For many who struggle with addiction, an intervention is the critical first step to recovery. Addiction can make the afflicted individual blind to the pain they're causing themselves and their loved ones. It can cause the addict to deny they have a problem and keep them from seeking treatment until they hit "rock bottom". If you think a loved one is struggling with addiction, don't wait for the problem to worsen - consider staging an intervention.

An intervention is a planned event in which a group of people (usually family, friends, and loved ones) confront an addicted individual to show them how their addiction is negatively affecting them and the people around them. An intervention offers the afflicted individual a structured opportunity at recovery and motivates addicts to get the help they need. The ultimate goal is to empower the addict to escape from their seemingly hopeless, entrapping addiction.

How To Stage An Intervention

Interventions conducted with the help of a professional are statistically much more successful at getting the addict to agree to a treatment program. Conducting an intervention without a professional may be counterproductive and dangerous - an intervention is a fragile, volatile situation that has a possibility of failing and making the addict feel attacked, angry, or betrayed. One of the first steps in staging an intervention is deciding whether to use an interventionist.

What is an interventionist?

Interventionists are trained professionals who specialize in guiding families through intervention. An interventionist will be able to step in and redirect the meeting if the family does not know how to respond to the addict or is too emotional to do so. Many interventionists have firsthand experience with addiction and can truly empathize with the situation while remaining firm with the addict. The interventionist can also provide custom-tailored guidance by coaching friends and family before the intervention occurs, and can help decide who should be at the intervention and what should be said to the addict.

The four basic steps to staging an intervention

If you choose to use an interventionist, they will guide you and those participating through the process of the intervention. Those who don't choose to use an interventionist should still consult an addiction specialist, social worker, counselor, or other health professional to plan an intervention. The process of planning an intervention usually includes:

  1. Gathering information about the addict. Loved ones should determine the addict's habits and the extent of their addiction. Not only will this information help the participants and the interventionist prepare a proper course of action, but it may also be necessary to present this information to the addict if they deny having a problem.
  2. Meeting with friends, family, and loved ones to form the intervention group. Decide who should be present at the intervention. Most experts reccomend that no more than six people be present, though other individuals who have been affected by the addict's behaviors can send in letters or words of support.
  3. Deciding on possible courses of treatment. You should have treatment options already laid out for the addicted individual during the intervention. Find possible courses of treatment, and contact specific rehab facilities ahead of time.
  4. Planning what to say and rehearsing the intervention. Draft letters to the addict which include examples of their negative and destructive behaviors, statements about the feelings and emotional responses of loved ones, and planned consequences or actions that loved ones will take if the addict refuses to accept treatment.

Once preparation is finished and the intervention team is properly educated, the addicted individual is brought to the (private) intervention site. The intervention team will calmly discuss their feelings and concerns and present the addicted person with their possible treatment options. A key part of an intervention is asking the addicted individual to immediately choose a treatment option, and presenting them with the consequences of not accepting treatment.

Tips For a Successful Intervention

  • Remember that addiction is a medical affliction that requires professional help.
  • Retain welcoming, open body language and always remain calm. The delivery of the words and script will be just as important as what's being said.
  • Have several backup plans in case the afflicted individual reacts negatively. The addict could yell, cry, insult the intervention team, or attempt to leave the intervention. Have a plan in place for these possible unpleasant situations.
  • Choose the right people to attend the intervention. Loved ones who have been negatively affected by the addict's behaviors should be included, but there may be individuals that are too emotional to remain calm or too close to the addict and may support them in refusing treatment. Allow these individuals to participate through letters or relayed messages.
  • One of the first questions an addict will ask is, "Where is the rehab facility?" Be prepared for this question and make sure that a rehab facility that fits the addicts specific and unique needs has been chosen in advance. Also, some rehab facilities may have waiting lists, and creating the shortest period of time possible between the intervention and admission into rehab can be crucial to ensuring that the addict will not change their mind.
  • Regardless of the final outcome, family and friends who have deeply rooted emotions related to the addict's choices may benefit from seeing a therapist throughout the entire process to help them prepare to accept the addict's decision.

What Not To Do During An Intervention

  • Do not stage the intervention while the addicted individual is under the influence. Drugs and alcohol will make an individual more emotional, volatile, and unpredictable - stage the intervention when the afflicted individual is sober.
  • Do not blame the addict for their affliction. Addiction is not the result of a personal flaw or moral defect - many factors, like genetic predisposition, can cause someone to become addicted. Simply point out the negative consequences and present options for treating their affliction.
  • Don't choose a location with possible distractions or interruptions. Holding the intervention at the home of the addict may also be a bad idea, as the addict will feel more comfortable and empowered in their own home, and may be harder to convince.
  • Avoid confrontational, angry, or judgemental statements. A good guideline for this is to utilize more "I" statements than "you" statements. "I can see how this is hurting you" is less likely to come across as judgemental than "You're hurting yourself."
  • Don't involve children without considering possible complications. Young children may not know what's going on, or may become upset and interrupt the intervention. If a child who has been affected by the addict's behaviors is included, make sure they understand the situation.
  • Don't give up. Sometimes, interventions just won't work on the first try.