Planning an intervention but don’t know how to proceed? Besides your good intentions, conversations with a family member or loved one who’s struggling with substance use disorder can quickly go south if you don’t plan them well and if you attack the person instead of being understanding. It’s important to know how to do an intervention in a respectful and effective manner to increase the chances of success.

If your loved one is struggling with a drug or alcohol habit, you’ve likely gone through turmoil in trying to help them. Addiction hijacks the motivation, memory and reward centers of sufferers’ brains, causing them to prioritize substance use over everything else. Despite the support, tough love, ultimatums and compromises you’ve made, they haven’t been able to change their behavior.

If this is the case, it might be time to look into steps in staging an intervention.

Group intervention concept image on how to do an intervention

What Is an Intervention & How Does It Work?

The best way to describe an intervention is as a united attempt by close friends and family members to get someone suffering from addiction into recovery. Unfortunately, it’s often the last resort for a person who’s unwilling to confront the reality of their problem. Drug or alcohol addiction frequently causes those in its clutches to live in a state of denial. It can prevent them from seeing the harmful effects of their habit on their own life and the lives of those around them.

It’s not uncommon for spouses and parents to feel a sense of personal responsibility for their loved one’s alcohol or drug problem and attempt to fix it themselves. Unfortunately, this rarely works. Moreover, it almost always puts excessive strain on those taking on this role.

By bringing together the people closest to the addict, you’ll have the best chance of persuading them to change or get drug addiction treatment. Each person reads out a letter they’ve written to express how much they care for the addict and let them know how the addiction affects their lives. Everyone who attends the intervention should implore the sufferer to seek treatment.

Steps Involved in Staging an Intervention

Before conducting an intervention for your loved one’s addiction, it’s essential to plan carefully. This may involve consulting with professionals who have experience with alcohol and drug addiction or getting a professional interventionist to support you during the intervention process.

Follow these steps to maximize the chances of a successful intervention:

Step 1: Choose the Intervention Team

These are the core organizers of the intervention, often the closest family members and friends of the addicted person. Split the workload among yourselves and keep the intervention group small to avoid embarrassing the addicted person.

Step 2: Schedule the Event

Schedule the specific day, date and time of the event and the location and people to attend. Then, outline the activities of the process and determine what everyone present will say.

Step 3: Gather Information

Everyone who’ll be present should learn as much as possible about alcoholism and drug dependence and how it affects your loved one. Find out information about drug or alcohol addiction treatment, detox programs and drug treatment centers near you and how they work. Find the ones that suit the person best, according to their personality, mental health disorder (if any) and proximity to support.

Step 4: Write Your Impact Statements

You’ll share these personal written statements with the person struggling with addiction. Detail how the substance abuse has affected relationships around them. These statements should be emotion-based and honest and come from a loving place — avoid personal attacks or blaming.

Man writing an impact statement for intervention

Step 5: Offer Support

All attendees should be willing and able to support the person while they attend addiction treatment and rehabilitation. They should also support long-term sobriety after detox. For instance, you can offer to attend family therapy sessions or support groups with them or to drive them to the rehab center (if they’re outpatient).

Step 6: Set Boundaries

The person suffering from substance abuse problems may reject help or refuse to seek treatment. If the person refuses treatment, they must know that their relationship with those present will change. All the attendees must try to stop enabling addiction or supporting codependency. Clarify the consequences of refusing help.

Step 7: Perform a Rehearsal

Interventions can get physically and emotionally draining; there’s no telling how the event will go. All attendees should come together at least once and rehearse the entire process, including reactions to possible eventualities. Each member should understand these aspects of handling the situation:

  • Avoid taking too much time
  • Address breakdowns
  • Know what to say depending on the outcome

Step 8: Expectations and Follow-Through

Interventions don’t always end with the person suffering from addiction accepting treatment. Even the best plans may not convince an addicted individual to seek help. Therefore, it’s essential to plan for both eventualities and follow through on the consequences you outlined for Step 6.

If you offer support, be sure to follow through on your promise to avoid distressing the addicted person as they try to overcome their substance abuse problem. Remember, detox and early recovery is a delicate time in their lives. They’ll need extra support to get through the rehab program and adjust to life after rehab.

Tips for a Successful Intervention

Choose the Group Carefully

Ensure only to involve the people closest to the addict. Approaching them with a group of people they trust and whose opinions they genuinely care about can help you make your point in a poignant, hard-hitting manner.

Don’t Ignore the Rehearsal

Get together as a group and reflect on the best aspects of your loved one, encouraging sincerity and compassion. Write your impact statements, tell the sufferer how much they mean to you and encourage them to seek help for their addiction.

Plan for the Practical Aspects

Addiction strips people of their ability to function well. Find out in advance what NC rehab center you’ll use and who’ll drive the sufferer to the treatment facility. Plan for the life they leave behind when seeking treatment, e.g., getting leave from work or planning for childcare. By handling the logistics surrounding their absence, you have the best chance of their following through with the plan.

Family members consoling an addicted loved one during the intervention

Prepare for Resistance

Initially, they may be embarrassed and intimidated by being told these home truths by people they care about. They may express this as frustration, anger or resistance. Be patient and allow them to warm up to the idea of attending long-term drug treatment.

Things You Should Never Do During an Intervention

As mentioned, interventions can get physically and emotionally charged, depending on your loved one’s reception of the event. Regardless, as the family and close friends of the addicted person, you should remain positive and calm even when things get heated. Avoid:

  • Accusatory labels like junkie, addict or alcoholic that might make the person retreat and become defensive
  • Overcrowding — stick to the closest circle directly affected by the person’s actions or inactions
  • Getting riled — keep a lid on your personal feelings and frustrations
  • Dealing with an intoxicated person — the person should be sober during the intervention to have the most significant impact; if they’re intoxicated, adjourn and try again later
  • Interventions shouldn’t include shame, blame, anger, hurtfulness or coercion. The greatest chance of success will come from love, support, kindness and honesty.

Find Substance Abuse Treatment for Your Loved One

Alcohol and drug abuse affect not only the person who takes the substances; they impact all those around them. If you don’t trust your family and friends to run a DIY intervention, you can get help from a professional intervention specialist who’ll lead the formal intervention. The objective external perspective can be invaluable should emotions run high during the recovery process.

If you’d like further advice about the next steps after the intervention, call Changing Tides, the leading addiction treatment center in North Carolina, at 252-715-3905 to learn more about our treatment options. Take the first steps in helping your loved one find lasting recovery and regain control of their life.

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