Should You Hold an Intervention?

While on the surface, an intervention might seem pretty straightforward and easy, it’s actually an incredibly complicated ordeal that involves a lot of moving parts. 

Not only do you have to get the group together and figure out a time and place that works for everyone, but you also have to convince the person who you think needs an intervention to come to the location where it’s going to take place. So, how do you go about holding an intervention? 

Well, let’s take a look.

What is an Intervention?

In the simplest of terms, an intervention is an occurrence in which a person with a problem, such as a drug or alcohol addiction, is confronted by a group of friends or family members. The goal of an intervention is to compel the person to acknowledge and deal with the problem. 

What Happens During an Intervention?

As we discussed in the intro, on the surface, an intervention seems like a pretty straight forward thing. A family member or loved one is suffering from a problem, usually a drug or alcohol addiction, and doesn’t see how it is not only negatively affecting themselves, but others in their lives as well. 

You gather everyone together, including the person suffering from the addiction, where you sit them down and tell them how their addiction is affecting themselves and others. 

It seems pretty simple, right? Well, in most cases, it’s anything but simple. 

First off, it’s likely going to be difficult to convince the addict to even show up for the intervention. You will likely have to figure out a way to get them to show up without them knowing what’s really going on. After you get them there, be prepared for a lot of anger, hostility, and animosity. 

Chances are the person suffering doesn’t think they have a problem. Or, they think that it’s not affecting others. While you and the others participating know this is not the case, it could cause some disagreements and heated arguments.

During the intervention, you and the others participating will take turns sharing how the person’s addiction has either hurt you, hurt themselves, or have adversely affected your relationship. An ultimatum will likely need to be given in order to hammer home just how serious this is. 

In most cases, the intervention will involve undergoing some sort of addiction treatment. It’s important that everyone participating in the intervention agree to the ultimatum beforehand, and all remain on the same page during the intervention. If one person deviates from the plan, it can ruin the entire intervention.

How Do You Plan an Intervention?

Like the entire process, planning an intervention is more complicated than it may seem. Here are some things to consider when planning an intervention.

Getting a team together

The only way that an intervention can be truly effective is to get a group of close friends and family members together. These should be people that not only care deeply for the addict but people that the addict also cares deeply for and respects. If you would like to bring in a professional to help with the intervention, they will need to be included in this team as well.

Learn about the process

Unless you or someone in the group you have picked has been through an intervention before, then chances are you will need to study up on the process. Many people choose to hire a professional such as a therapist or interventionist who have experience in running interventions to help with the process. If you choose to run it yourself, it is important that you do your homework.

Pick a time and place

If your intervention is going to involve several people, this can be difficult. You will need to make sure to pick a time and place that works for everyone. When it comes to picking the location, make sure it is somewhere that the person who needs the intervention will feel safe. This will help make them feel more comfortable, which will hopefully help make the intervention more effective.

Learn about their addiction

If you haven’t already, take the time to learn not just about their addiction, but the recovery process as well. If you go into this with knowledge about not just the addiction, but the options they have as far as treatment and recovery go, they are more likely to take the intervention seriously. Presenting options will make it feel less like you are ganging up on them, and make them realize that you are here to help them.

Prepare a statement

It’s crucial that all the participants in the intervention prepare a written statement that they will want to read during the intervention. By preparing a statement in advance, this will allow you to put all your thoughts down on paper in a constructive way while taking a lot of the emotion out of it. Written statements about the impact on relationships can help the person struggling with addiction to understand that their struggle does not impact them alone. 

Hope for the best, but plan for the worst

It’s important to remember that, no matter how much planning and rehearsing goes into an intervention, there’s a chance it will not go well. Just because it didn’t go well doesn’t mean that you failed. Many times addicts don’t want to acknowledge that they have a problem. It’s important to have a plan in place just in case the intervention does not go as well as you would have hoped. You may want to give an ultimatum or even stop any enabling behaviors and limit access to finances, housing, or any other support you provide that enables addictive behaviors to continue.

What NOT To Do During an Intervention

We talked about all the things to focus on doing during an intervention; now it’s time to talk about the things to avoid doing. 

Because an intervention is such a tricky thing to pull off, it’s important not only to focus on all the positive things to do but also to make sure you don’t make a mistake that can be avoided. Here are some things to avoid doing during an intervention:

  • Have too many people – keep the intervention to 3-6 people and make sure that there are no children involved. The 3 to 6 people should be close friends or family members that the addict trusts and respects.
  • Use labels with negative connotations – avoid words like “addict”, “alcoholic”, “junkie”, etc. These words can be viewed as accusatory and can cause more problems. 
  • Start the intervention when the person isn’t sober – an intervention can only be effective when the subject is sober. Holding an intervention when the subject is under the influence will not only not work, it will likely just cause more animosity and more problems.
  • Not be emotionally stable – in order for an intervention to go as smoothly as possible, not only does the subject have to have a clear, non-impaired mind, but so do you. It’s important to plan ahead, stay calm, and stick to what you prepared when conducting the intervention.

Should You Hire an Interventionist?

While you can hold an intervention on your own, chances are you are only going to get one crack at it. If you don’t have much experience with conducting an intervention, you might want to consider hiring a professional, such as an interventionist to help you with running the intervention. 

This is especially true if the subject of the intervention has a history of violence, mental illness, or suicidal tendencies. While violence is not always intended to happen, it can occur when one is confronted or feels threatened. 

Additionally, it is known that mental illnesses and substance abuse can occur at the same time (co-occurring disorder). Often, mental illness can lead to substance abuse. 

The last thing that anyone would want is to push someone to a place where their safety will be compromised. A professional, such as an interventionist, has been trained in these types of situations. They will know how to react should any issues arise. In addition, they can help you when it comes to constructing the message you want to get across so the intervention can be as effective as possible. 

The ultimate goal of a substance abuse intervention is to promote positive change for an individual’s future. It is commendable whenever anyone wants to help their loved one and intervene to stop negative behaviors. An interventionist can go a long way in helping to achieve this goal.

Do You Need To Know How To Hold An Intervention?

Footprints to Recovery has a wealth of resources available, and our Admissions Coordinators are trained to effectively provide necessary supports in situations such as these. It is our goal to help you or someone you know to get the help that they need in any way possible, including interventions. If you or someone you know would like assistance with this, please feel free to contact us, and we would be happy to assist you.

Stephanie Ballard, LPC, CADC

Currently attending The Chicago School of Professional Psychology's Business Psychology PhD Program with an emphasis in Consulting. Graduate of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology's Masters of Arts in Clinical Counseling Program with an emphasis in Addiction.

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