The Intervention Process: What Happens In An Intervention?

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What Is an Intervention?

An intervention is an important event created by the friends and family members of a person struggling with addiction or a mental health disorder. This intervention group is to help the person realize they have a problem, need help, and have support. While reality television shows have popularized interventions in recent years, these depictions often offer a false sense of how an intervention should be conducted. Interventions should always provide encouragement and incentive for those struggling with addiction to seek help. They also come in more forms than the classic family meeting frequently displayed in popular media.

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Different Types of Interventions

Simple intervention 

This occurs when one individual, most often a friend or family member, confronts the person with the substance use disorder in some neutral environment. The person performing the intervention will succeed if a professional is consulted before doing the intervention.

A professional interventionist (people who have training in performing interventions and organizing them), a therapist or substance abuse counselor or another person who has experience/expertise in substance abuse or addiction treatment can be consulted. The intervention person can discuss concerns with this individual and develop a plan.

Classic intervention 

This occurs when a group of individuals, again primarily friends and family, who are concerned about the substance abuse or drug addiction issues of the subject, get together and confront the individual in a non-confrontational manner to explain how that person’s substance abuse or destructive behavior affects them and the need for that person to seek treatment.

Family systems intervention 

This is designed to confront the members of the family system that are somehow either contributing to substance abuse issues in one member or some instances; all members have problems with substance abuse.

The goal here is to get the family members into treatment either individually or as a group in family therapy sessions to address the particular issues that the individuals with substance abuse problems and other family members face. Because of the complex issues involved, family systems interventions will require professional assistance in their planning and organization.

Crisis interventions 

This occurs more or less on the spot when the subject’s substance abuse has resulted in some potentially threatening or dangerous situation. The individuals present during this time immediately confront the person with the substance use disorder and attempt to get the person to commit to a treatment process and consequently a recovery program.

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Finding A Treatment Program To Offer During The Intervention

If a treatment program is necessary, it may help initiate arrangements in advance. Do some research, keeping these points in mind:

  • Ask a trusted addiction professional, doctor, or mental health professional about the best treatment approach for your loved one and recommendations about programs.
  • Contact national organizations, trusted online support groups, or local clinics for treatment programs or advice.
  • Find out if your insurance plan will cover the treatment you’re considering.
  • Find out what steps are required for admission, such as an evaluation appointment, insurance pre-certification, and whether there’s a waiting list.
  • Be wary of treatment centers promising quick fixes, and avoid programs that use uncommon methods or treatments that seem potentially harmful.
  • If the program requires travel, make arrangements ahead of time — consider having a packed suitcase ready for your loved one.

It also may be appropriate to ask your loved one to seek support from a group such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Do’s & Don’ts Of An Intervention

Keep in mind your loved one’s addiction involves intense emotions. The process of organizing the intervention and the intervention itself can cause conflict, anger, and resentment even among friends and family who know your loved one needs their help. To help run a successful intervention:

Don’t hold an intervention on the spur of the moment. 

It can take several weeks to plan an effective intervention. However, please don’t make it too elaborate, either, or it may be challenging to get everyone to follow through and make the intervention a success.

Do your homework. 

Research your loved one’s addiction or substance abuse issue so that you have a good understanding of it. This will give a good idea of adequately approaching the problem at hand.

Appoint a single person to act as a liaison. 

Having one point of contact for all team members will help you communicate and stay on track, so no one is left in that dark and avoid compromising the intervention.

Share information. 

Ensure each team member has the same information about your loved one’s addiction and the intervention so that everyone is on the same page. Hold meetings or conference calls to share updates and agree to present a united team to make them feel more supported.

Stage a rehearsal intervention. 

Here, you can decide who will speak when, sitting arrangements, and other details, so there’s no fumbling during the actual intervention with your loved one.

Anticipate your loved one’s objections. 

Have calm, rational responses prepared for each reason your loved one may give to avoid treatment or responsibility for behavior. Offer support that makes it easier to engage in the treatment, such as arranging child care or attending counseling sessions with your loved one, to lessen their burden.

Avoid confrontation. 

Deal with your loved one with love, respect, support, and concern — not anger. Be honest, but don’t use the intervention as a forum for hostile attacks. Avoid name-calling and angry or accusing statements.

Stay on track during the intervention. 

Veering from the plan can quickly derail an intervention, prevent a beneficial outcome for your loved one, and worsen family tensions. Be prepared to remain calm in the face of your loved one’s accusations, hurt, or anger, which is often meant to deflect or derail the conversation.

Ask for an immediate decision. 

Don’t give your loved one time to consider whether to accept the treatment offer, even if they ask for a few days to think it over. Doing so allows your loved one to continue denying a problem, go into hiding or go on a dangerous binge. Be prepared to get your loved one into an evaluation to start treatment immediately if they agree to the plan.

Final Thoughts

Even if an intervention doesn’t work, you and others involved in your loved one’s life can make changes that may help. Ask other people involved to avoid enabling the destructive cycle of behavior and take active steps to encourage positive change.

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