Interventions—in which a concerned group of friends and family confront a loved one suffering with a substance abuse issue—have unfortunately been made into voyeuristic entertainment on a number of reality television shows. But in the real world (as opposed to, for example, The Real World), interventions can be a powerful tool for helping someone who is refusing to acknowledge a problem with drugs or alcohol. The key is to make sure you plan with care in order to create the best opportunity for success.
Step One: Find the Right Interventionist
The first step in your plan should be to hire a professional. Confronting a loved one about a serious problem like addiction requires more than just a caring group of friends. It requires the skills and experience of a trained interventionist.
You’ll likely want to speak with several people to find the person right for your situation. Ideally, you’ll craft a short set of questions—asking about everything from the person’s experience and philosophy to their fee structure and availability—that will enable you to compare options and choose the best interventionist for your needs.
The interventionist you choose will guide you in determining the best kind of intervention to pursue for your loved one. While the basic structures of interventions are quite similar, there are several different options to carefully consider.
Step Two: Find the Right Team
There may be a significant number of people who want to participate in the intervention—and that’s great. It demonstrates love and compassion for the person who is struggling.
That said, it’s important to make sure your intervention group is made up only of individuals who can participate in a constructive way. That means excluding others with a substance abuse issue, those who have had particularly traumatic or anger-inducing interactions with the subject of the intervention, and, of course, children.
Step Three: Find the Right Words
Maybe you’ve been thinking about all the things you’d like to say to your loved one for a long time. It might seem as though the words will just flow out perfectly if you just open the floodgates and let them rush into the room. The truth is, that’s very unlikely. And that’s why it’s important to gather your intervention group together to practice.
Remember, an intervention must come from a place of kindness. So, browbeating or otherwise pressuring your loved one is not a good strategy. The importance of finding a way to express what you want to say with kindness and clarity cannot be overstated.
Rehearsing will probably feel awkward. It will be far less awkward, however, than having everything go wrong during the intervention itself because you don’t know what to say or how to say it. Your professional interventionist will be able to provide guidance, but taking the time to think the event through and practice for it is essential for success.
Step Four: Find the Right Time and Place
Can you predict a time your loved one is likely to be sober? If so, this is a key factor as you consider when to hold the intervention. While under the influence, the person you are trying to help is less likely to be receptive.
Also keep in mind that while you can set a time for the intervention to begin, you can’t predict when it might end. An intervention can’t be neatly added to a calendar between two other appointments or obligations. While some conversations may go quickly and end with the confronted individual ready to seek treatment, others may extend much longer. Make sure your team is ready to participate no matter how long it might take.
The place you choose is equally important. It needs to be someplace your loved one feels comfortable that is also free of distractions. If possible, make sure it is a place that can easily accommodate the size of your group so your loved one doesn’t feel surrounded and overly pressured.
Step Five: Find the Right Attitude
You might be pinning all your hopes for your loved one’s recovery on the success of your intervention. It’s great to be optimistic, but it’s also important to be realistic.
Sometimes an intervention is an immediate success and the person with the substance abuse issue agrees to seek treatment. Sometimes an intervention might inspire some progress—for example, the confronted individual may acknowledge, perhaps for the first time, that they have a substance abuse issue—but not result in the seeking of treatment. And sometimes the intervention may simply fail—even if you’ve followed all the steps laid out here—because your loved one responds with anger and denial.
To the extent possible, you must be prepared for any of these outcomes. Keep in the forefront of your mind that even a failed intervention is not the end of the story.
In any case, don’t let realism totally overwhelm your optimism. If you’ve found the right professional help, assembled the right group of friends and family, worked diligently on preparation so you know what you want to say and how, and sought out a good place and time, there’s an excellent chance you will have success—and that your loved one will be open to the help they need.
Ready to get started? We’re ready to help.
At Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, we stand ready to help your loved one overcome addiction and stay on the path of sobriety. We can help connect you to resources as you plan your intervention, and we’re fully equipped to provide the care and strategies that can help a person who is struggling with drugs or alcohol. Sometimes an intervention—carefully planned and kindly handled—is the perfect way to get the journey to recovery underway.