Watching your loved one struggle with addiction is heartbreaking. Addicts that are in the throes of addiction often do not realize or refuse to acknowledge their substance abuse. They do not fully comprehend what they are doing to themselves because extensive drug use has literally changed their brain chemistry. So, what do you do when a loved one becomes a danger to themselves? You stage an intervention.
What is an Intervention?
Intervention, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is “a carefully planned process that may be done by family and friends, in consultation with a doctor or professional such as a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, or directed by an intervention professional (interventionist).”
During an intervention, an addict’s family and friends gather together and demand that the addict acknowledges the consequences of their addiction and urge them to agree to treatment for their addiction. There are some strategies that are used in most interventions, and they are:
- The family and friends of the addict take turns providing specific examples of when he exhibited destructive behaviors and expressing the impact his actions had on each of them.
- The interventionist presents a treatment plan that was prearranged and includes clear steps, goals, and guidelines.
- Each family and friend of the addict tells what they will do if he does not agree to seek treatment.
Successful interventions let loved ones constructively express their feelings to the addict in an environment that is guided and semi-controlled.
Types of Intervention
If you have decided that your loved one needs an intervention, it is necessary to know the different types of interventions in order to choose the one that best fits your loved one’s needs.
This is the primary type of intervention and the one that most people are familiar with. During this type of intervention, an interventionist acts as a mediator between an addict and his loved ones. The addict does not get much input in these interventions. On the contrary, the options presented to the addict have all been decided beforehand.
This kind of intervention is good for addicts who may have expressed that they wanted to get sober but can’t seem to take the first step and addicts who may be scared to ask for help. Having all the decisions made for them takes some of the pressure off, and they are more likely to agree to treatment.
This type of intervention is used in emergent situations, like when there is a situation where an addict may harm himself. An interventionist can get the addict admitted into a hospital or treatment center for evaluation involuntarily, making this type of intervention a forcible one. While the addict is in the hospital or treatment center, his loves ones gather to show support and concern.
This is also when the loved ones let the addict know how his actions have affected them, urge him to agree to go to rehab, and let him know what each of them will do if he does not agree to go.
Tough Love Intervention
This kind of intervention is the one most often used by those who cannot say no to the addict in their life. Family members and friends of the addict contact an interventionist to help them set up a gathering in which the loved ones that have been enabling the addict finally stand up and tell him how his destructive behavior has affected them. The loved ones let the addict know what they will do if he does not agree to go into treatment.
With this type of intervention, it is incredibly important to go through with what you said you’d do if the addict refuses to seek treatment.
Confrontational Model of Intervention
This kind of intervention is extremely direct in nature – loved ones get together with the addict and an interventionist and assertively challenge his addiction by telling him about his impulsive behaviors and the consequences that have arisen because of them. Additionally, strict expectations of treatment are explained to the addict.
In this intervention, if the addict does not agree to treatment, there are usually harsh consequences, like his family completely cutting him off. This is clearly a last resort kind of intervention.
Johnson Model of Intervention
In this type of intervention, an interventionist trains the caregiver of the addict, usually a spouse or parent, to be able to approach the addict and encourage him to seek treatment for his addiction himself. It usually avoids a defensive reaction by the addict and lets him think that his recovery is his decision.
The Love First Approach to Intervention
This intervention approach was designed to avoid the tension and conflict that normally arise in direct interventions. They are often held in neutral territory in which the addict feels comfortable. To begin, the addict’s loved ones give positive solutions to the excuses that the addict gives for not being able to go to rehab.
Next, the loved ones read letters that they have written to the addict that gives an honest telling of how they feel about the addict and his addiction. Within the letter, the loved one includes fond memories they have with the addict and reinforces their love and support for his recovery and sobriety. This letter is the trademark of the Love First Approach.
One last part of this intervention approach is that each loved one brings a list of consequences that will arise if the addict does not agree to get treatment.
The Systematic Family Model of Intervention
This type of intervention focuses on bringing the addict and his family and friends together to express their feelings and concerns. This model is unique because the interventionist reaches out to the addict before the intervention and invites him to join his loved ones in an attempt to make sure the addict doesn’t feel like he has been ambushed.
The interventionist facilitates peaceful communication between all parties in an effort to encourage openness and discourage defensiveness. The addict still has to listen to how his addiction and behavior have affected his loved ones, and the addict is also allowed to express his feelings and emotions as well. The addict is urged to seek treatment, and his loved ones are encouraged to join support groups to help them understand and support the addict on his road to recovery.
The CRAFT method was created in order to help someone suffering with addiction without confrontation. The goals of this intervention are to understand the addict’s triggers, teach positive communication skills and problem-solving skills, encourage self-care in both the addict and his family, and urge the addict to enroll in a treatment program.
With this intervention, the addict and his loved ones meet together with the purpose of focusing on how the entire family unit can work together to combat the addiction. The addict knows about the meeting ahead of time. The ARISE method encourages the addict to seek treatment and recommends that the family seek counseling in order to prepare them for life with a recovering addict.
Tips on When and How to Stage an Intervention
Sometimes, loved ones of addicts struggle with knowing when they should intervene in the addict’s life and how to go about staging the intervention itself. Loved ones can hesitate to intervene because of fear that the addict will become more unstable or stop communication with family and friends. It is important to look past these fears and help your addicted loved one as soon as possible.
Some signs that can point to an addict needing an intervention are:
- An increase in secretive behavior
- Financial issues; frequently borrowing money
- Aggressive or even violent behavior
- A significant decrease in energy and motivation
- The deterioration of physical appearance
- Problems at home, work, and/or school
- Sudden or increased health issues
If you are wondering how to put together a successful intervention, you follow these three steps:
- Find an intervention specialist. You do not ever want to confront an addict alone. This only increases the chance that they will refuse treatment. Look for a skilled and successful intervention specialist that can keep the communication between all parties moving during the intervention.
- Put together your intervention group. Your interventionist will help you put together a group of family and friends for the intervention. Since all addictions are different, the interventionist will look at the individual needs of your addicted loved one and come up with a strategy and the people that are needed to enact it. Parents, siblings, spouses or partners, co-workers, and close friends are usually included in intervention groups.
- Learn what to expect during the intervention and rehearse. Your interventionist will educate the entire intervention group in addiction and recovery. This helps loved ones know what to say and what to not say during the intervention. It also helps to foster understanding of the addict with his loved ones. Participating loved ones are encouraged to write down what they want to say to the addict before the intervention, so they can review each other’s stories beforehand.
Some factors to consider when planning and scheduling your intervention are:
- Make sure to choose your intervention team wisely. Only people who you know will be supportive and positive should be invited. If someone doesn’t have a good relationship with the addict, they cannot be included – even if it’s his parent!
- Schedule the intervention at the right time. Try to hold the intervention when the addict is sober or as close to sober as you can manage to catch him. If the addict is on drugs during the intervention, he will not be able to process what is going on correctly. For this reason, many interventions are held first thing in the morning – before the addict has a chance to consume drugs. Additionally, if the addict has recently gotten into trouble because of his addiction, he may be more inclined to agree to treatment.
- Choose a secure, formal place for the intervention. The family home can be a crutch for the addict or harbor negative emotions because of past disagreements, so holding the intervention at a neutral place that has no connection to the addict or the family is usually best.
- Be strategic in your order of speakers. Certain people may have closer relationships to the addict than others and may be more able to convince the addict to agree to treatment. On the other hand, the addict may be less likely to listen to family members that have been trying to get him to get treatment for a long time. Find out the relationships between those on the intervention team and the addict and use them to your advantage.
- Use open and accepting body language. When you’re talking, try to remember to keep your arms and legs uncrossed and not to clench your hands. Look directly at the person you’re speaking to and tilt your shoulders toward them. When you are making a strong point, lean toward who you are speaking to for emphasis. The kind words you say can be overshadowed by body language that is closed off and aggressive.
- Make sure to control tempers. It is hard to stay calm sometimes in situations like interventions. However, you must remember that substance abuse and addiction results from chemical changes to the brain – not from any flaws in character. If the addict begins to show annoyance or anger toward you, change the subject.
Interventions can be difficult and emotional, but they are well-intentioned and often end in the addict will decide to get treatment at a facility like The Hills where they can be removed from their triggers and their substance of choice. It is important to remember that not all addictions are the same and not all family dynamics are the same – sometimes an addict will agree to seek treatment after only one or wo stories, other times it may take the entire intervention and then some to get him to agree.
Just don’t give up. There are times that we do not see immediate results, but trust that the intervention planted the seeds of hope within the addict. Once these seeds grow, he will be able to see that sobriety is not impossible and that you never gave up on him.
If you’re trying to get addiction treatment for yourself or for someone you love, reach out to The Hills for comprehensive and caring treatment that will help patients detox and learn the skills to cope with their triggers and their addiction. You have options, let The Hills be one of them.