How to Decide on an Intervention Technique

In movies and TV shows, interventions are portrayed as intensely emotional, sometimes violent confrontations between a substance abuser and his or her loved ones. While it’s true that these meetings can be emotionally charged, overplaying the drama is counterproductive. Ideally, an intervention should persuade a loved one to take action about behavior that has been harming herself and others. This conversation doesn’t have to take place in a confrontational or aggressive manner, but your loved one must understand that there will be consequences if he decides not to seek help. Tailoring the intervention to the needs and personality of the addict will increase your chances of success.

Planning an Approach

An intervention is a pre-arranged meeting between a substance abuser and his or her family members, friends, coworkers and other concerned parties. In many cases, the confrontation is arranged as a surprise, so that the subject of the meeting is caught off guard. But this element of surprise must also be planned carefully, so the addict doesn’t become paranoid or feel that you’re “ganging up” on him.

The purpose of the meeting is to help the addict see how her disease is affecting both her own health and the lives of those who are close to her. As part of the intervention, you should propose a treatment plan that will help the addict find healing.

What do addicts really need to hear, feel and experience during an intervention? The answers will vary depending on the individual in question. As you arrange your intervention, consider the following factors:

  • The addict’s substance abuse history. The longer a person engages in addictive behavior, the more likely he or she is to experience panic, anxiety, fear or anger when he or she faces the possibility of quitting. If your loved one has been using for a long time, you may need to take a firmer approach as you present your experiences and propose treatment.
  • The addict’s past behavior. As a result of their addiction, many substance abusers become devious and manipulative. Your loved one may have manipulated you into participating in his or her addiction (for example, by loaning him money to pay bills or by calling in sick on her behalf when she’s intoxicated). Or he may have become abusive and violent on past occasions when confronted about his drug abuse. When you prepare your intervention, consider the ways that your loved one might react, and plan accordingly.
  • The family’s experiences. Interventions are typically arranged by the spouses, partners, parents or children of someone whose abusing drugs and alcohol. The level of intensity of your approach may depend on how severely you and your loved ones have been affected by drug or alcohol addiction. Addicts must understand that there will be repercussions if they don’t agree to treatment, such as losing custody of children, being deprived of household privileges or losing a job.

As you plan your intervention, keep in mind that addiction is a disease, and the addict should never be made to feel ashamed about their illness. An overly aggressive approach to intervention may end up alienating your loved one and making the problem worse, warns Psychology Today.  To get the best results from this meeting, plan your intervention with the help of a professional addiction counselor. Intervention specialists have experience at arranging interventions in an objective, neutral manner to maximize the quality of the outcomes.

Setting Goals for Your Intervention

In order for your intervention to be effective, you must set clear goals and stick with these objectives throughout the meeting, no matter how emotional or resistant your loved one becomes. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an intervention should have six basic goals:

  1. Giving the addict feedback on their actions
  2. Letting them know that it’s their responsibility to change
  3. Offering brief, focused advice, preferably with the help of a trained therapist
  4. Presenting a set of treatment alternatives
  5. Using a compassionate, empathetic approach
  6. Motivating the addict to make positive changes

Whether you decide to stage your meeting as an invitation to seek treatment or you choose to take a firmer approach, a successful intervention should be a positive, empowering experience. Getting a loved one to seek help for substance abuse is never easy, but with the help of an experienced professional, it’s possible to rebuild your lives on a firmer foundation.

At Axis, we offer a range of recovery resources to individuals who are suffering from the effects of addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, call us for a confidential discussion of how you can start make positive, effective changes today.

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