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Intervention:
The First Step in Addiction Recovery

The goal of any intervention is to help the person struggling with an addiction to enter an appropriate rehab program, typically an inpatient facility.

Today’s guide will show you how to help a loved one take the first crucial step of addiction treatment, even if they haven’t expressed an interest in going to rehab.

Table of Contents

What Is An Intervention?

Staging an intervention presents someone with an invitation to pursue the correct course of care for substance use disorder (drug addiction) or alcohol use disorder (alcoholism). 

An effective alcohol intervention or drug addiction intervention is framed as a request not a demand. Typically, the person has not expressed an interest in engaging with addiction treatment. A request or invitation is likely to meet with less friction and less head-on resistance than a more forceful or demanding approach.

Article at a Glance:

Every person is unique, and every addiction is different. As such, interventions should be personalized to suit. That said, today’s guide provides a framework to streamline the process. 

What does intervention mean more specifically, then?

Definition

If a family member is grappling with addiction, an intervention is a formal process with one primary goal: to connect your loved one with the addiction treatment they need. 

Most interventions target those with more severe addictions, meaning that the most appropriate treatment will typically involve inpatient rehab. 

To expand upon the definition of an intervention: 

  1. Interventions offer a pre-arranged treatment plan for a loved one with addicted to alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs.
  2. An effective intervention will include clear goals, steps, and guidelines for your loved one.
  3. During an intervention, friends and family members should provide the person with specific examples showing how their behaviors have impacted loved ones.
  4. Each person participating in the intervention should be clear about what they will do if the person refuses to accept treatment.
  5. A successful intervention is a well-planned invitation to pursue treatment rather than an attempt to force the person to enter rehab.

What is the Process for an Intervention?

While every intervention will unfold differently, the overall structure can be summarized as follows: 

  • Assessment and evaluation
  • Planning and preparation
  • Intervention
  • Follow-up

Assessment and evaluation

The first step of an intervention should involve speaking with a professional interventionist. 

You should choose an intervention service that allows you to connect directly with the interventionist in order to establish:

  • Whether an intervention is necessary.
  • If so, how quickly does the intervention need to take place?
  • What kind of intervention techniques would be most effective.
  • How to prepare those participating in the intervention.
  • The best treatment options in the event of a successful intervention.

Planning and preparation

Keep in mind at all times that an intervention is not designed to be a confrontational episode. Rather, a healthy and successful intervention involves presenting a plan to the person struggling with addiction with the assistance of a professional interventionist. 

We’ll outline the planning process below, and parts of this preparatory process will include: 

  • Meeting all family members participating in the intervention.
  • Discussing and evaluating any potential objections or barriers to treatment.
  • Creating a treatment plan – including safe transportation to a facility – to offer at the intervention.
  • Sharing strategies for processing pain and suffering with family members.
  • Formulating an after-plan.

The intervention

After all that planning, here’s where the rubber meets the road. 

If you engage the services of an interventionist, they will act as a bridge between you and your loved one on the day.

For those who choose not to involve a professional intervention specialist, read on to for a more detailed guide to staging an intervention

Follow-up

The extent of follow-up services offered by interventionists varies significantly. Some provide little more than a follow-up call or assessment after the person completes a 30-day rehab program. Other intervention services will conduct more comprehensive check-ins with the family and the loved one in recovery. 

Now you know what an intervention looks like, how can you put this approach into practice?

How to Do an Intervention

All interventions share a common goal: kickstarting the recovery process for a loved one unwilling or resistant to engaging with treatment. 

By design, an intervention unfolds without the knowledge of the person you are approaching. Family, friends, and an interventionist will meet at a predetermined time and place. Each person present at the intervention will have the opportunity to express their feelings and concern to the loved one in the throes of addiction. 

A typical intervention has three core components: 

  • Preparing
  • What to Do (the intervention)
  • Getting Help After

Preparing

The planning phase of an intervention is by far the most time-consuming element. 

You need to first make two pivotal decisions: 

  • Who will be present at the intervention?
  • Do you have sufficient information to fully understand the situation? 

 

Before you start taking any firm steps, first discuss the idea of staging an intervention with those closest to the person in need of help.

 

In addition to close friends and family members, consider involving some people from the more extended social circle of the person in question. This will help to reinforce the wider-reaching impact of the consequences of addiction. 

Exclude from the intervention those who condone substance use or the behavior of the person using substances. 

As long as you have a clear idea of who will be involved with the intervention and you are clear about the nature of the addiction, it’s time for the planning stage. While every intervention is unique, here are five pointers for streamlining preparations: 

  1. Form a small group for the purposes of planning the intervention
  2. Choose and engage the services of an interventionist
  3. Dial in your message
  4. Hold regular group meetings before the intervention
  5. Set a date and location for the intervention

1) Form a small group for the purposes of planning the intervention

You don’t need to include everyone who will be at the intervention for the preparatory stages. 

Formulate a small core group to deal with initial logistics, including making a complete list of all attendees. Contact all concerned and arrange for an initial meeting of the whole group with the exception of the person in need of help.

2) Choose and engage the services of an interventionist

In most cases, it is advisable to engage the services of a professional interventionist. 

First, ask those attending the intervention to seek advice from their healthcare providers concerning reputable intervention specialists. 

Reconvene after everyone in the group has solicited recommendations and conducted some online and offline research. If you do not want to risk staging an intervention unaided, decided upon the most effective specialist for your needs and engage their services.

3) Dial in your message

Everyone in the intervention group should know precisely what they will say when the intervention takes place. 

Each person should state specific examples of ways in which their lives have been impacted by the behaviors of the person with an addiction. Everybody should be as objective as possible, and everybody should attempt to leave emotion to one side. 

Regardless of the specifics of what each friend or family member says, an intervention should convey one unifying message: not only is treatment and recovery possible, but it is also the best option under the circumstances. 

Beyond this, an intervention should show the person in question that all the support they need is already in place.

 

While some of the content of an intervention will be negative, strive to maintain a positive and solution-oriented atmosphere.

4) Hold regular group meetings before the intervention

The more often you meet in the lead-up to the intervention, the more smoothly things are liable to run on the day. 

Rehearse what you plan to say in the order you will say it. 

Rather than starting the intervention with those closest to the person needing help, they may already be weary of pleas from that direction. Instead, consider starting with the words of someone close to the person but slightly removed from the situation.

Now you’re ready to work on the final logistics.

5) Set a date and location for the intervention

Choose a time and place when everyone will be free. 

Try to approach the person at a time when they will be sober. Interventions involving intoxicated individuals seldom pan out effectively. 

Block off a few hours and choose a private and comfortable location free from distractions.

What to Do

Bearing the above pointers in mind, stick to the planned structure on the day of the intervention. 

Every person present at the intervention should get the chance to say everything they need to offload. Everyone should kick off with a sincere expression of love and concern. Next, each person should highlight how the actions of the addicted individual have impacted them using concise examples. 

Now you have a plan of attack, you can start relocating your loved one to a rehab center, assuming all goes well with the intervention. 

Ultimately, it is worth approaching an intervention hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. 

Ideally, your loved one may feel relieved and they may be responsive to engaging with treatment. 

When an intervention does not go smoothly, on the other hand, you could experience a hostile reaction and a refusal to comply. 

Many interventions involve scenarios between these extremes. The person may agree in principle that they need addiction treatment, but they may also attempt to take control of the help being provided. In these instances, an experienced interventionist can help you to reassert control.

However the intervention pans out, you should all remain fully supportive of your loved one. This is no time for shame, guilt, anger, or frustration.

Getting Help After

To summarize, here are some of approaches to avoid if you want the most chance of a successful intervention:

  • Focusing on the problem (addiction) at the expense of the solution (treatment).

  • Blaming the person with an addiction.
  • Harassing or bullying your loved one.
  • Staging an intervention when your loved one is intoxicated.
  • Not sticking to the planned structure.
  • Absence of any meaningful back-up plan, something that can cause the problem to escalate.

If the intervention is successful, you should have a fixed plan of how you will get your loved one directly into an addiction treatment center. 

All that being said, you must also accept that you may fail to persuade your loved one to seek treatment. Indeed, you may meet with outright denial and a refusal to acknowledge that they need any form of treatment. 

Consider California Detox as the ideal environment in which your loved one can address their addiction and kickstart their recovery…

California Detox’s Addiction Treatment Programs

Here at California Detox, we offer a full range of addiction treatment services, including supervised medical detox. 

Whether your loved one needs inpatient or outpatient rehab after a family intervention, we offer programs at all levels of intensity on ASAM’s continuum of care. 

Help your friend or family member unpack the physical and psychological addiction and to move into sustained recovery through our evidence-based addiction treatment programs. 

Call California Detox today at 949.567.8790 to discuss your options.

FAQs

If you are wondering the best strategies for staging an intervention, one of the best things you can do is contact an addiction professional to walk you through the process.

That said, some things you should focus on include:

  • Ensuring all participants are on the same page
  • Settling on a date and time of when to do it
  • Write out what you want to say and perhaps practice it with other
  • Make sure your loved one doesn’t feel attacked

Most importantly, you want to have a path forward for your loved one. This can include doing preliminary research into addiction recovery facilities and rehab programs to get help.

Sources

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