Seeing a loved one go through addiction is not easy, but there are ways to help. Family members and loved ones may express their concerns about their loved one’s struggle with substance use, but the behavior persists.
If this is the case, then it may be time for an intervention. Individuals suffering from addiction are at greater likelihood for a number of medical complications.
With this being said, it is better to act sooner than later. Interventions can help addicted individuals see their addiction through the eyes of those who are important to them, and this can be the prompt they need to seek treatment.
What Is An Intervention?
An intervention is a gathering of a group of friends and loved ones who voice their concerns to someone who is struggling with addiction.
Some groups may include an intervention specialist, but this is not a rule. An intervention provides an opportunity for supporters to explain their feelings, thoughts, and concerns regarding their loved one’s substance abuse.
The purpose of an intervention is to contextualize the effects of the subject’s behavior and hopefully make them consider treatment. Supporters stage interventions because they care about their loved one, and they don’t want to see them fall prey to the risks of their own behavior.
Interventions are done for many different types of addictions and behaviors.
They can be staged for individuals struggling with:
- untreated mental illness
- sex addiction
What Happens During A Drug And Alcohol Intervention?
First, the group who is staging the intervention plans the event. They decide when it will take place, where it will be, what everyone will say, and the end goal. Usually, the subject of an intervention is unaware that it’s been planned until the intervention starts.
This may sound sneaky or dishonest, but the purpose behind it is to maximize the effect of the group’s effort. The inability of the subject to plan ahead or make the choice to avoid the intervention lends itself to a more open, honest, and spontaneous discussion.
The group decides to gather in a room and tell their struggling loved one to arrive at a certain time.
When the individual arrives, each member of the group shares the ways in which that person’s addiction has affected them, and they also voice their concerns for the individual’s wellbeing.
Most of the time, loved ones express this in the form of a pre-written letter read aloud. It doesn’t necessarily have to happen that way, but that method is effective in ensuring that nothing is left out and that no one says something insensitive or counterproductive in the heat of the moment.
It is important to note that this isn’t meant to shame, humiliate, or punish the individual with the addiction. Everyone speaks with the intention to make the subject realize that he or she needs treatment.
How Do Interventions Work?
When the individual is confronted with a room full of people who are all telling them how much they care about them and how much their behavior has affected them, the person struggling with addiction is more likely to see the bigger picture.
On a normal day, it’s hard to contextualize the consequences of all of the individual’s actions. Maybe he’ll hear some words of concern from someone every now and then, but it’s pretty easy to brush off or forget.
In comparison, a room full of loved ones has a greater effect. It’s easy to say that one person is a bit off-base. It’s hard to say that a whole group of people are overreacting.
The individual recognizes the amount of time and effort involved in staging the intervention, further driving home the gravity of the situation. The weight of it all is supposed to take the individual out of denial.
Once she realizes that she has a problem and that people around her are suffering for it, she is more likely to seek the professional help she needs.
Interventions For Drug Addictions Vs. Interventions For Alcohol Addictions
Interventions for different substances don’t vary too much. Interventions for drug addiction are generally the same as interventions for alcohol addiction.
The main difference is that the professional support will be different and the treatment will be geared towards the individual’s problem substance. For individuals struggling with alcohol, an AA intervention may be beneficial.
Instead of loved ones, other people who have struggled with alcohol will show up and speak to the person about their experience.
This is most beneficial when the struggling individual is going through detox, as it helps them see a light at the end of the tunnel while they’re going through the physically unpleasant alcohol withdrawal process.
Who Will Need An Intervention?
If an individual’s normal, everyday functioning is hampered by their use of substances, then they are struggling with addiction, and they need help.
People who have alienated friends and family, faced legal trouble, had negative career outcomes, and experienced physical or psychological damage due to substance use should be guided towards treatment.
If other attempts to steer this person towards treatment have failed, then an intervention should be considered.
An intervention should not be the first choice when worried about someone’s substance use. Concerned loved ones should personally express their concerns to the individual before even thinking about an intervention.
An individual having a couple of rough hangovers because he drank the night before is not grounds for an intervention. An individual being unable to hold down a job because he is not sober at work is grounds to recommend treatment.
If the behavior persists after loved ones personally express their concern, then an intervention may be warranted. The question of “who will need an intervention” is entirely context-specific.
Loved ones should use their best judgment and explore less radical options first. It’s worth speaking to a substance abuse professional to explore some possible options.
How To Stage An Intervention: Step-By-Step Guide
If a person wants to organize an intervention for their loved one, they must first determine who should be there. Attending supporters should all be close and familiar with the person struggling with addiction.
Step 1: Who To Include In An Intervention
Individuals included in an intervention should all have been affected by the individual’s addiction-related behaviors in some way or another. Anyone who may elicit a negative response or who is likely to antagonize the individual should not be included.
While there’s no rule against including kids, one should err on the side of caution. It may be too much for the kids to handle, and the loved one may be put off by the presence of children.
Step 2: Determining Who Speaks First At An Intervention
Everyone present for the intervention should be on the same page. It’s necessary to determine speaking order so that things run smoothly and no one is talking over another supporter.
Step 3: Writing A Letter To A Loved One For An Intervention
It helps if everyone shares the general outline of what they’re going to say before the intervention. This facilitates a discussion on the effectiveness of each individual’s points, and it outlines the key details so the group can ensure that nothing important is left unsaid.
Step 4: Consulting An Intervention Specialist
An addiction treatment professional should be consulted before the intervention. They will have valuable insight that can help the group ensure that the intervention is less likely to backfire.
They will help the group get the most out of the process. They don’t necessarily have to be there, but their presence does help.
Step 5: Determining Consequences And Conditions Of An Intervention
Supporters should determine their consequences and conditions beforehand. It’s important that the struggling individual knows what the consequences of not seeking treatment will be.
These consequences and conditions should not be simply meant to punish the individual. They should be pragmatic and borne of necessity.
Interventions are best led by someone who knows how to handle conflict and keep people calm and relaxed. Mediation, empathy, and high social aptitude are all necessary when directing an intervention.
Substance abuse and mental health professionals are well equipped to lead an intervention. In the absence of a professional, the person leading the intervention should be socially capable, relaxed, and trusted by the individual suffering from addiction.
Ideally, the individual should be allowed to speak as well. A person will not feel understood if they have no chance to be a part of the discussion.
Are Drug And Alcohol Interventions Effective?
Interventions are effective at pushing individuals towards treatment, but the success of treatment is dependent on the individual and their circumstances.
Interventions can have the opposite effect if done improperly. Harshly shaming and punishing an individual struggling with addiction will only serve to alienate them and delay their treatment.
Without a medical professional present, intervention efforts are more likely to have negative effects. Laypeople are less equipped to handle the intricate details and sensitive subject matter surrounding an intervention.
It doesn’t take much to upset or anger an addicted individual. It’s especially intimidating for a person who is being faced with a roomful of concerned loved ones.
Seeking Help For A Drug And Alcohol Intervention
Interventions may be tough. They may take effort. They may not be pleasant, but they can be worth it. An intervention may be the experience that a loved one needs to seek treatment for their difficult battle with addiction.
For those who are not confident that they will execute the intervention well, intervention specialists can help ease the process and increase the likelihood that the intervention achieves its purpose.
At the end of the day, the main goal is to improve the life and wellbeing of the individual struggling with addiction. Addiction can be a dark and lonely experience; anyone suffering from it should know that their loved ones want to help.
To learn more about drug and alcohol interventions, or to explore addiction treatment options for a loved one, contact a treatment specialist today.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- Harvard Medical School – When a Loved One Has an Addiction
- National Institute of Drug Abuse – Health Consequences of Drug Misuse