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An intervention is an attempt to help a loved one overcome addiction. In an intervention, people who care about the person with substance use disorder encourage him or her to seek help for alcohol, drug use, or another addiction. Staging an intervention is emotional and somewhat risky, but it might also be what convinces the person to seek the help he or she needs.
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It’s common for someone with a drug or alcohol problem to be in denial about the issue. Loved ones band together to confront the person and have a direct conversation about the negative effects of the person with substance use disorder’s behavior. The intervention creates a structured opportunity for that person to seek help before the problem worsens.
An intervention is a carefully planned event that includes the family and friends of a person with substance use disorder. It is usually done in consultation with a doctor or professional addictions counselor. It might also include an interventionist to direct the conversation and/or a member of the person with substance use disorder’s faith to provide support to those in attendance.
When interventions are carefully prepared and done with the guidance of a competent, trained specialist, loved ones are usually able to convince the person with substance use disorder that the only choice is to accept help.Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Interventions are effective in dealing with a variety of issues. Types of interventions include confronting a person about:
The most common type of intervention is the direct method. In the direct method:
Though no two interventions are exactly alike, the general guidelines for conducting an intervention are almost always the same. Interventions include the following steps:
There must be careful planning for an intervention to work. If there are no plans or those plans are poorly executed, it can result in the person with substance use disorder feeling attacked and refusing help.
There are no guarantees, but the better planned and executed an intervention is, the more likely it is to result in the outcome loved ones are hoping for.
People in attendance at an intervention include those who are important to the person with substance use disorder. It is usually four to six family members or friends the person loves, respects, or depends on. Part of planning an intervention includes deciding who should come. Though the list of attendees will vary from situation to situation, people who should not attend an intervention include anyone:
If there is someone important in the person with substance use disorder’s life who cannot or should not attend the intervention, that person should write a letter about his or her feelings concerning the addiction. Review it in advance and read it to the person with substance use disorder during the intervention.
It is not necessary to have an addiction professional in attendance at the intervention, but many find that doing so is helpful. An addiction professional is especially helpful if the person with substance use disorder:
Contact an addiction professional if there is any chance the person with substance use disorder will react violently to the intervention.
Things can be done in advance, not to make the intervention any easier emotionally but to eliminate loose ends and allow immediate action if the person with substance use disorder accepts treatment. For example:
A successful intervention is not about a person with substance use disorder promising to get help soon. It is about immediate action based on discussions in the intervention. Do not give the person with substance use disorder time to think about accepting the treatment offer. Prepare in advance to get the person with substance use disorder into an evaluation immediately if he or she agrees to the plan.
As emotionally charged as an intervention might be, it is important to have a plan in place and know what to avoid when confronting a person with substance use disorder. For instance, interventions should not:
Intervention participants should research the issue in advance and do their best to understand the various aspects of the addiction or substance use issue. Everyone should agree in advance to stick to the plan and focus on the agreed-upon best outcome. No matter the response, participants should remain calm and keep the conversation on track.
Unfortunately, not all interventions have the outcome loved ones are hoping for. Even with intervention and discussion of serious consequences, an person with substance use disorder might still deny the problem or refuse help.
Sometimes it’s necessary to try a different type of intervention. An indirect method of intervention counsels family members to interact with the person with substance use disorder in a manner that is more conducive to healing. An indirect intervention allows family members to get the education needed to deal with the person with substance use disorder in the best way possible, even if he or she refuses treatment.
Another option is a forcible intervention. Addiction professionals conduct forcible interventions that involve the person with substance use disorder being committed against his or her will.
This doesn’t mean the intervention has failed though. One of the benefits of interventions is that they bring together those in the person with substance use disorder’s life and allow them to join together and agree to no longer enable destructive behavior. There is hope that in the future that might be enough to help the person with substance use disorder get the help he or she needs.
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“Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction.” Mayo Clinic, 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/intervention/art-20047451.