There was a time when the predominant school of thought about an addict and when he would most likely seek help meant waiting for the individual to hit “rock bottom.”

When that person’s life was adversely affected enough by addiction and destructive behaviors, he would enter rehab or find some other way of pulling himself up by his bootstraps.

Over the past few years, that thought process has changed. As the medical community has come to realize that addiction is a disease and not a “lifestyle,” more attention has been paid on helping those afflicted with addiction, rather than punishing them.

An intervention is the process by which an addict’s family, friends, counselors or professional intervention specialists can show the addict his destructive behaviors in a way that may result in the addict choosing to seek help immediately.


Words from an Interventionist

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Who Should Participate in an Intervention?

While many interventions are performed by family members, anyone with a vested, sincere and loving relationship with the addicted person can participate. In addition to the addicted person’s medical and psychological treatment providers, this might include:

  • Adult family members (siblings and parents)
  • Children of the afflicted individual
  • Pastoral and religious community members
  • Friends and colleagues of the addict
  • Significant others

It is also a good idea to use the services of a person trained in the process of drug and alcohol intervention. That person can provide the family and friends with the information they need to conduct a thorough and safe intervention.

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What’s the Immediate Goal?

It would be nice if the immediate outcome of an intervention would mean that the addicted person “sees the light” and never engages in her addictive behaviors again. This, however, is not possible, and it is not the goal of an intervention.

The purpose of an intervention is to convince the addicted party to immediately enter a rehabilitation program, usually in an inpatient facility.

The purpose of having so many interested parties confront the addict at the same time is not to “gang up” on the individual, but to show her how widespread her addiction truly is, how many people it affects and that help is available, right now, should she accept it. It is also a final warning, of sorts, that those interveners who truly love the addict will no longer help her to destroy herself.

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How Does It Work?

The first step to setting up an intervention for a loved one is to determine what help the individual may have already sought for himself. Does he have a counselor they speak with regularly? According to the American Psychological Association, a counselor or psychologist is prohibited from discussing confidential interactions with their clients or patients; however, they can help you to determine whether it is time for an intervention to take place and the probable success of the intervention. They may choose to be a part of the intervention process.

The intervention should take place in a safe environment with the full participation of every family member, friend or professional who has a stake in the outcome. For instance, while very young children who are unable to focus or actively participate should be cared for elsewhere, small children who are directly affected by the events can participate provided the content of the discussions is not too mature for them to hear or understand.

It is important that each person who will be involved in the intervention receive adequate training before attempting to participate. Many times, the friends and family members have been wronged by the addict either physically, emotionally or financially. Despite one’s best intentions, it is easy to allow anger to take over during the intervention process. The intervention should be used to show the individual that he is loved. It is not the appropriate time to address the anger each person may feel, and training prior to the intervention can help ease this problem.

Each member of the intervention group should write down, in advance, what they wish to say to the addicted person.
This can include:
  • How they have been wrongly affected personally by the addict’s behavior
  • Changes they have noticed in the addict’s personality, reliability and self-control
  • The overall impact that the addicted person’s behavior has had on their relationship
  • Dreams and goals they have for the addict post-treatment
  • A statement of unconditional love for the addict, but a promise that the intervener can no longer help the addict destroy himself

The final step to planning an intervention is to make sure there is a bed available in a reliable, trustworthy rehabilitation facility so the addicted person can immediately enter treatment.

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What are the Signs an Intervention is Necessary?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is defined as “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” If an individual is addicted to any substance and has indicated she does not wish to seek treatment, it may be time for an intervention.

Any time an individual is suffering from addiction and either does not understand she is addicted or does not seem to care about herself enough to seek help on her own, it is possible an intervention may help.

It is important to remember that many individuals, as many as six in 10 according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, suffer from dual diagnoses. This means that the afflicted individual may be self-medicating for more severe, root psychological issues that are leading her to abuse drugs and alcohol. She honestly believes she is not medicating herself rather than abusing these substances. An intervention can help her see that other help is available.

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What Are the Success Rates of Interventions?

Statistics are wonderful when it comes to deciding insurance premiums or other non-life threatening aspects of the human condition. Success rates for interventions, because the entire process is so personal, are harder to gauge. While studies show a high percentage of success convincing an addicted person to enter treatment immediately, if the individual is over the age of 18, he or she can check themselves out of rehab almost immediately upon getting there.

Because the discharge records of individuals seeking medical or psychological care are strictly confidential, there is not a reliable means to track how many discharges are premature or whether the person was admitted due to an intervention in the first place. There are many benefits to holding an intervention even if the intervention does not result in the addict immediately seeking the care he or she needs, however.

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What if the Intervention Is Unsuccessful?

The most impactful moment of an intervention can often be the addict’s realization that his or her loved ones will no longer facilitate the addiction. There are many addicts who claim to want to get help in order to manipulate and facilitate others into helping him or her maintain the addiction.

You’ll Know when an Intervention Fails if the addict:
  • Making and breaking promises to seek help “soon”
  • Promising to enter rehab if he is provided with money or a place to stay “for a while”
  • Entering rehab as part of a criminal conviction, but only going through the motions
  • Using manipulation to convince others he wants to seek help, but fails to follow through

When an addict has reached this stage of manipulation, he may understand that help is available, but has yet to understand the true impact of his behavior on the lives around him. When this happens, it is difficult for family members and friends to see through the manipulation.

If the addict ultimately refuses to enter a rehabilitation program, it is important that the interveners follow through on their own promises of no longer assisting the addict with food, money or a place to stay until he agrees to get help.

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Who Does the Process Help?

An intervention is designed to help any individual who is operating in a haze of alcohol addiction, drug addiction or dependency, other addictions such as sexual or gambling addictions, or psychological problems where those issues are drastically affecting his or her life and the lives of everyone who interacts with him or her.

Some individuals suffer from one of these problems, and others suffer from any combination of issues. In fact, it is not uncommon for a drug addict to also suffer from alcoholism based upon untreated psychological issues.

Individuals who suffer from severe problems that include alcohol and drug addiction do not often see the effect their behavior and addiction is having on those around them. Creating an intervention setting to explain the matter to them at point blank range, so to speak, can often help them recognize that they are not living up to their full potential.

Other benefits of planning and executing an intervention are focused on the family members and friends of the addict, and include the following:
  • Drug and alcohol abuse education
  • A deeper understanding of the commitment family members and friends need to have to help their loved one
  • Gaining knowledge of neighborhood and community resources for the family members and friends of addicts, such as Al Anon for teens and adults
  • A greater sense of unity among the family and friends of the addict as they become united in their desires to see their loved one become well

The overall goal of an intervention is to show the addicted individual that they do not have to hit “rock bottom” in order to seek treatment. Once she has been convinced that there are valid reasons to repair her life, there is a good chance she will agree to trying. Intervention is only one possible first step to recovery. The bulk of the work lies ahead through recovery and support, but intervention is an option when families and friends can commit themselves to the process.