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An intervention can take many forms, but all feature a planned confrontation between a person in active addiction and the people who love and support them. Ideally, the intervention will happen with a trained intervention specialist. The goal of doing this is to intervene in a person’s life when they are addicted to substances and headed down a dangerous path. Often, a person in active addiction is afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. Other times, they may not even be aware of how their behavior is harming themselves and others.

Usually, people will consider doing an intervention when it seems that a loved one’s life is headed down a dangerous path because they do not have control over their addiction. When an intervention is successful, the concerned party will be able to clearly and empathetically state their feelings, and the person who is struggling will be able to participate constructively and be receptive to others’ concern and ideas about moving toward change. However, many people end up feeling criticized, ganged up on or attacked during an intervention, so it is important to seek help or advice from someone who is professionally trained in them.

Interventions are a hard process to participate in. Out of a place of love and support, loved ones try to spark the motivation for an individual who struggles with a substance use disorder. It can be an extremely vulnerable situation for every person involved; it takes a significant amount of courage to intervene with someone struggling with addiction. The most important step in the process of an intervention is acting with deliberate care.

When Should Others Intervene?

There is no right or wrong answer about when to hold an intervention for a loved one, so it can be hard to decide how and when to do so. However, there are some signs that it might be time. People can consider asking a professional about holding an intervention if their loved one is:

Exhibiting Sneaky Behavior

If a person begins concealing their activities/behaviors (where they are going, who they are spending time with, what they are spending money on, etc), this can be a sign that their behavior might be out of control. If this behavior has been going on consistently for some time (i.e. not just a few independent occasions), it can indicate an addiction.

Borrowing Money

Addicts and alcoholics often get into trouble with money. If an addiction is out of control, it becomes more important than anything else to acquire that substance at all costs. This can lead to extreme financial issues and also to the need to borrow money. If a person has been having excessive money troubles or is constantly asking for money, it might be time to intervene.

Neglect of Appearance

Addiction often leaves a person feeling so bad and unlike themselves that they even stop looking like themselves. If loved ones see a person has started to ignore their personal hygiene or neglect their appearance completely, this is another sign that they might be stuck in a harmful addiction.

Losing Interest in Other Things

When addiction takes over a person’s life, they can begin to neglect important aspects of their lives. It is hard to enjoy things one used to while they are addicted because seeking and using the substance becomes more important than everything else. If a loved one has lost interest in hobbies, friends, relationships, work or other interests, it might be time to talk to them about their substance use.

Destructive Behaviors

Addiction and withdrawal can cause people to act very unlike themselves and to exhibit aggressive, destructive and sometimes even abusive behaviors. This can be frightening to loved ones and is often an indicator that it is time to intervene as quickly as possible.

Seeking Professional Help

It would be prudent for most interventions to seek the help of a licensed counselor. They can act as a useful guide through the process and particularly through aspects of an intervention that many people may not initially consider. Intervention specialists have training in leading these group meetings; Thus, they can be more successful than interventions that have only loved ones orchestrating the conversation. Additionally, it can sometimes feel comforting to the person being addressed to have a neutral party involved to guide communication and offer the person a chance to contribute to the conversation.

Some ways that a professional interventionist can help include:

  • Structured organization of the event – Professional guidance can help you and your loved ones focus on explaining your side while the interventionist focuses on facilitating the conversation.
  • Clinically analyze and process the circumstances that have led to the intervention – Because interventions can be emotionally driven, it can be helpful to have an interventionist move the conversation along to establish support and solutions. They can also explore factors you and your loved ones may be unaware of.
  • A potential location to engage in the intervention – If all parties participating are willing, a counselor’s office or the treatment center are routinely safe places to hold an intervention.

How to Plan a Drug & Alcohol Interventions

Interventions are possible without a third party. However, whether you do call upon the help of a professional interventionist or not, having a plan going in as a loving family member, friend, or partner is crucial to the success of the event. Following a step-by-step guide can help all members involved and ultimately is the best way to engage.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)’s recommended steps include:

  1. Making a plan. You or someone close to the affected individual should form a group of people to help you plan it. Some options include a qualified professional counselor, an addiction professional, a psychologist, a mental health counselor, a social worker or an interventionist. Planning is important in order to ensure the least amount of aggravation or emotional outbursts for both sides. The intervention specialist can work with everyone who wants to be present for the intervention, including parents, siblings, spouses, partners, and close friends.
  2. Gathering pertinent information. The group members find out how much your loved one’s problem has progressed and look into the condition and treatment programs. The group may initiate arrangements to enroll your loved one in a specific treatment program.
  3. Deciding who will join the intervention. Those involved with planning should form a team that will personally participate in the intervention—otherwise known as those who are intervening. Members set a date and location and work together to present a consistent message and a deliberate plan. More often than not, participants of the team help keep the conversation focused on the facts of the problem and potential solutions rather than intense emotional responses. Make sure that everyone involved is educated on addiction and recovery. By learning as much as possible about the topics, they can address the individual with compassion and knowledge. It is key to ensure your loved one is unaware of the intervention going in to prevent them from preparing what to say in an effort to minimize the issue.
  4. Deciding specific boundaries. If your loved one does not want to engage in treatment, each person participating needs to decide what action he or she will take to not further enable the addiction—like asking the affected individual to move out or deciding not to support them financially.
  5. Preparing notes for statements. Each participant describes incidents where the substance use disorder caused problems—events like emotional or financial issues. Discuss the toll of your loved one’s behavior while still expressing love and empowering them to know they can be supported through the change. Realize that it is very hard for a person struggling to see how their actions are affecting others, but when loved ones explain with compassion how and why they have been hurt by the person, it can help them break through denial.
  6. Hosting (or organizing) the actual event. Without revealing the reason for a gathering, your loved one with an addiction is asked to the intervention site. Members of the team then take turns expressing their perspectives. Your loved one is presented with a treatment option (or the outlet to receive treatment) and asked to accept that option on the spot. Each team member will say what specific changes he or she will make if your loved one does not accept the plan. Do not threaten a consequence unless you and the participants involved are prepared to act upon it. Limit the amount of time for the intervention – it shouldn’t drag on all day. Usually 30 to 90 minutes is an appropriate amount of time for everyone to be able to speak about their feelings and concerns.
  7. Following up. Involving a spouse, family members, or others is critical to help someone with an addiction stay in treatment and avoid relapsing. One should have measures in place to make sure the person is following through on any commitments they make during the intervention. By figuring out concrete next steps during the meeting, an individual can be held accountable for their actions.

What to Avoid at an Intervention

Even with adequate preparation, there are risks that everyone should be aware of avoiding during an intervention due to how they can impact the effectiveness of the intervention. These include:

Labels

Referring to your loved one as an alcoholic, junkie, addict, or other detrimental labels can be discouraging and demeaning. These can be taken as derogatory and insulting and might make a person more resistant to getting help. Instead, opt for more neutral terms and do not reduce a person to a label; They are a person of value who is struggling with a disease.

Overcrowding

Having too many people at the intervention can also be a big mistake. It can make the situation too overwhelming for the person being confronted. Try to limit the group to only a few close friends and family.

Getting Too Emotional

An intervention will be a very emotional process, but it is not helpful to have everyone’s personal feelings take up too space in the intervention. Remember that the event is happening in order to show the person that their friends and family care about them and are concerned. Find a way to manage or limit personal feelings that may come off as accusatory or hard for the person to hear.

Confronting Someone Who Is Intoxicated

Having an intervention with someone who is intoxicated is not likely to have a good outcome. They could end up becoming defensive, aggressive, or might not even remember the event. Be prepared and wait for a time when the person will likely be sober so that you can address them while they are clear-headed.

If you or a loved one have any questions regarding interventions, please reach out to Cardinal Recovery to speak with an addiction professional. We can help you figure out how to best speak with the loved one in your life who is struggling with addiction and get them the help they need.