Conducting an Intervention for a Loved One Who Has Been Struggling with Addiction or Alcoholism

By Hugh C. McBride
You begged, pleaded, argued and cajoled.

You’ve bribed, threatened, cried and yelled.

You’ve nagged until you had no voice left, then tried “the silent treatment.”

But nothing has worked. Your loved one is still abusing alcohol or another drug.

Down to what feels like your last chance to salvage your relationship with your loved one – and save a life in the process – you decide it’s time for an intervention. You’ve read about interventions online, and you’ve seen them portrayed on TV. This feels like the right step.

But you have one important question before you start: How, exactly, does a person organize and conduct an intervention?

Planning an Intervention

At its simplest, an intervention is a gathering of concerned individuals for the purpose of getting a friend or family member to enter treatment (usually treatment for drug addiction).

That said, an intervention is NOT a simple experience.

Planning and executing an effective intervention involves a number of significant and sensitive steps. For example, the following are among the actions and decisions that need to occur before the intervention can take place:

•  Choosing participants – The group needs to be the right size, composed of the right people, and balanced to provide both varied viewpoints and a “united front.”
 Finding a location – The intervention should be conducted in an atmosphere that is conducive to a serious, open and honest discussion.
•  Making treatment arrangements – Since the goal of the intervention is to get the addicted individual into treatment, you need to have made all arrangements for treatment (including starting the enrollment process and arranging for transportation) prior to the event.
•  Preparing for contingencies – The subject of the intervention is likely to be defensive, upset and even angry about the process, so you need to ensure that you have taken all necessary steps to prepare for a wide range of possible contingencies.
•  Conducting multiple meetings – An intervention should never be conducted without proper preparation and coordination among participants. For that reason, several pre-intervention meetings will be necessary in order to ensure that the intervention itself progresses in the most productive possible manner.

If this sounds like a challenging set of steps, that’s because it is. But the good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. Bringing an experienced and effective professional interventionist into the process can significantly simplify the planning process, while increasing the likelihood that the intervention itself is a success.

Staging an Intervention

Once you have prepared for the intervention (hopefully under the direction of a board registered interventionist), it’s time to execute your plan. In general, interventions include the following three components:

1. Describing the impact of the addiction. During this phase, all participants will read letters describing how much they love and value the addicted individual, but how they have been negatively impacted by the addiction. These letters will also include ultimatums – statements of how the loved ones will react if the addicted individual refuses to get help.

2. Requesting the addicted individual to commit to treatment. This is the ultimate goal of the intervention. Having heard how the addiction has damaged those who love him/her, the addicted individual will be called upon to get the help he/she needs to overcome the addiction.

3. Arranging and executing follow-up meetings. Entering treatment is just the beginning of the recovery process. Recognizing this, it is important for the intervention participants to reconnect after the intervention to assess progress, identify obstacles and process the aftereffects of this highly emotional experience.

As with the planning phase, the execution and follow-up of an intervention are complex experiences that, if not conducted properly, can have significant negative repercussions.

Again, the involvement of a board registered interventionist will minimize the likelihood of problematic outcomes, and increase the odds that the intervention will be a productive experience for all participants.

Getting Help for an Intervention

Interventions can be life-changing (and in some cases, life-saving) experiences. But if an intervention is conducted improperly, the damage can be devastating.

From planning, through the intervention itself, and into the follow-on meetings, the presence of a board registered interventionist can greatly increase the likelihood that all participants will benefit from the experience.

Because board registered interventionists are both trained and experienced, they are well versed in the proper execution of an intervention – and are also prepared for the obstacles and contingencies that will inevitably occur. The presence of a board registered interventionist also means that the participants are free to focus on what is most important to them – getting help for their loved one – while the professional takes responsibility for overseeing the planning and facilitating the actual intervention.

For more information about board registered interventionists, contact the Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS) or the Association of Intervention Specialist Certification Board (AISCB).