Addiction Intervention: What it Means and How it Happens

When a loved one is engaging in dangerous and risky behaviors with drugs and/or alcohol it can be challenging to help them understand the problem with those behaviors. For an addict, admitting they need help is difficult. Most addicts live in a state of denial and will try to justify their behaviors, hide them and make excuses for them. When you have reached your limit and you cannot seem to reach the one you love, an official addiction intervention may be your next step.

What Is an Intervention?

An intervention is a concerted effort to confront a loved one with problematic alcohol or drug use and convince them to change their behaviors, usually by accepting professional help. An intervention is not something that is done on a whim, it is a carefully planned process. The typical members present at an intervention are friends and family but it may be led or coordinated by a member of the clergy, a doctor, a counselor or an intervention specialist.

To be successful an intervention must be carefully planned. It should also include three main elements:

  1. Examples of how the addict’s behaviors have been destructive,
  2. A plan with clear steps for getting your loved one help
  3. Specific and clear consequences for the addict if they decide not to take the offer of assistance.

When is it Time for an Intervention?

If you are thinking of hosting an intervention for a loved one, it is probably time for one. Most people turn to an intervention as a last resort to get a loved one to accept help. If you have tried talking to them one-on-one and failed, you may need to try an approach that is more focused and involves more people who also care about your loved one. There is really no wrong time for an intervention. When someone is engaging in destructive behavior and showing no signs of admitting to having a problem or wanting to change, an intervention can help.

How to Plan an Intervention

To give your intervention the best chance of being successful, it should be carefully planned. The first step is to gather friends and family members together to develop this plan. Consider including a third-party expert to lead the intervention, they can bring the expertise you need to the intervention and can also provide a perspective that is not clouded by a personal relationship with the addict. Once you are ready to get started, here are the steps to follow for a well-planned intervention:

  1. Get informed. Once you have everyone who needs to participate in the intervention on board, gather information. Everyone involved should read up on addiction, interventions and treatment. With this information you will be better able to communicate with your loved one about their behavior, condition and the options for going forward.
  2. Meet to plan and practice. Everyone who will be at the intervention should meet in person at least once before going live with the event. If you can meet more than once, even better. This will give you a chance to brainstorm ideas and practice what you want to say so that your intervention will run as smoothly as possible. This is also a good time to list the evidence you hope to present to your loved one to demonstrate how his behaviors have negatively affected him and others. Make these as specific as possible.
  3. Come up with consequences. Ask each person involved in the intervention to come up with consequences to communicate to the addict at the intervention. These should describe what will happen, or not happen, should they refuse to get help. For example, you might tell them that if they do not get help, you will stop contributing to their bills. Be prepared to follow through with these consequences.
  4. Prepare treatment options. Research and come up with at least one option for treatment for your loved one. If they agree to get help you should be ready with a specific plan. Consider all the components involved such as how to pay for the treatment, when it will start, how they will keep their job if necessary, and support for after treatment.
  5. Hold the intervention. Once you have done all the prep work, you are ready to hold an intervention. Plan for a time and place that will be reasonable for your loved one and make sure that someone can get them there. It is also crucial that you ensure they will be sober for the event.

When an Intervention Requires an Expert

It is always a good idea to involve an intervention specialist in leading your intervention, but there are certain situations in which it is especially important. Consider consulting with an expert if your loved one has refused help from interventions in the past, if they have a history of being violent, have mental health conditions or if they have ever talked about suicide or exhibited suicidal behaviors. Our specialists can assist with planning and organizing the intervention and guide you throughout the process.

After the Intervention

The follow-up to the intervention is just as important as the actual intervention. If your loved one agrees to get help, you must ensure that it happens. If they do not agree, each one of you who gave consequences must be firm in them. If your loved one goes into treatment be there to support them, especially after the treatment has concluded. Relapse is common but, with follow-up care and plenty of social support, they have the best chance of staying sober. An intervention is a serious step to take and may be necessary, but don’t take it lightly. If you plan, involve experts, practice and follow up, you can meet the goal of your intervention: helping your loved one to get better.