It’s another day of worrying where your loved one is. They haven’t come home again, and you fear they may be high or passed out from drinking too much. You hope they’re safe and maybe at a friend’s house, but you can’t be sure where they are.
No matter how many times you’ve spoken to your loved one about their addiction, they simply will not change. You may even be thinking about leaving. You want them to stop using so they can resume their life, build a strong family, and live many more years. The only way for that to happen is if they stop using drugs and alcohol for good, but your loved one’s resistance to getting help makes you doubt whether things could ever get better.
In these types of situations where a spouse, significant other, or close family member is resistant to getting help for a drug or alcohol problem, an intervention is often necessary to getting them into treatment and on the road to recovery. In this sense, interventions literally save lives, as a first key step to treatment and a central piece of recovery.
Still, as crucial as the intervention may be, many families have misconceptions about the process and how it works. Some try to go it alone, by staging an intervention without the help of a professional. In the next sections, we’ll address common questions and concerns with the help of our in-house expert Nathan Fears. N. Fears is a certified interventionist, recovery coach, and individual, family, and couples therapist, who has been leading interventions for more than 30 years. He regularly assists families and individuals around the country with intervention-related advice and guidance and in some cases helps to stage the intervention.
What Is an Intervention?
Perhaps you’ve seen examples of interventions on television programs and wondered if this could be a solution for your needs. An intervention can indeed be a powerful opportunity for one or more of a person’s closest friends and family to confront them about their substance addiction.
Recognize that most people with a substance abuse disorder don’t accept that they have it or are in denial about how much it impacts their lives and the lives of loved ones. An intervention is an opportunity to talk about this impact. During this process, the individual is given a reality check, a clear description of what is happening to them, why, and what can be done.
An intervention brings up fear, anger and pain. It can be emotionally draining. Yet, conducted properly, it should provide your loved one with the insight they need to make a rational decision about their future. The objective is to help them understand what everyone around them already knows: They are an addict, and they need help.
Goal(s) of the Intervention?
Typically, we tend to think of the intervention in terms of one goal–getting the person with the addiction into treatment. That is the ultimate goal, but there are multiple goals, according to N. Fears. He named a number of goals, such as “getting the family united and invested in the recovery process, helping them understand the disease of addiction, setting up parameters and leverage points for the family and the client, working to develop communication skills to overcome obstacles in the intervention and recovery process, and getting the client set up for aftercare (in the form of groups or therapy sessions).”
The intervention thus serves to “develop a cohesive recovery process that not only helps get the client into treatment, but also helps them stay in treatment—and follows and supports them after treatment.”
Mental Health Interventions
While many people see mental health interventions as a way to help those with a substance addiction, they are also highly effective for those struggling with mental health problems. Your loved one may not recognize the signs of depression or bipolar disorder that you do.
They may refuse to get help, though you worry about their day-to-day well-being. Because mental health disorders can also be life-threatening, interventions can help you to provide an opportunity for your loved one to get specific counseling and support, including in a crisis center for a high-risk situation.
What One Thing Families Should Know?
When we asked N. Fears what one thing families should know before staging an intervention, he said, “Get professional help. That’s the first thing.” He cited a scene in the TV series Euphoria, a drama set in high school, as an example of what can go wrong without a professional interventionist. When family members attempt to do an intervention on their own for Rue, a kid with a drug problem, the interaction quickly escalates into full-scale war. Meanwhile, Rue’s chaotic, downward spiral only continues after that.
“Doing an intervention without a professional? That’s risky,” N. Fears said. “An intervention for a loved one first needs ‘pre-intervention’ with the family. It’s a process, and when people go into it helter skelter, it’s not going to work.”
Do Interventions Work?
Yes, interventions work, according to N. Fears, who qualified that the success of one intervention may look different from the success of another. There’s no full guarantee that an intervention will be successful at getting a person with a substance abuse problem into immediate treatment. The reaction and actions of the individual in need of help can depend on factors like personality, history and severity of substance abuse and addiction, and their overall mental health. Yet, when this individual has not received the attention they need, it becomes essential to consider the value of an intervention.
It’s also important to know that an individual with a drug or alcohol addiction who feels pressured into seeking help may not be fully committed to the process of living a sober life. This lack of commitment or true willingness can influence the outcome.
Many of the people in need of an intervention are severely addicted. This makes it very difficult for them to make the decision on their own to get help. Within this context, the intervention is a crucial opportunity to encourage someone to seek help when they’ve refused so far.
It’s critical to seek this help for anyone who is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 70,200 Americans died from some type of drug overdose in 2017. Such a staggering figure shows the importance of doing what you can to save your loved one. Often an intervention is simultaneously the least and the most that families can do for an addict they love.
Why Interventionists Are a Crucial Part of the Intervention
A professional interventionist is someone who is licensed to provide counseling services to those who have substance abuse or mental health complications. This individual not only understands addiction but also has the resources to help encourage the decision to seek help.
A drug intervention specialist should also have the tools to create, develop and manage an intervention. This process involves managing a group of people in a very delicate situation.
The interventionist can help by:
- Providing factual information about the drug and alcohol use or mental health disorder
- Gathering the appropriate people to host the intervention
- Creating a plan for how to talk to and interact with the friend or loved one being confronted
- Ensuring they receive the information they need to make the best decisions
- Supporting the family’s needs during the process
How to Stage an Intervention
Staging an intervention is a process that involves gathering information, presenting concerns, and providing an opportunity for immediate help. Here is a brief look at some of the steps necessary.
- Work with an intervention specialist to gather insight into potential benefits. Not everyone needs an intervention, but your specialist can help you to see the value in this situation.
- Form a group for the intervention made up of people who are important to the addict, especially those directly impacted by their decisions and dedicated to their recovery.
- Work to create a communication plan, rehearse what each member will say and create a plan for dealing with the reaction. This is critical in situations where there is a risk of anger as a result of the intervention.
- Create a time and place for the intervention, and then create a plan to bring the subject there.
- Be ready to provide an ultimatum the addict will face if they do not choose intervention. This must be something you will stick with long-term.
During the intervention, participants will need to provide detailed information about why they care about the loved one’s drug and alcohol use or overall mental health. They should also talk about how they have been hurt. Adding this emotional connection is critical in showing the importance of treatment to you. It’s not uncommon for addicts to believe the addiction is controlled or only hurting themselves, this is an opportunity to show them how they are underestimating the abuse.
Treatment Is Dependent on a Willing Participant
No matter how well you stage the intervention, the outcome could range widely. Having a treatment program lined up to provide your loved one with immediate help is critical. It’s important to have a treatment facility ready to help your loved one in detox or residential rehab when possible. If not, they should be able to get immediate help through intensive outpatient care.
What If It Fails?
By some people’s definition, interventions can fail. Your loved one may storm out of the room more angry than before, and in the moment you may think you’ve only made the situation worse. While this outcome and the feelings associated with it can be difficult to manage, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth your time. It has provided valuable information to your loved one: that a group of loved ones want better for them. This may take a while for them to process, but it can help.
As far as N. Fears sees it: “I don’t look at any intervention as being unsuccessful.” Why? “If that family gets in there to start the process, it’s successful. I’ve done two or three segments of an intervention to get a client into treatment … All sorts of stuff goes on, but it’s opening up people’s eyes, ears, and hearts … You have to break [the loved one with the addiction] down sometimes.”
N. Fears referred to the example of a highly successful business executive in his 70s who had been refusing to get help for a drinking problem. Fears emphasized that getting the man to seek treatment was “a process that takes time” but that ultimately could help the man live into 80s and 90s.
One Thing to Avoid for an Intervention to Succeed
For as much as every intervention can be a success—even if it signifies a small step in the direction of recovery—N. Fears was quick to point out “the only time you see it fails”—”when the family becomes reluctant to participate and gives up.” In the intervention process, “you keep looking for different leverage points,” N. Fears said. “There’s going to be continued use, and sometimes you need to be more empathetic with that indiviual … You’ve already narrowed the parameters of their use, and that’s important … When the doors start to close, you always look for leverage.”
Choosing Your Approach with the Help of an Interventionist
Planning with an interventionist may help you decide whether to present an ultimatum or an open invitation. There are potential risks and benefits to each approach. An ultimatum that declares you will be leaving or some other hard consequence if your loved one doesn’t seek help may be rebuffed as coercive and could mean you want their sobriety more than they do. The other approach, that of a standing, open invitation, may make it more likely they come to you for help but also could prolong their “rock bottom.”
It’s up to you, as a loved one who cares, to support their needs but not to enable their drug or alcohol use. Continue to show them how their actions impact your life. Ensure they know help is still available.
How FHE Health Can Help with an Intervention
In addition to persuading a loved one to seek therapy or treatment, an intervention can help set them up for success in therapy or treatment. That is why “intervention should be a primary option,” N. Fears said. “You can get someone into treatment kicking and screaming, but if they haven’t been set up with a course of action to help them be invested psychologically, then that person will be fighting treatment the whole way. You want them to be as invested in treatment as possible. That engagement process is very important to their success in treatment. You don’t want people just to go through the door of a treatment center. An intervention is critical to setting them up to make the most of treatment.”
At FHE Health, we can assist families with the intervention supports they need to help a loved one say “yes” to drug/alcohol rehab and more fully participate in a plan of treatment and recovery. No matter where you are in the process of helping your loved one to get help, FHE Health can support you. Contact us by calling (833) 596-3502. Our compassionate, dedicated professionals are available to provide fast help 24/7. Start your journey to helping your loved one today.