What is an Intervention and why do they work?

What is an Intervention?

Watching a loved one struggle with addiction can cause inexpressible pain. You may have offered to help them, only to have them respond with anger or promises that they’ll stop.

But they don’t. They can’t seem to see past the next dose, and you feel powerless to help them. Every day you’re filled with dread, and hope that you don’t find them unconscious or dead from an overdose.

But you aren’t powerless. The power of your family’s love is the only thing strong enough to show your loved one that they need help. The first step in getting them the treatment they need is an intervention. And seeking help from a professional interventionist is the most effective way to start the conversation.

What is an intervention?

Addiction is a disease that gets worse as the time passes, so family members don’t have the luxury to wait and hope that the addiction goes away. Waiting for your loved one to overcome an addiction can only end badly, because it very rarely occurs.

definition of an intervention

Addicts are usually so blinded by the cravings of their addiction that they are unaware of the damage they cause to themselves and to their family and friends. This is why having an unbiased, objective perspective from a third party is so important.

And that’s where a professional interventionist comes in. They are a trained professional with specialized experience in holding interventions. An interventionist helps the family plan and hold the intervention, with the goal of motivating the loved one to seek treatment by:

  • Showing how the disease has caused stress and suffering for the family
  • Clarifying what will happen if the loved one denies treatment
  • Sharing a predetermined plan for how the treatment process will go

An intervention is a remarkably powerful vehicle for change. It is the first step, among many, in helping your loved one free themselves from the disease of addiction.

How does an intervention work?

An intervention is formed as a result of a family member or friend’s frustration with a loved one’s problem, whether it be an addiction or a mental illness. An intervention should be led by a qualified professional interventionist.

Interventionists are a number of things

A good interventionist will carefully assess your loved one’s background, personality and family relationships. This information helps them plan the intervention and provide the right recommendations for treatment. The end goal for every intervention is persuading the loved one to enter a treatment program.

Who needs to be there?

The people who are most impacted by the problem should be present at the intervention. This is typically family members – parents, siblings, spouses, grandparents, etc. Close friends or relatives may also be invited to join.

If your loved one has an important mentor at work or school, they should be invited to join the intervention. Or if your family is religious, invite your pastor or rabbi. Essentially, any person who is concerned about your loved one and has been affected by their behavior can be a participant.

The interventionist will also be present throughout every stage of the intervention, from planning to the intervention itself. It’s important to find an interventionist that offers full support for your family even after the intervention ends, to answer questions and offer guidance as needed.

How long does an intervention take?

The length of an intervention depends on the situation. It may take a while for each family member to say their part, and it takes time to de-escalate any hurt feelings or anger from the loved one. SAMHSA states that brief intervention sessions may last for just 5 minutes while longer sessions can span for an hour or more. Some interventions last for several days.

An intervention should not be timed. It’s intended to be a calm and objective approach for family members to get through to a loved one who doesn’t recognize the damage their addiction has caused. The goal is not to be fast or brief, but to be effective. The ultimate goal is to get your loved one to agree to go to rehab.

What is the format of an intervention?

Once your family reaches out to a professional interventionist, the collective group works to develop a plan. This plan usually involves:

The Intervention Format

Many interventions follow the Johnson model, established by Episcopal priest Vernon Johnson. It is the foundation for many methods of intervention, and is based on the principle of confronting the addict with “tough love”.

What does the intervention planning process look like?

An intervention starts with the planning stage, where the participants and the interventionist discuss consequences that will occur if the loved one doesn’t agree to treatment. These may include the individual having to move out, getting cut off from financial support, or losing rights to see their children.

The interventionist and the family will establish reasonable boundaries to prevent a breakdown in communication during the intervention.

They will also determine any off-limits subjects or phrases, like accusations or fault-finding with the individual. A typical guideline is to use “I” statements rather than “you” statements, and stick to the facts about how the addiction affects them personally and the group as a whole.

During the intervention, the goal is:

  1. Maintain the intervention plan
  2. Keep your loved one from shutting down

To stay on plan, the interventionist will request that each family member or close friend write a loving letter to be shared with the individual during the actual intervention.

What happens on the day of the intervention?

Prior to the intervention, the family invites the individual to come to a predetermined location on a specific date. No one mentions the purpose of the meeting to the individual.

When the session begins, each participant takes turns sharing their non-confrontational “love letter”. After everyone has shared their concerns, the loved one is presented with an ultimatum to accept the proposed treatment plan or face the predetermined consequences.

Are there different types of interventions?

Substance abuse is the most common reason for an intervention. In 2013, The National Institute on Drug Abuse(NIDA) stated that approximately 22.7 million Americans were in need of treatment for substance abuse, although only 2.5 million individuals received the treatment they needed. Interventions can be a solution for virtually any problem, whether it be a mental health issue, anger problems, eating disorders or process addictions.

Drug interventions

In a drug intervention, the interventionist guides the family to determine an appropriate course of action based on the severity of the addiction. Each family member is instructed to write a letter that focuses only on specific facts relating to the individual’s drug problem.

Family members are discouraged from making any statements about the individual’s past behavior that do not relate to the drug addiction. The goal of a drug intervention is to motivate the individual to enter a treatment program that is specific to their drug addiction.

Alcohol interventions

Other data from NIDA reveals that 17.3 million Americans reported a problem with alcohol abuse in 2013. If your loved one is struggling with a drinking problem – and deny that it’s a problem – a professional intervention may be the only way to get them to open their eyes to the seriousness of their predicament.

Because alcohol is viewed by our culture as a more “acceptable” substance to consume than drugs, oftentimes alcoholics and their loved ones don’t recognize the problem until it’s too late. An interventionist with experience working with alcoholics can successfully help you navigate a tense discussion with your loved one about getting treatment for alcoholism.

Other kinds of interventions

In addition to substance abuse, a professional interventionist can help with other kinds of intervention, such as:

  • Mental health interventions
  • Eating disorder interventions
  • Process addiction interventions
  • Anger problem interventions

Why do I need a professional interventionist?

A professional interventionist is invaluable in helping you hold a safe and nonjudgmental dialogue with your loved one about their addiction problem. Staging an intervention without the help of a professional interventionist can actually hinder your loved one from getting treatment, and here’s how:

Family members are often guilty of enabling their loved ones and covering up mistakes that occur as a result of an addiction

Addiction affects the whole family

It is best for an unbiased person to guide the discussion and ensure that it remains objective. Family members are often guilty of enabling their loved ones and covering up mistakes that occur as a result of an addiction. An interventionist keeps family members honest about the pain and suffering they’re feeling, and ensures that the predetermined consequences are actually carried out if necessary.

Emotional hijacking can occur in the absence of an interventionist

Addicts are good at lying and manipulating. Your loved one may promise to enter treatment, but not intend to not hold up their end of the bargain. They may express sadness, outrage, or shock that they are being ‘attacked’. This causes feelings of sympathy and guilt in you and other participants, and can discourage you from following through with the intervention plan. A professional interventionist objectively facilitates the intervention so that it follows the plan.

Why is an intervention the best option for getting my loved one into treatment?

Many people who struggle with addiction never get the treatment they deserve. If your loved one is unaware of the severity of his or her addiction or in denial about it, staging a professional intervention is your family’s best option for getting them quality treatment.

With a professional intervention, there is a 90% chance that your loved one will agree to enter treatment.

A competent interventionist will hold your family accountable to stick to the plan and apply the consequences if your loved one does not agree to treatment. With an interventionist, there will be no blaming, name-calling, or enabling on the part of the family. They’ll prevent any attempted emotional manipulation on your loved one’s behalf.

It’s easy to let your emotions control you when a loved one is involved. Emotional hijacking can occur despite your best intentions. An interventionist will make sure that your family gets the message across even if you become emotional and lose focus.

How does an interventionist coordinate treatment?

Another important benefit of working with a professional interventionist: they provide clarity about substance abuse and effective treatments. You and your family may have read bits and pieces about addiction online, but an interventionist can shed some light and provide an expert assessment of what your loved one needs.

Professional interventionists have established relationships with treatment centers and other resources in the addiction treatment community. They’ll present your family with viable treatment options that take into account your loved one’s unique needs.

What’s the first step I should take in planning an intervention?

Don’t wait to seek help for your loved one, and don’t try to hold an intervention on your own. Reach out to one of the professional interventionists at Intervention Services today. Our team has conducted interventions for hundreds of clients across the United States, and we’ve helped families mend their relationships with their loved ones. The time is now.

Intervention ServicesWhat is an Intervention?

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