If you have a friend or close family member who is struggling with alcohol abuse, you may know that it is time for an intervention. Interventions are used as a tool to try and convince someone who has an addiction that they have a problem and need to get help right away. While expressing caring love and concern for the individual, members of an intervention team share their thoughts and feelings with the individual about the necessity for seeking treatment.
It is an appropriate time to stage an intervention if the individual exhibits addictive behaviors that are interfering with their personal relationships and ability to fulfill responsibilities, and they are experiencing adverse consequences as a result of their addiction. No specific low point of addiction must be present for an intervention to be staged.
As close friends and family members of the person struggling with an addiction, you will know when enough is enough. Trust your instinct on the necessity to intervene on behalf of your loved one and the family as a whole.
The primary goal of an alcohol intervention is to get the individual struggling with alcoholism into treatment. There are other goals to be met along the way, however, before the individual decides to enter treatment or not. Additional goals of an alcohol intervention include:
Ideally, a successful alcohol intervention will accomplish all of these goals. In reality, interventions are not always successful, and some of the goals may not be met. Ultimately, the success of an intervention depends on the individual’s commitment to seeking and fully participating in treatment. With the proper planning and commitment from the intervention members, however, the chances of staging a successful intervention are high.
Interventions are highly individualized and created based on the needs of the individual and the family members involved, but there are some features typical to every intervention. First and foremost, significant, thoughtful planning must go into the intervention. Interventions designed on a whim are not likely to be successful. With careful planning, the individual’s circumstances are taken into consideration, professional help can be consulted, a meaningful intervention team can be assembled, and the intervention can be properly executed.
In addition to proper planning, it is safe to assume that the intervention will be emotionally challenging for most of the people involved. The individual struggling with addiction may be caught off guard, feel attacked, or even betrayed by their family members who have been consulting behind the individual’s back. It can be hard for family members to digest accusations of betrayal and unfairness, as well as express their own concerns for the individual.
Several methods are commonly used to deliver important messages during interventions. To help intervention members express their concerns for the individual, members are often told to write a letter or at least make notes ahead of time about what they want to say to the individual. Members are encouraged to express their love for the individual, outline how the members themselves have been impacted by the individual’s addiction, and present consequences to the individual if they choose not to seek treatment.
Consequences are often a powerful tool for getting someone struggling with addiction to understand the severity of their addiction and the need to seek help right away. Consequences, such as losing custody of children, missing out on important family events, or being told to move out of the house, can be strong motivators for change.
After everyone has had an opportunity to speak, and consequences have been given, it is important to present treatment options to the individual. As a result of your thorough planning, you should have some treatment options already lined up for the individual, should they choose to accept help. Some interventions require people to enter treatment immediately, directly from the intervention. Other interventions may give the individual some time to consider their options first.
Generally, it is advised not to give individuals too much time to think over whether they will enter treatment. If you allow the person to wait a couple of days to make a decision, the impact and urgency of the intervention could be lost, the individual could run away, or they could overdose by trying to use their substance of abuse one last time before entering rehab.
No matter what the individual decides to do at the end of the intervention, seek treatment or not, it is important to stick to your intervention plan. If they agree to enter rehab, support them in getting there quickly and easily. If the individual does not agree to enter rehab at this time, follow through with the consequences presented. They may not want to enter treatment right now, but after experiencing the consequences of not seeking treatment and better understanding how serious their family members are about rehab, they may reconsider.
A major contributing factor to staging a successful intervention is having an addiction treatment specialist be part of the intervention team. Licensed alcohol and drug counselors, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and professional interventionists can be very helpful in planning and implementing an intervention.
Addiction professionals bring knowledge and experience to the intervention team about ways to approach the individual, what issues to focus on, the people who would be appropriate to include on the intervention team, and how to execute the intervention itself.
Because interventions are often highly emotionally charged events, having a professional present to help monitor emotions and maintain focus can be quite valuable. An addiction professional brings expertise and guidance to the intervention while being removed from the emotional impact of the individual’s addiction.”
There is no guarantee that your intervention will be successful, and sometimes they are not. Mayo Clinic provides a list of helpful suggestions for making your intervention a success.
Interventions can be very successful at getting people to seek treatment. The ultimate success of an intervention is hard to define, however, as people often have different goals for what they want to see their loved one achieve. Simply entering treatment may be a success for some, while maintaining long-term sobriety is the only real form of success for others.
Using peer pressure encouragement or social pressure as the primary tool of interventions, to convince an addict to seek treatment can be effective for some people but may not work in the long run for others. Individuals may initially respond to the pressure to seek treatment, but then build resentment toward family members or an attitude toward treatment later on.
There is no way to know ahead of time exactly what will happen during an intervention. With thoughtful planning and professional support, however, you can set yourself, your family, and your loved one struggling with an addiction up for the best chances of a successful intervention.
(August 2014). Drug and Alcohol Interventions: Do They Work? Psychology Today. from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201408/drug-and-alcohol-interventions-do-they-work
(July 2017). How a Family Alcoholism Intervention Works. Verywell Mind. from https://www.verywellmind.com/family-intervention-how-it-works-63299
(July 2017). Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction. Mayo Clinic. from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/intervention/art-20047451
(June 2016). Staging an Intervention for an Alcoholic. Healthline. from https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol-addiction-intervention
American Society of Addiction Medicine. Definition of Addiction. (September 15, 2019) from https://www.asam.org/resources/definition-of-addiction