Intervention has become a part of popular culture, with televised drug and alcohol interventions showing up on the talk shows and even in reality show programming. While there are benefits to increasing public awareness of intervention, this type of programming can set up unrealistic expectations for those dealing with addiction in their own very real lives. Addiction is a complex problem, and an intervention – in order to be successful – must be a carefully planned and orchestrated event.
Planning Is an Integral Part of Success
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, intervention is most successful when it is planned specifically for the individual and his or her specific stage of addiction. Indeed, as the National Institute on Drug Abuse explained in their publication, Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment, A Research-Based Guide, “the individual’s age, gender, ethnicity, and culture” are important considerations for treatment. The same concept applies to intervention, which is why planning is essential to a successful intervention. Here are some factors to consider while devising an individual-specific intervention strategy, perhaps with the assistance of an intervention specialist:
- The American Academy of Family Physicians describes the stages relating to “readiness to change.” Among them are “precontemplation (not ready for change), contemplation (ambivalence about change), preparation (planning for change), and action (the act of change). They note that matching the approach to the stage can help to reduce resistance to change, something worth considering during intervention planning.
- People suffering from addiction often suffer from co-existing conditions, such as depression, anxiety or chronic pain. Co-existing conditions can affect specific points of intervention strategy planning.
- By its nature, intervention is confrontational. Confrontation can be either constructive or destructive. Intervention planning should be based upon making the experience as constructive as possible. That is achieved by keeping emotions under control and maintaining a caring, concerned, respectful tone.
- Assessing safety has to be a part of intervention planning. If there has been physical abuse, talk of suicide by the user, or the substance or substances being abused produce an emotionally erratic state, either during use or when “coming down” from use, an intervention specialist may need to be an active part of the process.
Successful Intervention Choreography
When backed up by solid planning, executing the actual intervention is much easier. In addition to planning a specific intervention style, devised according to the substance abused and the stage of addiction, choreographing the actual process is helpful. Script carefully, because it could be the most important performance the intervention team will ever make, and – hopefully – among the most moving the addict will ever experience.
- After devising a specific script of what each intervention team member will say about how the addict’s behavior personally affects the team member, using simple declarative sentences to state the problems, practice together until each person can play their part smoothly and unshakably.
- Don’t forget to include the addict’s potential objections and denials in practice sessions, so that responses are almost instinctual and that the substance user cannot push discussion away from the addiction and into an angry, emotional argument. Prepare for the substance user to try to deflect conversation away from the addiction any way possible.
- Choose the location of the intervention meeting well. Some people, for example, are less inclined to get belligerent in their mother’s home, but could be expected to become loud and angry in their own home. An on-the-job intervention may be the best option, if an employer is a part of the intervention team, again for the purpose of helping to keep the process focused and productive.
- Treatment options should be readily available, with at least one being immediately available. For example, if residential treatment is among the options, it would be a true best-case scenario if arrangements were in place where the user could go right from the intervention to the treatment center.
Understand that intervention and treatment may not work the first time. Some addiction problems are very challenging. Consulting with an intervention specialist can help increase the chance of success.