Intervention 101: How to Stage an Intervention

By Staff Writer

Though once seen as confrontational methods of last resort to reach out to someone struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism, interventions are now seen for what they truly are: an expression of love and compassion for someone who needs help.

Here are a few tips for staging your own addiction intervention:

1. Find an addiction treatment center or drug rehab facility in advance and make arrangements for the addict to be admitted immediately after the meeting. This facility will be able to refer you to a professional interventionist who can ensure that the intervention runs smoothly and has the best chance of getting your loved one into treatment.

2. Once you’ve selected a facility and an interventionist, gather a group of close family and friends, usually 3-6 people, whose opinions and support matter most to the addict. If possible, schedule a rehearsal to iron out the order of events, seating arrangements and other details so that you can present a united front and ensure that the intervention runs smoothly.

3. Have every participant write a letter to the addict describing in a calm, straightforward manner the way the addiction is impacting both the addict and the people who love them. Each person should give specific examples of incidents that caused them pain as well as a list of behaviors they can no longer tolerate if the addict refuses to get treatment. For example, a loved one may refuse to loan money or provide a place to stay in an effort to help the addict fully experience the negative consequences of their drug or alcohol abuse.

4. Set a date and place for the intervention and invite the addict to attend. When the addict enters the room, briefly explain why everyone is gathered there.

5. Read the letters aloud to the addict, making sure to keep the environment positive and solution-oriented.

6. Educate yourself about the disease of addiction. While some addicts will listen calmly and attentively, most will respond to an intervention with a number of excuses for why they can’t commit to rehab (e.g., cost of treatment, work responsibilities or other commitments). The process will be smoother if you can anticipate and be prepared to respond to those excuses.

7. Request that the addict enter the addiction treatment center you’ve selected immediately. Be sure there is a bed waiting on the day of the intervention, help the addict gather his belongings and coordinate transportation to the facility.

In 85 percent of interventions, the alcoholic or addict agrees to enter treatment. If the addict refuses to accept drug treatment, stay strong and follow through with the commitments you made during the intervention. Consider the intervention a first step in a longer journey toward recovery and try approaching your loved one again in a few weeks.

An Interventionist Can Improve Your Chances of Success

Interventions seem deceptively simple. There are a number of stages when the process can break down, and a poorly run or unplanned intervention can make the situation worse, which means it’s important to get it right the first time. That’s where a professional interventionist – and a quality drug rehab facility – can make a world of difference.

People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol are struggling with a chronic, progressive disease and in many cases, have lost control of their lives. As a result, they may respond to an intervention with feelings of anger, embarrassment or betrayal. Likewise, family and friends have been hurt deeply on so many occasions that they often struggle to stay calm and supportive during an intervention.

A professional interventionist is an objective third party who will help organize and carry out the intervention quickly and efficiently, with the authority of an expert and the neutrality of someone who has no history with the family. These counselors will approach the addict and their loved ones with respect and understanding without falling prey to anger, blame or judgment or giving in to the addict’s excuses or false promises. Because of their specialized training in addiction and recovery, interventionists can educate family and friends about addiction and ensure that the environment remains constructive.

Interventions are emotional events and it is normal to feel anxious and worried. An interventionist can ease your concerns and build your confidence, ensuring that the process is productive and worthwhile.

An interventionist will also be able to help you select the best addiction treatment center for your loved one, coordinate admission on the day of the intervention and arrange for transportation to the facility. This kind of professional support and expertise can be invaluable at a time when tensions are high and the stakes are even higher.

The Benefits and Risks of Intervention

By Anne Watkins

An intervention is a planned action that families and friends may take when a loved one refuses to deal with a problem. The main purpose is to let the individual know that enough is enough, and that real steps need to be taken right now. Ideally, the intervention will be a turning point in that personís life and the first step on their way to recovery.

We usually talk about interventions in relation to self-destructive behaviors such as alcohol or drug abuse, gambling addiction, eating disorders or any other unhealthy habits. They may also be used, but are less common, in other situations. For example, a family may intervene in a non-violent domestic abuse situation; they may take action when a family member refuses to seek counseling for a psychological problem; or they may intervene with an elderly family member who won’t accept that he or she needs assisted living.

When done with love, compassion and an understanding for the person’s state of mind, interventions can be powerful and inspiring calls to action. However, there is always a risk that the intervention will seem too judgmental, too confrontational and even hostile, which can have damaging effects on the sufferer’s progress and relationships.

First Steps Toward Intervention

Most interventions start when a single family member or friend has had enough. In an addiction intervention, this may come after the addict has, for example, been in a car accident, seriously neglected an important responsibility, gone to the hospital for an overdose, or otherwise put herself or others in a dangerous situation.

At this time, the addict’s loved one may reach a point where he or she is sick of covering for this person. Those midnight rescue missions, hospital calls or jail bailouts have finally become too much. If these dangers aren’t enough to make the addict want to change, it’s time for action.

Important Considerations to Keep in Mind

Many people in desperate straits suffer on their own; they lack a support network of family and friends, and a shortage of inner strength to fight back against addiction can lead to a solitary and tragic downward spiral.

If you’re considering an intervention, remember to appreciate this fact — your loved one is lucky to have people who care. Commit yourself to the powerful idea of community and family, and emphasize this in your intervention. Rather than thinking negatively of your loved one, think of your actions as coming from a deep place of love and community spirit.

Also, remember that many addicts turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of dealing with harsh realities. The world’s hostility, cruelty and coldness can be a major motivating factor for addiction. If your intervention is nothing more than a continuation of these negative forces, you will risk sending your loved one to an even darker place. Instead, focus on the opposite attitudes. Approach the intervention with unconditional love, warmth, kindness and understanding.

Planning the Intervention

If possible, the intervention should involve only people who are important in the addict’s life, including figures from the individual’s family and non-family lives, and be sure to include both old and new friends. Have a preliminary meeting with the people who are closest to the addict, and come up with a few ideas for treatment options to propose.

There is a danger of having too many participants. This is a subject of controversy, but many treatment experts believe that surprising the addict with a room full of people can put him or her on the defensive and have negative effects. Keep the gathering relatively small and un-threatening, and decide for yourself how much to tell your loved one in advance. You may choose to tell her nothing, or you may just let her know that there is a gathering coming up, without specifying the details.

Think about whom the addict trusts and respects the most, and ask that person to handle the spokesperson duties. Make sure this person is non-threatening; for example, some families choose to go with a loving friend or a younger sibling as the spokesperson.

Alternatively, many families seek professional help to lead their interventions. If you know a good addiction therapist or professional interventionist or are willing to seek one out, this can be a good way to give spokesperson duties to someone who is knowledgeable and experienced and who can speak clearly and with authority on these issues.

Finally, choose a time and place where the person will feel comfortable, and make sure itís during a time of day when he or she is least likely to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Intervention Day and Beyond

During the intervention, let the addict know how much she means to everyone in the room. Allow everyone to read a letter written in advance, and detail ways in which her behaviors have affected everyone. Be honest and clear about what steps need to be taken and about the brighter future you all envision.

All of this should be done in a loving, respectful and supportive tone, and you should listen respectfully to everything the addict has to say. If she gets defensive, this is a sign to re-emphasize the non-threatening nature of your intervention. On the other hand, if she starts asking questions like, “What do you want me to do?” or “What now?” take this as a sign that she is ready to move forward with her treatment.

Once the intervention is over, leave the painful past behind and focus on the future. Whatever addiction treatment method you and the addict settle upon, make sure that all of the participants stay in touch and that the community spirit is kept alive. There’s always a danger that the strong feelings surrounding an intervention will fade. Make sure everyone stays involved in the recovery process, and continue to emphasize to the addict how much she is loved and supported. This way, even if relapses occur, the support network will still be there.