What’s an Intervention?

How to plan an intervention guideAn intervention is a group discussion between an addict, their friends, and their family. Interventions are not confrontational, but rather a show of love and support. Most of the time, interventions follow a specific structure that is led by a specialist. Formal interventions only become necessary when individuals with substance use disorders refuse to acknowledge their problem (addiction) and their urgent need for help.

When to Intervene for a Loved One

Denial is a mindset that breeds inaction. It may be challenging for you to approach a loved one who you suspect is struggling with addiction when denial is plaguing you both. Here are some common signs of substance addiction to look for when determining if experimentation has become addiction.

You know you mean well by trying to address the issue, but that doesn’t mean your concerns will be well-received. That’s when it’s time to consider staging an intervention.

How to Stage an Intervention

Stage One: Planning the Intervention

Contact an Intervention Specialist to Help You

If you’re planning an intervention, the first thing you should do is enlist the help of an intervention specialist. Intervention specialists, or interventionists, are experienced in addressing the needs of both the addicted individual and their loved ones during an intervention. Their job typically consists of:

  • developing strategies with the group in preparation for the meeting
  • keeping everyone comfortable and calm during the session
  • helping everyone encourage the addict to enter treatment
  • escorting the addict to a treatment facility once the intervention has ended

Having a specialist present when the intervention takes place will help your addicted loved one (and everyone else) break the cycle of denial. If a formal intervention is going to be done there should always be an interventionist present. Interventions are most successful when a specialist is there to supervise.

Gather Others to Join Your Intervention Group

Once you’ve contacted an intervention specialist for help, you’ll both be able to put together the intervention group. Some people who might help convince your loved one to start rehab might include:

  • friends
  • parents
  • brothers and sisters
  • spouses or partners
  • close family members
  • co-workers

The specialist you work with should always be part of the intervention strategy, including the intervention guest list. The specialist should approve the people you plan to invite. This ensures the comfort and safety of everyone involved. Remember, the intervention and all its people should be focused on your addicted loved one. If anyone in your social circle is self-centered, hostile, or unsupportive, they should not be part of it.

Learn What You Can About Your Loved One’s Addiction

Every addiction is different, so learning more about your loved one’s problem before the intervention will give you and the intervention party a better sense of how to navigate the conversation. The intervention specialist can help you prepare. The more you educate yourself about addiction and its effects, the higher your chances of convincing your loved one to get help.

Write and Rehearse Intervention Letters with the Group

No intervention is complete without letters from family and friends. Typically, the people at the intervention will take turns reading their letters to the struggling addict during the meeting. These letters allow each member of the intervention group to express their concerns in a thoughtful, organized way. The purpose of writing letters and reading them at the intervention is to help elicit a “moment of clarity” for the addict.

How to Write an Intervention Letter

There isn’t a right or wrong way to craft an intervention letter. Expressing your feelings in your letter, whether they’re positive or negative, is perfectly acceptable as long it’s done in a calm, non-confrontational way.

Most successful intervention letters can be broken down into four sections and steps:

  1. Tips on writing an intervention letterOpen Your Letter with Compassion and Love
    You should always start your letter off on a positive note. This will keep you, your addicted loved one, and the intervention party at ease. Make it clear that your relationship with your loved one is important to you, and that you’ll be supportive no matter what. Doing this will lower your addicted loved one’s defenses, leaving him/her more open to what you and the group have to say.
  2. Continue Your Letter with How Their Addiction has Hurt You
    Your loved one should know how his/her substance abuse has affected you and others. After all, addiction is a disease that hurts more than just the addict. Be careful not to patronize— the last thing you want is to make your loved one feel attacked. Instead, use specific examples of how the addiction has caused harm to others. Doing this can help your loved one overcome denial and become more willing to address the addiction.
  3. Show That You Understand Your Loved One’s Addiction and Want to Help
    At this point in your letter, you should be able to apply what you’ve learned about addiction in your assertion that your loved one needs treatment. The intervention specialist and the group will back you up. If you feel comfortable, you can share facts about your loved one’s substance of choice, the effects it has on various areas of health, and the long-term consequences of continued use. It’s not a mandatory part of the letter, but sharing this information might help your loved one make a more informed decision about getting treatment.
  4. End Your Letter by Asking Your Loved One to Consider Treatment
    You should always conclude an intervention letter with encouragement. In your closing statement, you can present your addicted loved one with the different treatment options you’ve researched with the intervention specialist. Ultimately, the decision to enter treatment should be up to your loved one, but a bit of coaxing from the group won’t do any harm.

Stage Two: The Intervention Itself

Choose a Meeting Place and Time for the Intervention in Advance

Intervention Tips - choose a comfortable spaceThe setting for the intervention is of vital importance— it can make or break your success in convincing an addicted loved one to get help. The general unspoken rule of choosing the intervention space is pretty simple: it has to be familiar, neutral, and calm. If the intervention comes across as threatening, the addicted person won’t be comfortable. The meeting time is also essential; it should always be during a day and time of the week that the addicted loved one is sure to be sober. As for the meeting’s duration, most interventions last between 30 to 90 minutes. They can be shorter or longer, depending on the group size and the addicted loved one.

Don’t Expect Smooth Sailing

Chances are, the intervention won’t be perfect. It’s impossible to predict how things will play out when your loved one is finally confronted. There’s always the chance that your addicted loved one will be unwilling to cooperate and/or refuse treatment. Still, having the intervention specialist there will help keep the peace. After all, these specialists are trained to keep interventions as calm and productive as possible. However, if your loved one’s reaction to the intervention puts anyone in danger, don’t hesitate to call the police. Addiction is powerful— it can bring out anger and violence, even from a good person.

After the Intervention

The ultimate goal of the intervention is to get your loved one into rehab for addiction treatment. At the end of the intervention, your loved one must make a decision: seek professional help or refuse treatment. If your loved one decides to enter treatment, the intervention specialist will typically help pick the best, most appropriate treatment program. If your loved one refuses addiction treatment, the group must be ready to change his/her mind. Refusing to enable addictive behavior and denying any financial support may seem harsh, but both are effective ways of getting the point across that addiction is not welcome in your life. This may be the best way for an addict to agree to treatment.

Tips from The Treatment Center

Calling for help at intervention

A poorly planned intervention will not only be unhelpful, but it may make things worse for everyone involved. To ensure a successful intervention, enlisting the help of a specialist is essential. At The Treatment Center, we highly recommend getting an intervention specialist involved to convince your loved one that it’s time for treatment. If for some reason you are not able to have a specialist present for the intervention when it takes place, another equally valid option is to consult a counselor for planning and strategizing. If you have any questions or would like more information about how to stage an intervention for a loved one, please call The Treatment Center at (866) 295-6003 or contact us using a form here. All calls and form submissions are confidential.