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How to Stage an Intervention

Our Specialists Can Advise You on How to Stage an Intervention

For many who suffer with the disease of addiction, they can’t see or won’t acknowledge that a problem exists. A recent study claimed that 95 percent of people suffering from substance abuse disorders do not think they have a problem or need treatment. Unfortunately, most people see the alternative to the addict seeking treatment on their own as letting them hit bottom. The problem is very often hitting bottom can mean death. On the other hand, a structured intervention, done properly, can lead a dependent person to the help they need to begin recovery.

But approaching someone struggling with addiction can be very difficult. Despite meaning well, friends and loved ones often don’t know what to say or do. If the addicted person is in denial, this can make the process even more complicated and make an open conversation difficult.

Outward signs that someone is struggling with addiction:

  • Borrowing or stealing money
  • Secretive or aggressive behaviors
  • A lack of energy or motivation
  • Problems at work or school
  • Health issues
  • Loss of interest in physical appearance

Addictions that may require an intervention include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Prescription drug abuse
  • Street drug use
  • Compulsive eating
  • Compulsive gambling

What is an intervention?

An intervention is a process that is carefully planned and may be done with family and friends with the aid and consultation with a doctor or professional such as a licensed alcohol and drug counselor or directed by an intervention professional. It can also sometimes involve coworkers, clergy members, or others with an interest in the well being of the person struggling with addiction.

The purpose of the intervention is to get the addict to get treatment. During the process the interventionists and family, friends, etc., will provide specific examples of destructive behaviors and their impact on the addicted person and those around them. They will offer a prearranged treatment plan with clear steps, goals, and guidelines. During this time they will also fully describe what each person will do if the loved one refuses to accept treatment.

How does the intervention work?

Here are some of the steps on how to stage an intervention:

  • Choose a team: Make no mistake, an intervention is not easy. Most likely the addicted person will not acknowledge they have a problem and will resist the attempt to get them help. This is why it’s best to choose a team of concerned people wisely. Each person on the team has be willing to confront the intended and not back down when they resist. Anyone who feels uncomfortable in this role could prove to be a liability as the process goes on.
  • Create a plan: Interventions can be highly charged situations with the potential to cause anger, resentment, and feelings of betrayal. This is why it’s important to have a highly qualified professional to aid in the process: a professional counselor, psychologist, mental health counselor, addiction specialist, social worker, or experienced interventionist to help organize an effective intervention. It is best to work with a professional in creating a group and a plan.
  • Research the problem: You will need to learn as much about the loved one’s problem as you can. This will help you better plan for choosing a treatment program.
  • Decide on specific consequences: There is always a good chance that the intended will not accept the proposed treatment. What will you do? Actions and consequences will need to be taken. Examples can include asking your loved one to move out or taking away contact with their children.
  • Plan a script of what to say: Every member of your intervention group can have something to bring to the table. They can describe specific incidents where the addiction caused problems and this can include emotional and/or financial issues. By pre-planning a script members of the team can stay on message while the emotions run high. In discussing the consequences of your loved one’s behavior be sure to continue to express care and support as well as the expectation that the loved one can change. The intended can’t argue with facts or with your emotional response to the problem.
  • Hold the intervention meeting: During the meeting, those gathered can take turns expressing their concerns and feelings. The loved one is presented with an option for treatment and asked to accept it on the spot. At this time each member of the team will say what specific changes they will make if the addicted person doesn’t accept the plan. Don’t threaten with a consequence unless you’re prepared to follow through.
  • Focus only on the addiction: Keep the meeting focused on the chemically related issues, the fact that the loved one has a disease that needs professional help. It is easy to let the intervention become an inventory of past hurts and betrayals but this can be sabotage. Be specific about when, where, and with whom a chemically-related incident happened. Stay focused without emotions or distractions. This is not a time for yelling your opinions, stay with the facts.
  • Follow up: Involving loved ones who matter is a crucial part of this process: a spouse, family members, close friends, etc. This will better help keep the addict in treatment and avoid relapsing. Ways to help can include helping them to change the patterns of their everyday living to avoid destructive behavior and offering to participate in counseling with them. It’s also helpful to be as well educated about your loved ones situation as possible, this can include seeking your own therapist and recovery support. The more you know the more you can be of service when a problem such a relapse occurs.

Keep in mind that a poorly planned intervention can actually worsen the situation – the loved one can feel under siege and become isolated and more resistant to treatment. This is why it can be vital that you involve the help of an alcohol and drug abuse counselor, social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, or interventionist to help you organize an effective intervention. A substance use or addiction professional can take into account your loved one’s particular circumstances, suggest the best approach, and help guide you in what type of treatment and follow-up plan is likely to work best.

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