Most people have seen or heard of the TV show “Intervention” and are familiar with the concept of a drug intervention. But reality television tends to glamorize. A real-life drug intervention is very different. Here’s the truth behind how drug interventions work.
A true story of a drug intervention
Kelly, Susan’s 22-year old daughter, had become distant. She had dropped out of school and couldn’t keep a job. When she moved in with her new boyfriend, Susan became suspicious but didn’t want to encroach on her daughter’s privacy. It took a conversation with one of Kelly’s friend’s moms to fully realize that she was beginning to lose her daughter to meth.
Because Kelly was 22 at the time (legally an adult), there was little that Susan could do. Tensions were high between her, her daughter, and the rest of her family. Susan decided to turn to the internet to search for options for treatment. There, she took a leap of faith and contacted a professional interventionist to stage a drug intervention for Kelly. The intervention was successful in sending Kelly to treatment, helped restore family relationships and ultimately saved her life.
How does a drug intervention work?
An intervention involves careful planning by a professional interventionist and the family members, friends, and/or colleagues of an addict. The collective group works together to devise a strategy that motivates the addicted loved one to enter a drug treatment program.
The primary goal of a drug intervention is to convince your addicted loved one that his/her condition requires professional treatment.
Planning a drug intervention with an interventionist
Before a drug intervention takes place, there are a variety of details to be carefully planned and thought through on behalf of the interventionist and the family.
Writing loving letters
Each participant writes a “loving letter” to read aloud during the intervention. The letters illustrate how the drug addiction has affected each participant personally, and the group as a whole. The interventionist will help your family phrase their concerns in the most effective way possible so that your loved one doesn’t become defensive and shut down.
Planning a script
During the pre-planning stage, the interventionist will coach participants on a few guidelines for their letters that are most conducive to persuading the individual to enter treatment. Each participant is instructed to do the following:
- Use “I” statements in the love letters to minimize any blame on your loved one
- Deliver the message as a form of tough love, rather than coddling
- Hold a mirror up to your loved one and help them see their behaviors clearly
- Refrain from being confrontational, but express concerns based on solid facts
- Avoid letting them make you feel guilty, shameful or sorry for staging the intervention
Use statements that are rooted in tough love, like: “I love you very much and I am concerned about your health and well-being. I really want you to get professional help.”
Figuring out details
The interventionist will help your group of loved ones determine a good time, place, and location to hold the intervention. Seating arrangements are determined so that each participant is seated in the most optimal position based on their relationship with the individual.
A professional interventionist assesses the family dynamic and suggests useful tactics to apply based on the quirks of individual relationships within the group. It’s fairly common that one or more family members may enable the addict.
Enabling may manifest itself as protecting the individual from the consequences of his or her behavior, or “softening the blow”. The interventionist will warn loved ones of such behaviors and reiterate the importance of demonstrating “tough love”.
A final step in planning for the intervention is coordinating drug rehab for your loved one. The interventionist will prove extremely valuable in helping you and your family decide which type of treatment is best for your loved one.
The interventionist will advise what level of care your loved one needs, whether it be residential treatment, partial hospitalization, or an outpatient program. Your family may review brochures or browse treatment centers online to determine which type of program and approaches will be most effective for your loved one. Options may include:
The drug intervention
The ultimate goal of a drug intervention is to get your loved one to accept treatment. Successful interventions are family-focused. By expressing their care and concern, the family works to persuade the addicted loved one to get help.
Each participant will read their “love letter” aloud to their loved one. The focus of the letter is to emphasize how the addiction has made you feel (i.e. frightened, frustrated, worried, etc.) and how it has affected your life. For instance, if your spouse struggles with addiction, you may feel unable to trust them or feel like the marriage is no longer a priority.
Throughout the intervention, the interventionist defends boundaries, ensuring that your family is candid about their feelings while sticking only to the facts of the drug addiction. They will discourage you from bringing up unrelated problems, and will interfere with emotional hijacking attempted by your loved one.
Emotional hijacking is when your loved one tries to guilt-trip you and other family members into feeling shame or pity for them in their addicted state. They will do their best to appeal to your emotions and go back on the intervention plan. The interventionist will ensure that this doesn’t happen.
In the intervention, your family will express their concerns about the drug problem and demands that your loved one goes to treatment. If they refuse, you and your family will follow through with the consequences you established before the intervention (which may be “cutting off” the individual or making the individual move out).
Does a drug intervention work for any kind of drug?
Yes. No matter the substance – prescription drugs, street drugs or club drugs – a professionally-run intervention can result in your loved one making a commitment to enter treatment. Professional drug interventions have a very high success rate.
The length of an intervention may be shorter or longer depending on your loved one’s resistance to treatment or how intent they are on denying the problem. Someone who has been addicted and relapsed multiple times will require a different intervention approach than a person who is encountering drug addiction for the first time.
Interventions for dual diagnosis
In the United States, approximately 8.9 million adults suffer from a substance use disorder and a mental illness at the same time, also known as “co-occurring disorders”. If your loved one struggles with co-occurring disorders, it is extremely important that you get them into treatment sooner than later.
Regardless of which co-occurring condition existed first, the presence of one condition can complicate or worsen the other. A professional interventionist who has experience working with dual diagnosis is a terrific asset in these kinds of cases.
What’s more, intervention for co-occurring disorders involves selecting a quality treatment center with a dual diagnosis program. After the loving letter phase of the intervention is complete, the family can reveal the importance of entering a dual diagnosis treatment center that simultaneously treats both conditions.
Why do I need the help of a professional drug interventionist?
Are you not convinced that hiring a professional interventionist is necessary for your situation? Do you think you can handle an intervention and coordinating treatment for your loved one on your own?
This is not advisable for a variety of reasons. Your loved one may cause you to feel uncomfortable, like you’re betraying them. They may lash out at you, causing you to feel vulnerable and guilty. Or they may give you false hope that they’ll change, but have no intention of doing so.
This is emotional hijacking, and it’s very difficult for family members who are being emotionally hijacked to stay calm and on track during an intervention. Giving in to emotional hijacking can be extremely damaging to your relationship with your addicted loved one and could actually make their drug problem worse.
An interventionist can help by offer an unbiased, nonjudgmental presence during an emotionally charged situation. By being a rational, objective third party who is completely separated from the situation, the interventionist helps the group stay on focus and holds everyone accountable for their role in the intervention.
If your loved one doesn’t agree to your plan for treatment, an interventionist keeps the participants on track with the consequences that they set forth for their loved one. Remember that the goal is to help your loved one accept that he/she needs treatment, but another often forgotten goal is to return the entire family to a healthy living state.
An intervention should not be shame-based or cause hurt and anger, but it should be firm and rooted in “tough love”.
When you work with a professional interventionist, you can rest assured that the right type and level of treatment will be coordinated for your loved one. An experienced interventionist is connected to a network treatment centers, and will coordinate the best treatment possible for your loved one.
The insight of an interventionist during the pre-planning coordination phase can increase your loved one’s chances of not only entering treatment, but also of successfully completing it.
A drug intervention is a crucial step in getting your loved one into a quality drug treatment program. It’s necessary if your loved one is resistant to treatment or doesn’t recognize that they have a problem.
By hearing the raw, real accounts of family and friends reading the love letters, your loved one should finally be able to clearly see his/her addiction problem for what it is and also acknowledge how the problem has affected those around them.
Consulting with a trained interventionist is the best way to stage an intervention that will result in treatment for your loved one. An intervention can go badly if coercion or shaming is carried out. An interventionist remains impartial and ensures that the goals of the session are met.
Don’t wait for your loved one to overcome their drug addiction on their own. Contact Intervention Services. Our team has provided hope to hundreds of families across the United States, and we’ll help you stage a thoughtful and structured conversation that will get through to your loved one. Like Susan’s daughter, Kelly, an intervention just might save your loved one’s life. Start planning yours today.