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How to Do an Intervention for a Friend or Loved One

Interventions do not involve the dramatic events portrayed in the media, and when properly executed, can help begin the path to seeking drug treatment.

If you have a family member struggling with addiction, you may reach the point where you need to get involved and help that person get treatment for their disease. Alcohol and drug addictions have the potential to cause severely damaging consequences to users.

Often the individual’s behavior directly harms those close to him or her as well. This is often when family members will attempt to rally together and figure out how to do an intervention. It’s not a decision that should be taken lightly, but under the right circumstances it can be the best way to create a turning point for your loved one.

In recent years, reality TV has presented an overdramatized view of interventions. In fact, over its nearly 200 episode run, AMC’s Intervention ended with a 64% success rate. This is far worse than the 90% rate claimed by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, when a professional is involved in the planning and execution process.

It is important to bear in mind that even if the person is not immediately receptive to treatment, the intervention itself can still be jarring enough to make them eventually come to terms with the seriousness of their addiction.

How to Do an Intervention: 7 Steps

  1. Contact a professional.

    When assembling family members and deciding where, when and how to do an intervention, it is important to first seek out a drug treatment professional for guidance. A therapist or clinician who has experience with addiction can help make sure the necessary steps are properly and carefully laid out, making the intervention process as smooth as possible.  

    It is especially important to involve a professional if the person has a history of mental illness, has suicidal or violent tendencies, or may be abusing several mood-altering substances concurrently.

  2. Prepare and present a drug treatment plan.

    This step is crucial. Do research about rehabilitation or treatment centers in your area. Some of these may specialize in alcohol or various drug addictions. You should prepare yourself with the best options for your loved one. Coming together to tell the person that they have a problem will not be enough to get him or her to quit their addiction.

    Whether it is a list of support groups to join, a survey of outpatient programs that are available, or an inpatient rehab program nearby, have your resources ready before the day of the intervention. It is also a good idea to have a concrete plan of how to get that person into treatment; who is going to drive, how will they pay for it, etc. In this case, the more details planned out ahead of time, the better prepared you are for how your loved one responds to this serious event.

  3. Choose a team.

    A small group is preferable, maybe five or six people who are close to our patient. Family members, intimate friends or coworkers, anyone who the consequences of this person’s addiction have affected negatively. It is important you avoid anyone who the subject does not like or may be upset to be confronted by. The idea is to facilitate a conversation focused around support and love.

    Similarly, you should leave out anyone who may become too emotional or has a history of defending the subject or enabling their addiction. Instead, have them write a letter that another intervener can read aloud. Before the meeting, everyone involved should be brought up to speed on how you have organized the intervention and on what they can expect from our patient in question.

  4. Choose a location.

    It is best to hold an intervention somewhere the person will feel comfortable, such as the home of a family member. Be sure to schedule it on a day that everyone will be able to attend. It is a great idea to hold a trial run. Everyone can go over what they are going to say. This will better prepare you all for the real thing when it comes time. In order to get the guest-of-honor to attend, it may be necessary to draw them in under the guise of a normal or innocuous get-together. Depending on the person and the nature of their addiction, choose your approach carefully. However, always be honest throughout the whole process.

  5. Get the person to admit they have a problem.

    Just getting someone to state aloud that they are an addict and have a problem that requires outside help can be a huge step. If the person refuses to admit this, you can have everyone in attendance take turns listing evidence of a problem. Tell stories of instances when the person’s addiction had negative impacts on your life. It is a cliche that nevertheless remains true: admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.

  6. Have consequences and stick to them.

    It is important that family members stick to the plan laid out by the clinician you have contacted for assistance. If the person refuses treatment, there should be consequences to convince them of the severity of their predicament. This could be as simple as cutting off financial support. This could also be as serious as ending a relationship that the subject’s substance abuse has been negatively affecting. Anyone at the intervention who has enabled the person’s addiction in any way should take this opportunity to rectify that. Laying down consequences for someone you love can be challenging. An addiction specialist may be especially helpful in this arena.

  7. End things on a positive note and reinforce your treatment plan.

    Emphasize that the intervention was organized out of love and compassion for the person in question and that everyone involved wants to help him or her to get treatment for a problem that is negatively impacting everyday life. Reinforce the love and support that you have for this person, now and throughout the entire recovery process. Keep bringing everything back to the treatment plan and the merits of the professional help you have organized. Make sure that the person understands the severity of the problem. Also, make sure the see the potential benefits of receiving professional drug treatment. RCA is available to aid in the addiction treatment process. Call 1-800-RECOVERY to schedule your intervention.

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