The MHS Journals

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Tips for Staging an Intervention

Jan 29, 2021

An intervention is a process in which the family and friends of someone struggling with an addiction work with a professional to help them see the consequences. It may involve members of the faith community, a doctor, a therapist, and other people who love the addicted person, in addition to the family. While most people think of interventions concerning recovery from alcoholism or drug abuse, either prescription or illegal. However, this form of group intervention can also help families dealing with a loved one with compulsive behaviors such as gambling, pornography, and eating disorders. Family interventions can be an essential first step to recovery from addiction.

How Do You Stage an Intervention?

The people involved in the intervention meet together to confront the person with the drug addiction and ask that person to go to treatment. Here are some tips on handling a drug abuse intervention’s emotionally challenging process.

  • Intervention requires advanced planning by the family and friends who will participate. Start by making a list of who should be involved in the intervention and include them in the planning. The ideal group size is four to six people who are close to the person struggling with addiction. Discuss how the person’s behavior affects them as part of the family. Ensure participants understand that they should not discuss the intervention with anyone, including the loved one, outside the group.
  • Always involve a professional familiar with addiction and recovery dynamics in families. An intervention is filled with emotions and needs a professional who can maintain objectivity. The addiction professional can also help with the intervention meeting structure and assist in making the substance abuse treatment arrangements.
  • Set a date, time, and location for the intervention. The professional should guide the group through a rehearsal of the intervention.
  • Be specific about the incidents, how the person’s addiction is a problem, and how it affects friends and family. Each person may want to make notes, so they don’t forget
  • anything. Make it clear that you still believe the person can change and succeed in substance abuse recovery.
  • Have all the person’s arrangements to enter addiction treatment immediately if possible. Make a list of everything necessary for the person to enter chemical intervention treatment and what the goals are for the program.
  • Identify specific tasks that each friend or family member will commit to doing if the loved one refuses to go to treatment. This “tough love” portion of the intervention may be the hardest to articulate and follow through. Team members should not threaten a consequence unless they are willing to follow through, a common problem in family interventions.
  • Without disclosing the reason, have the person living with addition show up at the intervention site’s proper time. Each team member states their position and shares how addiction affects them emotionally, financially, and even physically. Present the treatment option, and the addicted person must decide on the spot. Each team member will share the consequences if the person declines treatment. Follow the plan during the intervention; be aware that people struggling with addiction are sometimes master manipulators and may try to derail the conversation away from their drug use.
  • Follow through with the process from the beginning of treatment into recovery. Members of the family intervention team may have an ongoing role in the treatment and recovery process, including participation in friends and family therapy sessions. The treating facility will guide what form that support takes as they continue to work with your loved one.


What Can I Do to Make Sure an Intervention Is Successful?

Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee that an addiction intervention will succeed every time in getting someone into treatment. However, if success is getting your loved one to enter treatment, the odds are good. According to the Association of Intervention Specialists, 80 to 90% of interventions result in treatment for the addicted person. The 10 to 20% who don’t immediately go into treatment may need more time to realize what they need to do. Sadly, a small percentage will never agree to even try for recovery.

Getting your loved one into treatment is only one definition of a successful intervention. Even if the person refuses treatment and has to follow through on the consequences you agreed to, you may find that the chaos caused by the addiction is still somewhat reduced. The addicted person may change some behaviors, though stopping short of going into treatment. For example, if the consequence of not going to drug intervention treatment involves the person leaving home, that may bring a measure of calm, albeit a painful form of it.

As you plan for the intervention, here are a few things that might help the process go more smoothly.

  • Even if it takes a few weeks, allow time to plan appropriately under a qualified professional’s guidance.
  • When choosing the intervention’s date and time, avoid times when the addicted person is likely to be under the influence.
  • Learn all you can about the person’s drug or behavior of choice to understand the problem that the person is facing to the extent possible.
  • Designate one person to serve as the liaison with the rest so that communication is consistent and streamlined. A conference call may help in getting and keeping everyone on message.
  • Be prepared for the person struggling with addiction to put forth resistance, even while expressing a desire for recovery. He or she may have compelling arguments. Try to anticipate these and be prepared with reasoned and rational responses. Offer support to help with practical matters such as child or pet care as your loved one battles the addiction.
  • Though it may seem impossible, stay calm, and speak with love. Don’t get angry or aggressive. Avoid accusations, name-calling, and other forms of hostility.

Though it’s important to stay positive, be prepared for the possibility that your loved one may refuse help. The choice to move toward recovery is the addicted person’s call. They may react to the suggestion in anger and hurt insults at the team. Be ready to follow through on the consequences you presented, especially if children may be at risk.


Where Can I Learn More About Interventions?

Addiction interventions are difficult for the family and everyone involved. It’s hard to have that face-to-face conversation and give ultimatums to someone you love. The person struggling with alcohol abuse or substance abuse problems may be in denial that they have a substance abuse problem or addiction or need help. Sometimes an immediate intervention process is the only way for families to get through to a loved one.

The professional partner you choose for the addiction intervention services is critically important. At Mental Health Systems, we offer a full range of chemical and behavioral health services to help, and we are very knowledgeable in the field of co-occurring disorders. We develop an individualized plan for every client focused on measurable outcomes. Our evidence-based practices help clients achieve their treatment goals and stay out of the hospital whenever possible. We focus on intensive, long-term programmatic treatment. Contact us online or call (952) 835-2002 and let us help you through the painful but often necessary intervention process. Recovery from addiction can start with a single call.


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