If you have a loved one struggling with drug abuse or alcohol abuse, it may be time to consider an intervention. An intervention gives family members and friends the opportunity to confront a person struggling with drug or alcohol addiction and ask them to seek treatment. You can’t control the outcome of the intervention, but you can increase your chances of success by ensuring you plan ahead. You may also want to work with a team of intervention specialists or other mental health professionals to avoid common mistakes.
Reasons to Hold a Substance Abuse Intervention
Many people wonder why drug and alcohol interventions are so important. After all, if your loved one wanted help, wouldn’t they ask for it? Not necessarily. People deep in the throes of addiction may not recognize how their substance abuse is damaging their lives. Even if they do realize it, they may feel too ashamed to ask for help or feel uncomfortable asking others for assistance.
One of the main reasons to have an intervention is to give your loved one an opportunity to accept treatment. Even if they’re not willing to seek help on their own, they may agree to go to treatment if you offer it to them during an intervention session. A successful intervention can also help you better understand why your loved one engages in substance abuse. Whether you’re holding a drug intervention or an alcohol intervention, it’s possible your loved one will disclose information about past trauma, family problems or other circumstances that have been contributing to their use of drugs or alcohol.
Finally, a formal intervention gives you an opportunity to stop enabling your loved one and explain what the consequences will be if they refuse to accept help. You may think you’ve been helping your loved one by offering them money or providing food and shelter, but you’re really just shielding them from the consequences of their actions. A formal intervention creates an opportunity to set boundaries and let your loved one know you won’t continue to enable their behavior.
When Is an Alcohol or Drug Abuse Intervention Necessary?
If you’re concerned about alcoholism and drug dependence in a loved one, watch for the following when trying to determine if a family intervention is necessary.
An addiction to alcohol or illicit substances can make it difficult for someone to perform their normal daily activities, including things like bathing, brushing their teeth, styling their hair and doing laundry. As a result, poor hygiene may be one of the first signs of a severe addiction. If your loved one has strong body odor or unkempt hair and nails, it may be time to contact a professional interventionist. You should also be concerned if your loved one wears the same clothes several days in a row.
Changes in Behavior
Alcohol and drugs affect the nerve cells in the brain, causing both physical and psychological effects. Many of the psychological effects involve changes in behavior caused by reduced inhibition, such as making impulsive decisions or engaging in illegal conduct. Alcohol and drug use can also cause mood changes, interfering with an addict’s personal and professional relationships. Additionally, someone who has a severe drug or alcohol addiction may find it difficult to show up to work or school on time, complete assigned projects or manage their finances, even if they’ve never had trouble managing these responsibilities before.
An active addiction can result in increased conflict, and it can also make it difficult to resolve conflict in a productive way. Therefore, you may notice your loved one having more frequent arguments with a spouse, parent or sibling. These arguments may be more intense than usual, or your loved one may say hurtful things that they wouldn’t say if they weren’t under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Types of Interventions
The right intervention approach depends on several factors, including your loved one’s addiction history and whether they have any co-occurring mental illnesses. No single approach is right for every case, so talk with an intervention specialist about which of the following methods is best for your loved one.
The ARISE process has three steps. During the first step, a concerned family member or friend calls an ARISE interventionist. The interventionist explains how to form a support network and motivate a person with an addiction to accept professional help. If the individual doesn’t agree to participate in treatment, the process enters the second step, which involves establishing the family as a “board of directors.” No one on the board engages with the addicted family member, providing additional motivation to accept help. In the final step of the process, the family holds a formal intervention. If the addicted family member continues to refuse treatment, the other family members put serious consequences in place. Approximately 56% of individuals agree to treatment after the first step, making this an effective intervention model.
The SMART model is related to the SMART method of setting goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-specific. Under this model, the intervention group sets specific goals for the intervention and aims to achieve those goals by working together.
Family Systemic Intervention
The family systemic intervention model seeks to help the family heal from a loved one’s addiction. When a family member is addicted to drugs or alcohol, that addiction affects everyone else in the family, from children and spouses to siblings and parents. Dealing with a loved one’s addiction can cause family members to become depressed or have trouble communicating with each other, for example. Under this model, only family members are involved in planning the intervention. Family members must also agree not to continue enabling behavior once the intervention is complete, making it more likely the addicted individual will accept help.
Crisis intervention is a little different from other intervention models because it occurs when someone with an addiction is actively in crisis. Instead of arresting addicts and charging them with crimes, community-based intervention teams aim to help people with drug and alcohol addictions enter treatment programs.
The Johnson Model
Many interventionists use the Johnson model, a seven-step model that focuses on showing the addicted individual they have the support they need to recover from addiction. This model involves putting together an intervention team, planning the intervention and convincing the individual to accept help from treatment professionals.
Planning for a Successful Intervention
Before you hold an intervention session, it’s important to engage in careful planning. You need to gather information, determine where and when the intervention will take place and work with the intervention team to make sure you take the right approach to communicating with your loved one. When you’re ready to start planning, follow these steps.
- Reach out to an intervention specialist or a professional counselor who has experience working with people who have addictions to alcohol and drugs. Whether you’re holding an alcohol intervention or a drug intervention, it’s important to seek input from a professional. An intervention specialist can guide you through the planning process and help you avoid some of the most common intervention mistakes.
- Research your loved one’s addiction and look for treatment centers that can help. If the addiction is severe, you may want to look for residential treatment programs that last several weeks or longer as severe addiction typically requires more intensive treatment. You should also consider whether your loved one will need to go through drug or alcohol detox before starting residential treatment. If detox is necessary, you’ll need to choose a treatment facility that offers supervised detox as part of its addiction treatment services.
- Determine who will be part of the intervention team. Include people who can remain calm during the intervention and avoid the temptation to lash out at your loved one with an addiction. Family members, friends and colleagues are typically involved in the intervention process, but be sure not to include anyone who has an active addiction of their own as they may have difficulty staying on message.
- Develop a written plan for the group intervention. It’s important to plan out what you’re going to say and make sure everyone in the intervention group knows they should stick to the script. To ensure the script is appropriate, consult with the intervention specialist as you’re writing it. A professional interventionist can help you make valid points without resorting to personal attacks or enabling.
Carrying Out the Intervention
When it’s time to do the actual intervention, here’s what you can do to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.
- Ask your loved one to come to the intervention site without revealing the reason why. If you let them know you’re planning an intervention, they may refuse to come with you.
- When your loved one arrives at the intervention site, each member of the intervention team should take a turn reading a letter or list of bullet points written in advance. These points should explain what changes each person will make if your loved one refuses to accept treatment. For example, you might say you won’t continue providing food or money unless your loved one agrees to enter a treatment program.
- Go over the treatment options available and ask your loved one to agree to treatment right away. Don’t leave the intervention site without getting an answer, even if the answer is no. Otherwise, your loved one is less likely to enter rehab and complete a treatment plan that can help them recover from a drug or alcohol addiction.
- Make sure family members or friends are available to provide ongoing support. Even if your loved one completes a treatment plan, they may need you to attend outpatient family therapy sessions or offer emotional support as they continue the recovery process.
What Not to Do
Consulting a professional, writing down your talking points and asking your loved one to seek treatment are all essential for a successful intervention, but there are also some things you shouldn’t do. Do your best to avoid these mistakes or the intervention may end on a sour note.
- Don’t yell or use profanity when speaking with your loved one, even if they start yelling first. When your loved one first arrives at the intervention site, they may be shocked to see their family members and friends waiting for them. They may even panic at the thought of discussing their addiction or listening to the people they love talk about how that addiction has hurt them. When emotions are running high, it’s important to stay calm and make sure you get your points across.
- When you’re ready to put together an intervention group, don’t include people who are likely to start yelling or try to make your loved one feel bad about their addiction. It’s important to speak your mind without attacking other people in the room or using profanity.
- Avoid veering away from the script you prepared ahead of time. You wrote down your talking points for a reason: so they’re well-organized and can be delivered in a calm manner. If you don’t follow the script, you may make statements that make your loved one less likely to accept help, defeating the purpose of the intervention.
- Don’t continue the intervention if your loved one isn’t sober when they arrive. They need to be in the right frame of mind to listen to what everyone has to say and make the decision to go to a treatment center. If they’re not sober, reschedule the intervention for another date and time.
- Avoid springing an intervention on someone without planning it first. You need to go through the whole planning process to ensure you understand your loved one’s addiction, know what you’re going to say and have suitable treatment options in mind.