Nearly 24 million Americans need treatment for addiction, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, yet only 2.6 million receive specialty addiction treatment.
Unfortunately, the psychological and behavioral effects of addiction often make it difficult to convince a person to seek help. Although holding an intervention can be effective in encouraging your loved one to get treatment, family interventions often go awry. Anticipating potential roadblocks increases the likelihood of a successful outcome.
Before the Crisis Intervention
Anticipate your loved one to avoid or refuse to meet with concerned friends and family. Before the crisis intervention, choose two people from the group who are liked and respected by the addicted person. It is also essential to develop an intervention plan for your crisis intervention.
If the person leaves the family intervention, those two people may follow and gently encourage the person to return.
Expressing loving concern and a desire to help are much more effective than shouting, threats, or coercion.
Starting the Crisis Intervention
When beginning the family intervention, keep the tone compassionate and loving. Be persistent in following the person rather than expecting them to come to you. Reiterate your love, concern, and desire for the person to make life changes.
During the Intervention
Derailing the Conversation
During interventions, the addicted person may twist your words, deflect criticism, or try to laugh off the problem. To keep the conversation going, make sure the interventionists meet beforehand to discuss potential roadblocks.
Stick to a core message, for example: “We love you, but your drinking is leading to problems with your family and at work. Addiction is a disease, and this treatment program works.” If the conversation turns off-topic, select one person to ensure that everyone returns to the central message.
Counter-Accusations and Denial
Be prepared for counter-accusations and denial of the problem. If this occurs, try to stay calm in the face of harsh or hurtful language. In fact, acknowledging fault (when appropriate) can be a great tactic in encouraging your loved one to seek treatment.
For example, perhaps the addicted person says, “You’re one to talk! After Dad died, you drank a bottle of wine every night and never paid attention to us, and you never got treatment.” Responding, “You know, I think I did have a drinking problem, and I wish I would have gotten help so that I could have been there for you and your brothers” diffuses this situation.
After the Crisis Intervention
In some cases, even a family intervention is not enough to convince a person to seek treatment or avoid old habits. Before the family intervention even begins, prepare yourself for this possibility. If you are worried about this possibility, it is safer to hire a professional interventionist to help organize and conduct the intervention process.
If your loved one refuses to make changes, do not bargain or compromise. Stand firm in your insistence that he or she needs treatment, and do not accept excuses. Follow through on any promises made during the crisis intervention, no matter how painful. Remove monetary support, eliminate contact with children, or fulfill other promises made contingent on seeking treatment.
Holding a crisis intervention is never easy, but it can be a great first step in encouraging your loved one to get help. You know your loved one best, so consider a range of likely responses when preparing for the family intervention. Ensuring that all members know how to respond increases the likelihood of a successful intervention.