When a loved one is struggling with substance abuse and it becomes clear to those close to them that they need help, an intervention can be an extremely powerful tool. In many cases, people with substance use disorder enter into an alcohol treatment center after an intervention that has led to them accepting they have an illness.
However, organizing an intervention is complex and if there’s no strategy in place, the process won’t have any impact on the addict and in some cases, it can make matters worse.
In order to improve the chances of a successful intervention it is important to understand the following:
- What the objective of an intervention is.
- The degree of planning that goes into one.
- The need to follow-up after the intervention has taken place.
What Is an Intervention?
Although interventions may have the appearance of an informal gathering that’s focused on a person struggling with addiction, with participants offering help to their loved one. However, they actually take considerable planning to pull-off and often people turn to professional intervention specialists for help.
Preparing for an intervention includes:
- Research into drug and alcohol abuse treatment
- Communication with professionals in the field
- Contact with those close to the addicted person
- Making plans for admission to an alcohol treatment center
Interventions and Denial
One of the biggest threats to a successful intervention is denial in the loved one concerned. It is not unusual for people struggling with drug or alcohol dependence to feel so overwhelmed by their issues that they just can’t face them. Because an intervention brings these issues out into the open in a group setting, some individuals can feel ambushed or confronted, making them unnecessarily anxious. If asked questions about their drug or alcohol use, they may not have the answers as they may no longer understand why they continue to abuse substances.
Although interventions can be vital in getting people into an alcoholism treatment program earlier than they would voluntarily, they are still intensely emotional events that can have significant negative consequences if handled poorly. Breaking through denial is essential before a person will readily enter an alcohol treatment center and ultimately, an intervention should present factual information to the individual about the negative effects of their illness in a calm and clear manner.
Planning and Staging an Intervention
Knowing what’s involved in an intervention is the easy part. The actual planning and organizing are much more complex and although this can be overwhelming, there are some established steps and principles that can be used to improve the chances of success.
As soon as it is established that an intervention is needed, the first choice to make is whether to use the services of a professional interventionist. As mentioned above, having a neutral third party present can make a big difference to outcomes, particularly if they are intervention specialists. When a mediator is present at an intervention, it takes the pressure off someone else close to the addict from leading proceedings themselves.
Steps to Follow
- Form an intervention group.
Essentially a “team” of people close to the addicted individual should be formed so that they can work together in the planning and delivery of the intervention. These people should have a common interest in the welfare of the target of the intervention and usually consists of family, friends, coworkers and relationship partners.
- Collect information.
In order to help a loved one to overcome dependence and addiction, its important participants understand the nature of the illness. Researching the topic of addiction online is useful in getting the education needed to pull off a successful intervention. There are numerous resources about drug and alcohol addiction available for families and friends, most of which are substance specific.
- Formalize the goal.
Once the intervention group has been assembled and the subject of substance abuse researched, the next step is to establish what the ultimate goals and objectives should be. Intervention goals should be realistic, specific and importantly, timely. Without establishing goals after an intervention, it will not be possible to gauge its success.
- Plan the session.
It’s important to know exactly how an intervention will proceed and so the following things need to be planned:
- When and where it should be held
- Who should be present
- How the subject will be made to attend
- What will be said
- Plan the message.
Because emotions can run high during interventions, it is important to set out exactly what is going to be said beforehand. If people want to let the subject know how they’ve been hurt by their negative behavior, they have to do so calmly and without reproach. Intervention messages should be factual but with strong emotional undertones.
An example of this kind of assertive communication is: “It frustrates me that you continue to drink heavily even though it is damaging our relationship. I want you to consider going to an alcoholism treatment program”.
- Plan for the worst case.
It is always wise to have a contingency plan for if an intervention doesn’t go the way it’s intended to. Despite all the good intentions, some substance abusers will simply refuse to hear their message and flatly turn down entering an alcoholism treatment center. Substance abuse leads to extremely unpredictable behavior and so it’s important to know that an intervention may not be successful. Have a contingency plan in place that tells the subject exactly what will happen if they continue to use.