An intervention is a carefully planned event where several people gently and lovingly confront a loved one who’s struggling with an addiction. In most cases, the substance use disorder is not only affecting the life of the addicted but also the lives of everyone else present. An intervention is usually required when all other communication attempts have failed.
Interventions are necessary because the addict cannot see or will not admit how their substance use disorder is hurting themselves and others. The idea is that if this person is confronted by several people whom they know and trust, they will accept how unmanageable their addiction and life have become.
The question of when to have an intervention is not necessarily about a day or time. It is more about being able to meet certain specific criteria. While not every intervention will work, experts say that addicts are more likely to seek treatment when they undergo an intervention.
The Distinct Types of Intervention
When people hear “intervention,” the first thought that comes to mind is that of the traditional small group of friends and family confronting the addict. What some may not know is that there are many other options. Depending on the circumstances, you might want to consider any of the following types of interventions:
- One-on-one with a loved one: If the situation is not yet severe, the most influential member of the family can sit down with the afflicted and engage in an honest conversation. This can prove to be a successful method, but again, it must happen very early in the fledgling addiction stages.
- Classic: This is the most commonly used and seen method. In a traditional intervention, the goal is to get several loved ones in the same room with the addict. Loved ones will offer support and explain why treatment is necessary.
- Family system intervention: When multiple members in the same family use either the same or different substances, they need a family system intervention. A family system is when family members actively use in front of each other, and there is no attempt to hide it or stop.
- Crisis interventions: This is a special approach needed after there’s been a non-fatal overdose or attempt to take one’s life. Consider engaging the help of an addiction specialist.
Before Anything Else, Accept That Addiction Is a Disease
The decision to confront someone you care about with an intervention is difficult. You might struggle with the conflict between not wanting to put the person you love in a potentially upsetting or volatile situation. However, drastic steps may be necessary if the substance use disorder is causing irreparable damage.
There are few experiences in life more heartbreaking than living with an addicted loved one. What we know from experience is that that person is experiencing some of the same emotions you are. They too see themselves turning into something different, and they may be desperate to stop it, but can’t. That is how powerful addiction is. An intervention may be their only hope of finding freedom from addiction.
Before even considering an intervention, understanding and accepting that your addicted loved one has a disease is critical. This is the first criterion. However, some think that addiction results from a lack of willpower and that the user can stop any time they choose to.
Trying to impose this belief onto an addict who is living proof of the exact opposite will push them even deeper into their addiction. A successful intervention will not be possible with this mindset and having the intervention at all becomes questionable. It is certain to take on a tone that is accusatory, judgmental, and dismissive.
An addict deep in the throes of addiction becomes intimately familiar with isolation. Nothing exacerbates this feeling more than someone they love telling them to “just stop” or “you would if you wanted to.” There is scientific research that shows addiction is a disease and comments like these do nothing to help the situation. In fact, they may do more harm. The addict could feel hopeless as a result of phrases like these. Instead, keep in mind that even if your loved one wants to stop, it can be incredibly difficult without the right help.
The Important Work Required by Loved Ones During and After Intervention
It’s important to understand that the family plays a huge role in the addict’s successful transition to sobriety and then active, working recovery. An unsuccessful outcome can occur when the addict or alcoholic checks into treatment, but the family fails to change its behavior. Addiction is a family disease, but if only one side receives treatment and gets better, it becomes very difficult for the addict or alcoholic to maintain long-term sobriety. A lot of the time, families are enabling their addicted loved one. This means that family members need to be honest with themselves. In order to truly help their loved one, they need to stop encouraging their behaviors.
Many times families feeling helpless will maintain an unhealthy holding pattern, hoping their loved one finally finds their “rock bottom” and seeks treatment on their own. This does not always happen, and it’s risky. If intervention is your decision, the entire family must be willing and able to do their part.
This is the second criterion. It would be in everyone’s best interest to keep from moving forward with an intervention until everyone involved is ready and willing to make these changes.
Questions to Ask When Considering an Intervention
If after considering these factors there is still uncertainty about how to proceed, ask yourself some specific questions about your loved one and use the answers to guide your decision. The following questions apply to you and other family members. If they would answer yes, then answer yes on their behalf.
- Am I giving money to or providing financial support for my addicted loved one?
- Do I sacrifice my own needs to meet the needs of my loved one?
- Do I make excuses for my loved one about why they cannot honor obligations like school, work, or family?
- Does my loved one make me feel guilty?
- Do I feel like, either all the time or sometimes, my loved one’s addiction or behavior is my fault?
- Do I continually offer help that goes unappreciated?
- Do I feel like my loved one would hate me and never speak to me again if I tried to stage an intervention or do anything else about their addiction?
- Have I ever suspected my loved one of stealing from me, using me, or otherwise being dishonest?
- Does my loved one feel like a burden to me?
- Do I now tolerate behaviors that used to be unacceptable?
- Does my loved one find reasons to spend less and less time in social situations?
- Do I blame others for my loved one’s behavior or addiction?
- Do I feel like my loved one brings nothing but chaos and confusion to our relationship or to the family?
- Does my loved one have an attitude of entitlement or expectation?
If the answer is yes to all or most of the questions, stage an intervention as soon as possible. If not, take more time to assess the situation. In both cases, speaking with someone at a treatment facility will be helpful.
We recommend the following when considering having and preparing for an intervention:
- Ask a trusted addiction recovery specialist, doctor, or mental health expert about the optimal treatment approach for your loved one. Seek recommendations about programs.
- Reach out to national organizations, reputable online support groups, or local health clinics for suggestions.
- Check to see if your insurance plan will provide coverage for the treatment.
- Find out if there are any steps you need to take for admission, such as an evaluation appointment or insurance pre-certification. You should also check to see whether there’s a waiting list.
- Try to avoid treatment centers that promise quick fixes and ones that use uncommon methods or treatments.
- If the program requires travel, plan ahead — 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
To ensure the intervention is successful, we advise you:
- Don’t hold an intervention on the spur of the moment.
- Plan the time of the intervention.
- Do your homework.
- Appoint a single person to act as a liaison.
- Share information.
- Stage a rehearsal intervention.
- Expect your loved one’s objections.
- Avoid confrontation.
- Stay on track during the intervention.
- Ask for an immediate decision.
If you can adhere to all the preceding recommendations and criteria, you are ready to proceed with the intervention.
Proposing a Treatment Option
During the intervention, you’ll want to propose an option for treatment. Following a medically assisted detoxification, the user may enter either an outpatient or inpatient program. If the addiction case is severe, it may be wise to push for inpatient treatment, which requires the addict to live on-site at a rehab facility.
One rehab option for those in the New England region is NFA Behavioral Health. It sits on 17 private acres in the beautiful New Hampshire countryside, a location specifically and thoughtfully picked to be a safe place for the afflicted to find their paths to recovery.
At NFA Behavioral Health, we offer a wide range of therapies, from those based in clinical psychiatry to more holistic and alternative approaches. Our recovery specialists understand that unique people will respond differently to various approaches. This understanding prepares us to meet all needs.
What to Do If You Still Need Help
There is no such thing as too many questions, or a dumb question, when it comes to when to planning an intervention. Take advantage of the multitude of resources available for these specific scenarios. Many treatment centers and interventionists have websites and offer to field questions via email or over the phone.
As an example, NFA Behavioral Health is a treatment center with a 24/7 hotline open to anyone who needs help. If you are not yet ready to make that call, you can also submit a form through our website. We try to make it as easy as possible to get in touch with someone who can help.
Remember that it is never too late. You can help your loved one today by staging an intervention. If you need more help with planning or getting your loved one help after the intervention, reach out to our facility. We have plenty of professional staff members who are ready to help.