Interventions for Addicts

One of the trickiest and most heartbreaking aspects of being close to an addict is realizing that no matter how hard you may want or try to help, they likely won’t change any behavior until and unless they themselves can admit they have a problem. Still, there are some ways to help encourage an addict or alcoholic to open their eyes to the truth of a situation. And staging an intervention is a longstanding technique designed to help do just that.

What Is An Intervention?

In the world of addiction and recovery, “intervention” may be a tricky word to pin down.

In its broadest sense, “intervention” can refer to any number of practices employed to help curb alcoholism and drug abuse, including cognitive behavioral therapy, couples counseling, and a technique called motivational interviewing.

But an intervention, as it’s perhaps most commonly known, is an organized attempt to confront a friend, family member, or loved one about their drinking problem.

The keyword is “organized.” An intervention of this type often involves several people in an alcoholic’s life including friends, family members, and sometimes even co-workers, all coming together to express their concerns for the individual.

The idea, and indeed, the greatest hope, behind an intervention of this type, is to collectively hold up a mirror to an addict or alcoholic, to help him or her understand just how much of an impact their actions are having and just how many people they’re affecting. If you’re unsure whether you should be holding an intervention for someone or what rehab options are available, call 800-839-1686Who Answers? to speak to an addiction treatment specialist.

When Should You Stage An Intervention?

Staging an intervention is a very big step, and perhaps not always the best one to try first. Many people prefer addressing an alcoholic one-on-one before moving on to the more extreme measure, for many reasons.

The one-on-one approach may be more discreet and less upsetting or alarming for both the concerned party and the loved one they’re hoping to reach. It’s also easier to prepare for. And alcoholics do sometimes respond to this type of outreach.

But if one, or even several, attempts at addressing the problem this way have proved ineffective, or if the person is otherwise out of control, unreachable, or unable to objectively see the consequences of their choices, it may be time to consider something a bit more drastic.

Regardless, once it’s been decided that staging an intervention is the next best step, the process should be done with the type of consideration and care appropriate to something so important.

How Do You Organize An Intervention?

Planning an intervention can be a daunting task and it’s one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

It’s typically recommended for a concerned party to contact an intervention specialist to help put together the appropriate type of gathering. A specialist can help you figure out who to get involved with and who to potentially leave out of the meeting. They’ll also find the right type of location to stage the intervention and be on hand to help facilitate constructive conversations and steer the group away from potentially toxic turns in the discussion.

Many local rehab centers either have intervention specialists on hand or can help put you in touch with one. To find out more, call 800-839-1686Who Answers? or you can read more about how to put together an intervention here.

Who Is Involved In An Intervention?

An intervention can involve many different people, but the one thing they should all have in common is genuine concern for the person they’re trying to help.

Typically, these people make up some of the closest relationships in the person’s life and can include anyone from a spouse or partner to parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins, to close friends and even co-workers or employers.

Sometimes, children of the addict or alcoholic will also be involved in the intervention, especially if they’re older. But some intervention specialists advise against this, particularly for younger children.

Others to potentially keep off the list include any friends or family members with their own addiction struggles, including friends the person may be drinking or using with, along with anyone who might not be able to offer genuine constructive conversation due to harboring resentments toward the person in question.

Your intervention specialist will be able to help you figure out who should be there, who shouldn’t, and how many people should be involved in your intervention.

What Happens At An Intervention?

There are several different models for this type of intervention, all of which play out a bit differently.

Johnson and Field Models

The most commonly employed type of intervention is called the Johnson Model, named after the therapist, Vernon Johnson, who pioneered the technique.

Using this method, friends, family members, and the intervention specialist all gather in an agreed-upon location—usually somewhere neutral and non-threatening—and confront the loved one together. The person does not have prior knowledge of the meeting in the Johnson Model.

A similar method is called the Field Model of Intervention. This is like the Johnson Model in that the person does not know beforehand that an intervention is taking place, but the intervention specialist will have additional training in how to deal with potential crises that may arise during or after the confrontation. As such, this model is usually recommended for those with graver concerns over their loved one’s mental health condition.

In these intervention models, the intervention specialist will introduce him- or herself after the person arrives and explain the situation. Then, friends and family members will take turns reading prepared statements about their concerns, the impact their loved one’s addiction issues have had on them, and their hopes for the person to get help. The intervention specialist will help facilitate the conversation, ensuring that everyone remains calm and on-topic.

Invitation Model

There’s also the Invitation Model of Intervention. A newer, and markedly different, approach which informs the addict or alcoholic of the intervention ahead of time. The intervention itself is staged as more of a workshop that focuses on helping the person in question work to form a stronger family unit or support system to help them through the recovery process.

But be prepared: Even when addicts know it’s coming, the response to intervention can vary widely. Most alcoholics or addicts, especially those at the point of intervention, are deeply in denial of their condition. And mental health issues often accompany alcoholism. (As many as six in ten addicts suffer from a combination of substance abuse and mental health illnesses, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.)

The person may lash out defensively, verbally, or physically. They may try to harm themselves or others during or after the intervention. They may also shut down completely, crying, screaming, or otherwise attempting to zone out the attempt to help them.

That’s why the right type of intervention and the right type of specialist are both so important. Be honest with your intervention specialist, especially about any fears involving your loved one’s potential response to intervention, to plan for the best possible course of action for your situation.

What Happens After An Intervention?

An intervention is often not the first step in helping an alcoholic seek help but it’s often not the last one, either.

Having a follow-up plan is just as important as planning the intervention itself, especially because the nature of recovery can be so daunting and call for a person to make so many major changes in their life.

Coming prepared is crucial, whether that be with general information for how and where the person could get further help or actual plans to enter them into a rehab facility, outpatient program, or some form of therapy.

Some intervention strategies also call for giving the person consequences, such as losing visitation rights with their children or having their car taken away, should he or she fail to seek help. In these cases, actually following through with those consequences if the person doesn’t seek help is an important part of sending them a consistent message. (Your intervention specialist will help advise you if this is the right tactic for you.)

Most of all, it’s important to follow up on interventions with the same type of concern and care for the person that led you to plan the event in the first place. Be there for them and continue to show your love and support through this difficult time. Your presence could be a big source of strength and solidarity for them through a process that upends the lives of many.

Still, it’s important to be cognizant of your own personal boundaries and mental health. You should never, under any circumstances, tolerate physical, verbal, or emotional abuse, and acting in your own self-interest during this time can help ensure you have enough strength to keep yourself going, which is integral if you plan on offering any to your loved one. Groups like Al-Anon or Al-Teen provide several resources for people who are dealing with similar situations and may be a good place to look for your own support and comradery.

The road to recovery can be full of twists and turns, but the love and support of friends and family can go a long way toward helping someone straighten out.

To speak to a specialist about more rehab options, you can call 800-839-1686Who Answers?.

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