Practical Steps for Planning an Intervention

Drug abuse and addiction affect millions of families in the United States. An untreated addiction can have many, adverse consequences for the individual, their family, and community. An addicted person can lose access to their children, get fired from their job, drop out of school, and struggle with financial and legal issues for years after becoming addicted. Substance abuse is also directly correlated to a variety of adverse mental and physical health consequences, and being addicted to drugs or alcohol also comes with the risk of overdose, disability, and death. 

The consequences of drug or alcohol abuse on the individual with a substance use disorder are obvious and well-known. But what about their family and loved ones? Drug and alcohol addiction has a way of affecting the individual’s friends and family in a multitude of ways. Relationships can be permanently damaged, and loved ones can struggle with knowing how to communicate with an addict, and put boundaries in place and enforce them. For loved ones of addicts, planning and executing an intervention can encourage the addicted person to get help. It can also help the family members put in place expectations for the relationship, whether or not the person agrees to enter rehab and therapy. 

What is an intervention?

People who are addicted are blinded by substance abuse. Their minds are focused on either obtaining the substance, using the substance, or recovering from getting high or drinking. People with an addiction often can’t or won’t acknowledge that they have a problem, and how it is affecting their family members. For those who do understand that they need help, they are often too afraid of painful withdrawal symptoms to attempt to quit on their own. Interventions can facilitate communication between loved ones and an addict on how to move forward, whether that includes rehab or not. For people with substance use disorder, it does not do much good to force them or blackmail them into a treatment program. Treatment is most successful if a person is ready to change and wants to change. 

An intervention is a meeting between the addicted individual and their loved ones, and the purpose of the intervention is to encourage the person to get help, and to facilitate communication, boundaries, and enforcing expectations of behavior between everyone. Interventions are often led by an experienced counselor or therapist to keep the conversation focused. Interventions present the addicted person with a structured environment and opportunity for how to get help before their drug, or behavioral addiction can progress any further. 

Interventions aren’t useful for just drug addiction issues. An intervention can be beneficial for people with behavioral addictions such as compulsive gambling, and they can also be helpful for people with mental health disorders too. 

What happens during an intervention?

Interventions, to be successful, must be planned. Often, the most successful interventions are led by either a doctor or a counselor. If an intervention cannot be headed by an experienced professional, family members can significantly benefit from the remote guidance of a professional. 

Licensed drug and alcohol counselors or intervention specialists often lead family members in staging an intervention. Family members, friends, and professionals whom the addicted person loves and trust can all be part of an intervention. The intervention meeting should not include people the loved one dislikes or distrusts or other people with substance abuse or untreated mental health issues. Interventions should also be free of anyone who is likely to sabotage the meeting. 

During an intervention, loved ones and family members meet with the addicted individual to talk about the addiction, the consequences of it, and to ask the person to accept treatment. An intervention should include the following:

  • Give the person specific, concrete examples of destructive behavior related to their addiction and how it is impacting loved ones and the relationship.
  • Interventions should outline specific steps the person can take regarding their treatment, including goals, and treatment guidelines. 
  • The intervention should also include what everyone will do if the person does not get treatment. For example, mom or dad won’t let them borrow the car, money, or live in the same home anymore. 

The goal of an intervention isn’t to shame the addicted loved one or punish them. Addiction can severely damage relationships, and it’s common for family members to be bitter, tired, and frustrated. Having an intervention specialist conduct the meeting can keep things from going astray and damaging relationships further. An intervention specialist can also coach members on what to say, and how to say it to prevent hurt feelings and limit the chances of the addicted loved one from walking out of the meeting without coming to a resolution. Anyone likely to “go off script” during an intervention and damage the goals of the meeting should consider writing a letter instead, and not attending the meeting. The intervention specialist or another family member can read the message during the intervention. 

What can loved ones do after an intervention?

Getting people whom the addicted individual loves, respects, and trusts are crucial to ensuring that they get into treatment, stay the course, and avoid a relapse. Addiction and drug abuse are chronic, lifelong conditions. But addiction is highly treatable when the correct steps are taken. These steps can include changing certain expectations, and routines in the family to avoid destructive behavior, and avoid triggering a loved one to abuse drugs. Offering to participate in family counseling, and going to meetings with the loved one in recovery can also go a long way towards ensuring a successful outcome for everyone. 

Family members and loved ones can also significantly benefit from individual therapy and recovery support. Experienced drug addiction and family counselors can give people an insight into effective communication techniques and tools during the recovery process. Addiction has a way of taking over the entire family’s focus, and loved ones can often feel that their emotional needs have been neglected. Going to therapy can give loved ones the support they need to get through this process and heal.

Are you concerned about a loved one’s drug abuse and addiction? The experienced counselors at Windward Way have helped hundreds of families stage interventions and get their loved ones into treatment. Please contact Windward Way today to speak to one of their intervention specialists and explore treatment options for your family.


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