10 Point Guide To A Successful Drug Intervention

If a loved one is clearly has issues with addiction and is showing clear signs of struggling with it, it is up to you to make the decision they can't. Staging an intervention is a vital first step. This guide highlights the necessary resources to prepare for success, and plan for the potential of a brighter future ruled by sobriety.

Understanding Addiction Intervention

An intervention is a meeting where a group of people intervenes on behalf of somebody who is struggling with addiction, whether it is due to drugs, alcohol, or even gambling. A well-planned intervention may be broken down into 3 critical phases:

  • Gaining trust, which can enable gentle confrontation
  • Highlighting the path to change and asking the addicted person to get treatment
  • Delivering consequences or points of leverage (if the addicted person doesn't agree to treatment)

So, how do you go about staging a successful intervention? How do you conduct the process so that you manage to convey the truth of the situation, as you see it, without scarring your loved one too badly on an emotional level? The following steps will help you map out a successful, well-paced intervention:

1. Find a Trusted Professional

If at all possible, this is the absolute best way to ensure a successful intervention. Interventions which are headed by a professional trained in the ways of successful intervening have a much higher success rate than those which don't. At the very least, the professional, who may not be as emotionally invested in the addict as you are, will help keep the emotions reined in.

An addicted person in the family creates a very personal, sensitive tension. Only a trusted professional will be able to remove emotion from the scenario and in doing so, facilitate healthy and productive dialogue.

If however, a professional is not possible, do your very best to utilize the steps which follow in order to orchestrate an effective intervention. And remember that it is very important that you keep emotion out of the situation. Being overly emotional will only get in your way and cause extra problems.

What to Look for in an Interventionist:

While time is often of the essence when it comes to acting on a loved one's addiction, it's also important to plan up-front as methodically as possible to ensure the best outcome possible. Things to look for in the interventionist you choose include:

  • A master's degree in counseling, preferably in addiction counseling
  • Certification as an alcohol and drug counselor
  • Experience running interventions
  • Board certification as an interventionist

Each professional's fee structure will vary, ranging from $1,000 and $10,000, which may cover ongoing support (This is something you should request as a client).

Ideally, your interventionist will agree to coach your family through the initial recovery process and advocate on your loved one's behalf with the treatment facility. Unfortunately, utilizing the services of a qualified professional are not yet covered by insurance (in most cases), but in a situation as dire and important as this, it's vital to get it right. You may only have one chance to help your loved one take a step in the right direction.

2. Put Together an Intervention Team

The typical intervention consists of four to six people close to the person struggling with addiction. An intervention specialist can help you decide who should join the team, but in general, team members should be people the addict respects, loves, likes, admires or depends on. An intervention usually involves friends and family members but may also include co-workers, clergy members or others who care about the person with dependence. Do not include anyone who:

  • Also has an unmanaged substance abuse problem
  • Your loved one dislikes
  • Is likely to make negative comments
  • Could potentially sabotage the intervention

Only people who have a meaningful relationship with the addicted person need be invited to the intervention. Sometimes, it is hard for the addicted person to fathom telling an admired family member, like a grandparent. By including those family members in the conversation, it can remove the pressure of having to tell that family member after the intervention. It is vital that the addicted person feels supported and loved. The team could include:

  • Spouse
  • Parents
  • Adolescent or adult children, if appropriate, and over the age of 10
  • Siblings
  • Close friends

3. Create a Clear, Concise Plan

Members of an intervention need to work together as an unit. A poorly planned intervention will likely cause the addict to feel attacked, which will in turn make him or her less that much likely to listen to you and ultimately seek treatment. The group should meet ahead of time so as to come up with a date and a suitable location, take on specific roles and create a consistent message. The addict must not know anything about the intervention until the very day that it takes place. Here are some additional aspects to plan:

  • Give each team member a specific role. It is often a good idea for non-family members to take the role of keeping the discussion focused on the facts and to try as best as they can to deflect emotional responses.
  • Think about what to say ahead of time, and come to an agreement on which points to make. All team members should plan to describe a particular incident during which the addiction caused them emotional, financial or physical harm.
  • Plan to include positive points, such as your love for the person and combined expectation and hope that he or she can change.
  • Come up with an agenda that clearly spells out who will speak when. In an emotionally charged situation like an intervention, organization is critical.
  • Hold a rehearsal intervention, where everyone practices when they will speak and what they will say.
  • Discuss how you will get the loved one to the location of the intervention.

4. Set Consequences

Each person within your intervention team should have a consequence in mind if the addicted person doesn't agree to seek help. Each team member should be prepared to present actions that he or she will take if the addict makes the choice of not getting help. For instance, asking the addict to move out of the house, cutting financial support or cutting contact with children until such a time as the addict seeks out help. Only use this tactic as a last resort.

5. Choose A Type of Intervention

There are varying schools of thought on how an intervention should work, what methodology should be followed, who should be included, etc. The right approach will be determined by what's right for your loved one and your family. Your personal family dynamic ought to dictate the right approach. If you work with an interventionist or a professional counselor, they may help you decide.

There are various types of intervention and they are all variably effective depending on whom the patient is and what their nature is. Some people will benefit the most from tough love interventions. Some will respond best to a confrontational model of intervention. There are those who will respond most favorably to a love first approach while some will do best with a systematic family model.

6. Choose the Location

Some believe that a neutral location is best, such as a church, community center, or therapist's office. However, many professionals will tell you that the home environment allows for more control over unknown variables. Home-based interventions also make the element of surprise easier to navigate.

7. Rehearse

Practice what you'll say while keeping in mind what you won't say. In addition, it's important to establish:

  • Roles of each person participating
  • The person that will introduce the intervention/purpose for the meeting
  • How to cope with and control feelings
  • How to use words/messaging as efficiently as possible

8. Hold the Intervention Meeting

During the actual meeting, take turns speaking. Let the addicted person know you love him or her and are there to support them throughout their recovery, as long as it takes. Present a treatment plan and share the consequences of not agreeing to seek treatment. Emphasize that you will stop aiding the addiction by enforcing the consequences if they choose not to seek help.

9. Expect and Prepare for Resistance

An intervention is a very confrontational situation, no matter how much you try and skirt confrontational tactics. As such, the addict may react defensively. He or she may get angry and feel resentful and betrayed. Plan calm, rational responses to the objections you are likely to get.

Ask your loved one to give the group a decision about whether or not he or she will accept the offer for treatment. Don't let him or her take a few days to think it over, which will only encourage further denial or a massive binge.

10. Follow Up

After the intervention, it's important to follow up with the addicted person and make sure they're honoring what they agreed to. It may take additional help and encouragement to actually get enrolled in a treatment center, so it can be helpful to have one member of the intervention team is responsible for assuring the person transitions into addiction treatment.