Do you have a loved one who has been dealing with a drug or alcohol problem for years? If you have a family member who is struggling with addiction and it must be confronted, staging an intervention may be the only hope of saving them.
You may have seen a portrayal of an intervention in today’s media. The event is often joked about, such as on The Office when the alcoholic character Meredith is given a half-hearted intervention at the Christmas party. But there are also popular shows on television that do not glamorize interventions. The shows may shrink the process down considerably but can still provide a brief overview of what you might expect in an intervention.
A retrospective look into the success of interventions from the television show “Intervention” with Jeff VonVonderen revealed that 55 percent of the featured interventions were “successful.” (Some estimates claim a success rate that is as high as 70-80 percent.) But is the show an accurate portrayal of interventions? How do you measure the success of an intervention, and what is the best way to stage an intervention without causing chaos within your family?
Take a look at our top 10 tips for staging an intervention.
Success is the goal of any intervention, but before planning and holding an intervention, it’s important to examine what that means. What defines success for any intervention?
Whether with or without professional help, most people planning an intervention have one target in mind: getting help for the loved one with the addiction. At the end of the intervention, in an ideal world, the loved one in question will go to inpatient or outpatient care and start on the road to recovery.
Successful interventions can and do happen, particularly when an individual has already been coming to terms with their addiction struggles on their own. Perhaps they’ve experienced negative consequences already, like the end of a relationship or the loss of a job. When the problem truly can’t be ignored, accepting help is easier.
Treatment is also easier to agree to when all of the arrangements have been made in advance. People with busy lives are often hesitant to enter a qualified treatment program due to worries about job obligations, childcare, or finances. When plans to cover work, pay for rehabilitation, or temporarily watch children are already in place, it is much harder for a loved one with addiction to make excuses for not getting help.
While getting a loved one into treatment is a key metric of success for any intervention, it is worth remembering that participation in a rehab program does not guarantee successful, long-term recovery. Relapse is common. Many people achieve recovery only after multiple relapses.
This reality can be helpful to bear in mind when an intervention fails to convince someone to go to rehab. Maybe the individual refuses, reacts poorly, and does not listen to any advice or evidence presented. Maybe they react violently, storm out, or leave without committing to anything. This can be disappointing, but it doesn’t mean the intervention was a total failure. The individual may have reacted poorly in the moment. Still, the words and ultimatums expressed—about how their addiction has caused pain and sadness and the consequences moving forward of their not getting help—have an impact.
A poor reaction to an intervention is often linked to denial, fear, or shame, and these aren’t always feelings that can be easily reconciled. Sometimes the individual just needs time for the message to sink in. In other words, walking away from an intervention without a desired result doesn’t mean there’s no bright spot on the horizon. Your words have been heard and may be taken to heart in the future, even if a loved one isn’t ready to change just yet.
Create a Plan for the Intervention
You don’t want to spontaneously hold an intervention for your family member. It can quickly turn into a disaster, as the lack of preparation make things unorganized and lacking quality substance.
Bring a family member to an intervention that isn’t planned isn’t a smart idea. If they work themselves into a frenzy how will you react? This will be one of the most important factors in determining the success of the intervention.
So what should you do to make sure you have prepared for everything? Create an outline of how the intervention will go.
Decide who will speak first, who will speak at last, and who will be the mediator during all of the discussions. The mediator will be able to keep things under control. They will not allow your loved one or anyone else in the family to stray too far off of the main important topic.
So take the time to create an outline for your intervention and go in there as prepared as possible.
Seek out an Intervention Specialist
It is never wise to tackle an intervention head on. Even with a well-created plan, an intervention can turn sour quickly without a professional to help.
Most of the time interventions will not have any chance of success if an intervention specialist is not present.
Some of the ways the specialist can help are by helping your family member see their cycle of denial. They will see their problems and help confront them head-on.
This is one of the most critical aspects of the intervention. Your addicted family member cannot have any chance of success at rehab without confronting the problems and seeing how much trouble they are really in.
The intervention specialist will also be extremely helpful at the end of the intervention when it is time to get the post-intervention plan started. Helping your family member get to their rehab facility without any major problems is one of their key tasks.
Remember to never try to confront your family member alone or without the help of a professional and they will be much more receptive to getting help for themselves.
Form the Intervention Group
Forming the intervention group is the next major step in having a successful intervention. The intervention team should be comprised of all of the important people in your family members life.
This group of people should all have specific examples of how they have been negatively impacted by the family members drug or alcohol addiction.
These examples will be very important in how your family member reacts to all of the pain caused by their actions. Hearing things out loud is a lot different from reading a text message or an email from a family member about how they are impacting everyone around them.
You should also try to find people on the team that will not become emotional or lose their cool. If you find that someone may make things worse during the intervention or keep things from moving forward based on their personality, it may be best for them to write a letter to your addicted family member.
The letter could then be read out loud by you or someone else on the intervention team, or by the intervention specialist.
Assemble your team and get ready to rehearse how the intervention will go.
Rehearse What You Will Say
You should rehearse what you want to say before the intervention. It would be very helpful to write down everything that you are feeling should be expressed to the family member fighting the addiction.
Once you have written it down practice speaking it out loud in a mirror or with other family or friends present to make sure that you can handle any of the emotions that may come out.
This should be done by all of the family members and friends that will be a part of the intervention.
A full rehearsal of the intervention is also helpful because you will be able to determine approximately how long the intervention will take and you can go over different scenarios and actions that could take place by your family member during the intervention.
The intervention specialist will also be able to provide the intervention team with helpful information they can bring up during the intervention. This can make it easier to get the addicted family member to go to a treatment facility.
Rehearsing the intervention should go off without a hitch and once everyone is on the same page the next steps of the plan can be set.
Determine the Best Place and Time for the Intervention
Finding a quality location to stage the intervention is the next important step in the process. You want to make sure you pick a time during the day that your loved one will more than likely not be under the influence.
The main reason for this is because they will be less receptive to help, or even be able to comprehend what is going on if they are under the influence of their drug or alcohol of choice.
Once you have the time figured out determine the location where the intervention will take place. It is best to select a familiar and non-threatening location.
This will allow your loved one to feel comfortable and give them the opportunity to open up more in a place that feels more like home, than a generic meeting room in a random office.
After you have the intervention location and time in place, it is time to get the intervention started.
Understand Anything Can Happen
Now that you have everything ready to stage the intervention, it is extremely important to understand that anything can happen. Your loved one may be completely receptive and understanding to everything told to them, and immediately express their interest in getting help.
On the other end of the spectrum, they could completely lose their cool and it could result in them getting into shouting matches with family members, or trying to leave the intervention altogether.
You may also have a few family members that could hinder the progress of the intervention by having an emotional outburst with your loved one, which could potentially cause them to storm out of the intervention.
Everyone should speak to the addicted family member in calm and concerned tones, while also trying to convey the importance of their words.
If you go in with the mindset that you can prepare for the worst scenarios possible, the entire intervention team can know how to react when things become potentially unstable.
List the Ways You Have Been Hurt
Part of your rehearsal process is writing down all of the ways your family member has hurt you.
As you are aware families can be impacted in a number of negative ways by the substance abuse of a single family member. This can include the loss of money, property, or material items.
It could also bring unwanted attention from the unsavory characters in your area, which could lead to potentially life-threatening situations not only for your loved one but other members of your family as well.
Depending on how deeply involved your family member is this could also bring attention from the local (or federal) law enforcement agencies.
If children are involved it could potentially be detrimental to those family members because child services may determine a household is unsafe due to suspected drug use from your family member.
These are all examples of things you can write about in your impact statement, so make sure you bring specific incidents that hurt you and don’t shy away from being completely truthful.
Have an Ultimatum Declared
One of the most important steps in staging an intervention is declaring an ultimatum for your loved one. This is what the intervention is for right? Getting them help to fight the demons they battle with on a daily basis.
Speak with your intervention specialist beforehand, and come up with the ultimatum with your intervention team. This could (and should) include the loved one going to a treatment facility.
Going to a treatment facility is the only way your loved one will ever be able to successfully become sober. If they refuse simply tell your loved one that they will no longer be able to be a part of the family until they get help.
While this may sting for you and some of your family members, it is the best way to ensure no one in the family will enable them anymore.
This will include giving them money, a place to sleep, or food. This matter of fact ultimatum could be the gut punch your loved one will need to take a step towards sobriety.
Discuss a Proper Treatment Plan
Coming up with a treatment plan should be done in the pre-planning portion of staging the intervention. Once your loved one agrees to the post-intervention treatment plan it is important to discuss everything in as much detail as possible.
This should include the amount of time your loved one will be at the treatment facility, what they need to do while there in order to graduate, and what is expected of them after they return from the facility.
This could also include paying reparations to these family members, finding a job to help support the household they are living in, and staying away from the unsavory characters they interacted with before becoming sober.
Providing this blueprint for your loved one will give you another major selling point in them receiving treatment.
Support Them Throughout the Process
The final important tip to staging an intervention is to provide complete support to your addicted loved one through the treatment process.
The first few days while at the facility they more than likely will not be able to contact anyone, but once they are able to make sure everyone on the intervention team provides unconditional love and support.
This will show your loved one that they have a number of reasons to become sober, and it will help them through their tough days while detoxing off of their drug or alcohol of choice.
Continuous support should also be given after they graduate from the treatment facility, to help your loved one from falling off the wagon.
Staging an Intervention Doesn’t Need to Be Hard
Now that you know the top 10 tips to staging an intervention, which areas are you most confident about? Is it rehearsing the impact statement you will prepare?
Or maybe you are fully prepared for your loved one’s initial reactions to being placed in the intervention.
This is a very important undertaking for any loved ones, and you should have a well thought out plan in place before trying to get them back on a clean path.
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