist by offering a professional and passionate approach to an intervention.
An interventionist can also help by serving as an unbiased mediator. They may also be able to offer neutral territory on which to hold the intervention, and they can be extremely useful in cases where physical well-being and mental health are of grave concern. You may want to consider professional help if you’re worried about:
Violent outbursts can occur when your loved one feels cornered, they are focused on their next fix or they are experiencing withdrawal. Even if your loved one is not normally violent, an intervention may bring out these tendencies.
If your loved one already has a mental health condition that is unrelated to the addiction, this can cause a lot of problems during an intervention. Mental illness can encourage irrational reactions and violent behavior.
An individual with suicidal tendencies can greatly benefit from having a professional at the intervention. A professional interventionist can help keep a positive atmosphere as well as redirect anger away from friends and family members who are simply trying to help.
What to Do With a Positive Reaction
If your intervention seems to be going in a positive direction, you’ve obviously planned well. While you may have expected a more negative reaction, you are now ready to keep going with the positive vibes.
Listen to your loved one
This is the part where you should let your loved one speak up. Sometimes, your loved one will agree with you already. However, in many cases, the addict may use this opportunity to argue their points and try to convince you that their problem is not that serious. Let them talk!
A lot of the time, when an addict begins to reason with themselves out loud, they will start to realize that their arguments don’t make sense. You should also remember that even though you are offering a listening ear, you should make it clear that this does not mean you are accepting or agreeing with their words.
Be prepared for manipulation
As stated above, your loved one may use this opportunity to argue. They may even use manipulative tactics to try and persuade you that they really do not have a problem. In other cases, your loved one may seem too compliant and agreeable, which can be a sign that they are pretending to have a change of heart in order to throw off your suspicions.
What to Do With a Negative Reaction
So, the intervention is not going to plan? The most important thing to remember is that holding an intervention, successful or otherwise, is an act of love. Even if it doesn’t seem to be going well, though, there are still steps you can take that may change the course of the intervention.
Lay out the consequences
If your loved one has reacted poorly, this is the point at which you will need to lay out the consequences more firmly. Make sure that they understand that the ultimatums mentioned earlier stand and that everyone in the group will hold them to those consequences if they do not agree to seek treatment.
Sometimes, a reiteration of the ultimatums will make it clearer to your loved one that you were not kidding around. This reinforces that they really do only have two possible paths to take: continue in their addiction and face the negative consequences or seek treatment and enjoy the full support of their loved ones.
Understand that you did not fail
If none of your strategies and procedures seem to work, you need to remember that you still have not failed. Sometimes, a person will require more than one intervention before they will seek help. At the very least, your loved one now knows how you feel about their problem, and you have also been given the opportunity to hear their perspective.
Sometimes, this is the very first time the lines of communication have been opened on the topic, and that may simply be the first step in a longer process. In an article for Psychology Today, Dr. Joel L. Young states that while successful results of treatment after intervention are hard to quantify, addicts who have social support and access to good treatment have a higher chance of getting better.
You Intervene Because You Care
While interventions can be highly emotional and socially uncomfortable, always keep in mind that you are intervening because you care. Regardless of the reaction you get, the entire purpose of the intervention is to help your loved one understand that by continuing in their addiction, they are both causing serious harm to themselves and hurting those that they love.
If you can follow the above suggestions, you will be well on your way to planning and staging a successful intervention. When you receive a positive response and your loved one is ready to seek professional treatment at a rehabilitation center in the area, consider the following options:
This treatment facility, located in Effingham, New Hampshire, offers professional treatment for recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs. Various highly effective treatment plans are employed, including CBT, DBT and EMDR therapy. Beautifully situated on 72 acres of sprawling countryside with stunning views of the White Mountains, this center seeks to offer successful treatment opportunities that focus on the individual’s personal needs and goals.
With locations in Canterbury and Salem, New Hampshire, this substance abuse recovery centers uses the 12-step program to treat adults from 18 years old and up for a number of different substance use issues. At NFA Behavioral Health, a professional disorders team and a trained psychiatrist help residents work through the emotions surrounding their addictions in order to move toward a full recovery. Therapy, holistic approaches and nonaddictive medications are all used in the treatment plans at NFA Behavioral Health.
Staging an intervention is not easy, but it can help prod your loved one into getting the help that they need for their substance use disorder.