It is a painful and difficult experience to watch a family member suffer from an addiction. The disease can cause changes within the brain that alter an individual’s behaviors and actions. This means that individuals often cannot realize and accept that they are living with a problem. You want to offer support and help but are unsure how to help your loved one’s addiction. When a person is living with a drug or alcohol addiction, also known as a substance use disorder, it can seem impossible to talk to them about seeking professional help. In cases like this, an intervention may be the most effective and appropriate option to encourage treatment.
Planning and hosting an intervention may be the wake-up call your spouse, child, sibling, or other loved one needs to realize the negative effects their behavior is having on themselves and those around them. An intervention allows a safe and structured space to communicate and motivate your loved one to seek treatment and is often the first step to sobriety.
What Is an Intervention?
When we think of substance use disorders, we tend to focus on the individuals living with the disease, its effects on them, and the detriments caused to their lives. But the effects of substance use disorders reach far and wide and family members are heavily impacted by the negative effects. If someone in your family is living with an addiction, there are steps that you can take to encourage and help them to overcome their disorder.
An intervention is an informal or formal gathering of family, friends, and in some cases, medical professionals, in the hope of inspiring change within a loved one. During an intervention, family members and other loved ones will gather to confront and discuss how a loved one’s addiction has affected them and explain the consequences of their actions.
Through an open and honest discussion, the aim of an intervention is to convince the individual living with the substance disorder to accept treatment. Within an addiction intervention, you will address:
- specific examples of behaviors and actions that have impacted your loved one and those surrounding them
- possible treatment plans with steps, goals, and outcomes
- specific consequences that will happen if your loved one refuses treatment
An intervention for substance abuse is a combination of support and education with the goal of offering a structured opportunity for meaningful change.
When Is an Intervention Needed?
Individuals living with a drug or alcohol addiction are often in denial about their problem and struggle to face the reality that they need help and support in order to begin their recovery journey. Of course, drug and alcohol abuse treatment is only successful when the individual wants to seek treatment and get better for themselves. But this may require a little gentle push in the right direction, and with the help of family and friends, individuals are able to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel and are able to finally take the first steps towards recovery.
It may be the right time to plan an intervention if your loved one is experiencing any of the following:
- Unable to control drug or alcohol abuse despite it negatively affecting their lives and those surrounding them
- Is unable to see the difficulties caused by their substance abuse and is in denial
- Is having social, financial, professional, and personal difficulties
- Is unresponsive and unwilling to engage in conversations with family regarding their actions due to their addictive behaviors
An intervention should be thoroughly planned out but should still remain a surprise to the person with the substance use disorder. An intervention is typically a last resort, but an early intervention increases the chances of a successful recovery.
If you do not yet wish to try a group intervention, there are resources on the website of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to help you think about how to start a one-to-one conversation.
Who Should Be on the Intervention Team?
One of the first steps in the intervention process is deciding who should be on the intervention team. An intervention typically involves a combination of the individual’s family, friends, and other loved ones. In some cases, an addiction professional may also be involved, as well as an intervention specialist or therapist. The size of the intervention team should remain relatively small, anywhere between three and eight people should be involved.
The members of the intervention team need to have direct experience of your loved one’s addiction and the negative effects it is causing. They must be willing to participate with no hesitations and should be knowledgeable of the research conducted prior to the intervention. The goal is not to berate or bully your loved one into treatment. The intervention should be conducted with concern and love.
How to Plan an Intervention
To increase the chances of a successful intervention, it is important to plan ahead and ensure that everyone involved is on the same page with the intervention process. Planning an intervention isn’t an easy process and is not something you have to do alone. It’s best to ensure you have the support of other family members or loved ones. Intervention planning should take a couple of weeks and should consist of the steps outlined below.
Remember, the main goal is to get your loved one to accept that they have a substance use disorder and to encourage them to begin their recovery journey.
Create an Intervention Team
Remember, an intervention does not just have to include the family, you should involve people who you believe will ensure the intervention is a success. The planning group needs to decide who will be included. Team members then set a date and location, and work together to present a rehearsed, consistent and structured plan.
Sometimes a professional interventionist can ensure that the discussion is focused, that there are shared solutions, and that responses aren’t coming from a place of pure emotion. An intervention is a significantly highly charged situation, with the risk of resentment, anger, or betrayal being directed at your loved one. Professional interventionists can help you effectively organize and plan the intervention. They are not vulnerable to the conflict caused by your loved one’s life and have years of experience in dealing with the psychological and physical conditions surrounding addiction.
Gather Information and Seek Treatment Options
Planning an effective intervention can take several weeks. First, you and those involved need to research your loved one’s addiction. The more you know about how a drug or alcohol addiction affects the brain, the easier it will be to make decisions for the intervention. The knowledge will even help you remain calm.
You need to find information from treatment centers about the different treatment options available. The main point of the intervention process is to encourage your loved one to follow through with the process by attending a treatment facility. You should print out different options for both detoxification and rehabilitation. Providing this information and setting up treatment prior to the intervention can ensure that your loved one is able to make a decision quickly and easily.
Family members, friends and anyone else involved in the intervention planning need to ensure that everyone is agreed on what will happen if your loved one does not want to accept treatment. All relationships are different and the consequences that are identified will be unique to each situation. Will you provide ultimatums if your loved one does not want to attend a treatment facility? This stage can look different for every family. For some, it may mean limiting financial support whereas for others it could mean completely cutting the person out.
Keep Note of What You Will Say
Interventions are more likely to be successful if they are scripted and team members are aware of what everyone is going to say. Each team member should write a short but detailed letter, outlining how they have been personally affected by their loved one’s addiction. Letters are an essential part of the intervention process and are used to persuade a person to accept treatment. It’s not a blame tactic but should instead stir emotions and create a heartfelt environment.
Once everyone has written their letters, it’s important to confer with other members of the intervention. Together you can ensure that what is included is non-judgmental and consists of facts rather than accusatory language. An intervention specialist can help ensure that the details of the letter are written in the most effective way.
Hold the Intervention
Without telling your loved one why, on the date that is chosen you need to ask them to the site of the intervention specialists. The different members of the team will then take turns reading their scripts. Everyone, except the person living with the addiction, should know what is going to happen and be said. You present the information gathered about treatment options and speak about the consequences that will happen if your loved one does not accept treatment.
If your family member or loved one does not accept treatment, ensure that you follow through with the consequences you set in place. An intervention is a positive step forward but there is, however, the possibility that your loved one will refuse help.
You and your loved ones need to emotionally prepare yourself for what will happen if they do refuse treatment. Your loved one may respond with anger and feel as if they are being betrayed. Although you cannot control your loved one’s behavior, you do have the ability to remove yourself from harmful and destructive situations.
Treatment for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
One key step in the planning process of an intervention is ensuring that you have researched and provided treatment options from a range of treatment centers. A treatment center typically provides a variety of treatment options that vary in scope and intensity. Treatment can include inpatient or outpatient options and will typically utilize a structured program that may include:
- life skills training
- family services
Addiction treatment differs for whatever substance is being abused but typically follows similar structures. The first step is a detox, this is where someone rids their body of the substance they are addicted to and any associated toxins. Medical detox is highly recommended as withdrawal symptoms may be experienced and with the help and support of a medical professional, these can easily be managed.
The next stage of an addiction treatment plan typically consists of psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. This is where individuals are able to talk about emotional difficulties and receive help to control symptoms to improve healing and well-being.
Treatment at Feinberg
Feinberg consulting is a case management, intervention, and coaching company that aims at helping individuals and their family members. Whether you need support in planning an intervention or just want to speak to an addiction professional, our team of exceptional experts is here to help you.
We host formal interventions that are family focused and approached in a non-shaming and loving way. It can be difficult to navigate your relationship with a loved one and their substance abuse. That is why we are here to support and coach families throughout the entire process.
If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental illness or addiction, then contact us today to see how our intervention specialists can help you. Our support doesn’t end here. Once individuals and their families have navigated through this first stage, we will support you with treatment recommendations to help you or your loved one on the lifelong recovery journey.