Those struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction will know that the consequences and difficulties it gives rise to are far from desirable or glamorous. So too are the treatment methods that go with overcoming substance addictions and dependencies. One element of addiction recovery that has often been portrayed as glamorous or coveted popular culture is that of addiction intervention.
Although addiction intervention is a positive, effective and potentially life-changing moment in someone’s life, it is not the shiny eureka moment that is mostly portrayed on TV shows and soaps. Denial in addiction is incrementally common, and is one of the main reasons interventions as we know it exist. It can be incredibly difficult and frustrating for family, friends and colleagues to watch idly as someone they care about falls deeper into the pits of addiction.
This is why interventions exist. Refusing to get help will inevitably lead to a very unfortunate ending for the addicted person. And doing nothing by the hands of those who care is equally excruciating. So, interventions exist as a means of exactly that – intervening in order to achieve the best possible outcome.
What Is an Addiction Intervention?
An intervention is when family, friends or colleagues intercede in the life of someone who is struggling with an addiction. Intervention is all about interjecting with positivity, pragmatism and caution – it is not a free pass to scythe or judge someone.
An intervention is aimed at changing the person’s behaviour before it is too late. They carefully challenge the individual on their current actions, and try to help enable them to alter their lives and habits. In most cases, interventions are staged and planned out meetings.
A number of individuals (or sometimes just two) peacefully confront the addicted person with the hope of enabling them to see the light. These can sometimes be difficult and emotional, and should never put the addicted person or any of the intervening persons in danger. This is why professional interventionists are sometimes hired to lead the discussions.
When Is Addiction Intervention Needed?
There are many indicators that a person requires an intervention such as:
- Their physical health has deteriorated due to their addiction
- Severe consequences such as losing their job, driving licence, or custody of children
- They are a danger to themselves or others while intoxicated
- Displaying violent, volatile or aggressive behaviour
- Anxiety, depression, suicidal intent or self-harm
Why Would Someone Hold an Addiction Intervention?
Denial and addiction go hand-in-hand. Those who are addicted are simply blind to the troubles they are causing themselves and others. They are either oblivious to the fact their addiction could ruin their lives – or they are that far into the depths of addiction, they do not care about the outcome. This is why interventions are focal in recovery – they offer outside, objective help to an otherwise hopeless situation.
The family and friends of loved ones may hold an intervention if they feel like they have exhausted all options. For example, they could have already asked them to stop, refused to stop lending them money or ‘bailing them out’ of situations. They could have asked someone senior to speak to them, like a respected family figure or employer, but with no avail. Interventions are commonly the ‘last resort’ when people feel they have no other choice.
One of the reasons interventions are considered helpful is the power in numbers. Having a variety of family members and friends expressing their love and concern for someone who is suffering can be a powerful and effective thing. The individual will follow advice and seek help more so than if they were being screamed or shouted at by a ‘bad figure.’
What Happens During an Addiction Intervention?
Any intervention primarily involves the addicted person and key members in their life who not only know them well, but who ultimately want what is best for them. During an intervention, this team of people approaches the individual and tries to make them see the damage they are doing to their own life. They most importantly try to encourage them to seek help from a professional service, such as residential rehab or outpatient treatment.
No one should enter an intervention without prior preparation. This prevents emotions from flaring up, and stops people saying things that could be damaging or upsetting for the person they are trying to help. Because of this, the interventionists read out letters they have planned before. They take it in turns to voice their feelings about how addiction is affecting them, and their loved one’s life. This should remind them often that they are loved, supported, and can make a change, ending with the proposition of going to rehab.
The Role of Leader
There is normally a leader who takes charge of the intervention, to ensure everything is said at the right time and to keep conflict at bay. This group should meet beforehand to discuss such goings on, and to prepare for any potential mishaps. Towards the end of an intervention, those who are leading it should also let the addicted person know that there has to be consequences if they refuse treatment.
The group should decide upon these repercussions before hosting the intervention. This could be refusing to lend money in future, or telling them that they can no longer see certain vulnerable family members. In some cases, they could let the authorities know if there are illegal or illicit substances involved.
What Type of Addictions Require Intervention?
Intervention in popular culture often tackles two problems: illicit drug addictions, or alcoholism. But there are many more addictions – both substance-based and behavioural – that require interventions. These include:
- Prescription drug abuse
- Drug abuse
- Compulsive eating
- Compulsive gambling
- Shopping addiction
- Eating disorders
- Suicidal ideation
What Are the Main Stages of An Addiction Intervention?
Interventions are well-thought of, highly structured occurrences that need to follow a certain structure. As a result, below we have listed the main three stages of intervention:
The first stage is before the intervention, when the family or friends of the addicted person meet with an interventionist or counsellor.
This is when the addicted person's behaviours, history and special circumstances are discussed. The interventionist will take note of the following issues:
- History of addiction
- The nature of the addiction (What type of substance, how much they consume)
- If the addicted person can become temperamental or aggressive when confronted
- Any health concerns relating to, or not relating to addiction
- The relationship of each attendee to the addicted person
- Whether there are any co-occurring disorders
- Any ongoing or previous legal issues or convictions
As discussed above, the meeting itself is conducted by a leader who oversees each other attendee - this is usually an interventionist or counsellor. Each person will take turns reading out their letters, explaining that they love and care for the addicted person, but that their behaviours are causing too much upset for themselves and others for it to continue.
After each person has expressed their feelings, the interventionist or leader will then go on to discuss treatment options. Residential treatment is often the most common option as it offers a safe, secure and trigger-free environment for recovery.
The specialist will go through the rehab process with the individual, and will convey the benefits of seeking treatment. It is vital to already have a few options lined up, so the addicted person can immediately choose rather than agreeing in the moment and then declining at a later date.
At ADT Healthcare, we have a team of skilled interventionists, counsellors and addiction experts to see you through every step. Intervention is the first positive step towards recovery - but it is a long road. However, it is a milestone, especially if the individual takes heed and attends a treatment facility.
After an intervention, the interventionist will recap all of the points discussed during the meeting and will create a rehab plan tailored towards that individual. Successful interventions result in the addicted person agreeing to attend a rehab programme.
In this instance, the leader of the intervention will contact that facility and arrange for the addicted person to attend immediately. Unsuccessful interventions do happen, and if one occurs, it is vital to have a plan in place as to not exacerbate an already bad situation.
Do Interventions Really Work?
How effective are interventions? Is it worth it? Akin to anything important in life: there is no certain answer. Those wondering whether an intervention is worth it should consider if the intensity of the addiction requires one. When our clients have asked us, we always say addiction intervention is worth it if it is done correctly.
Each case is different: so are the desired outcomes. Situations where the addicted person does not immediately agree to enter rehab are not ultimate failures. It may have brought the family closer together, or the individual may have finally listened to their loved one’s concerns.
Interventions that go ‘wrong’ may ultimately have not saved the addicted person, but may have put all those involved in a safer position. Failed interventions may not always fall on deaf ears: it may take a few days or weeks for the person to come round after the voices and feelings of their nearest and dearest ruminate in their mind.
How to Stage an Intervention: 10 Helpful Tips?
Staging an addiction intervention can be a difficult feat, and with lots of advice from addiction centres and specialist, it can be even more difficult to know if you’re doing it correctly. Following these top 10 tips will ensure the most effective approach to any intervention:
- Pick your team carefully: ensure everyone who is intervening has a healthy relationship with the addicted person
- The right time is key: being sober is crucial for the addicted person to really take in what you are saying
- Find a neutral, formal setting: home can be too familiar, but a public place may be too intimidating or open. An office, church or therapist’s lounge is a good option
- Think about the order of speakers: the person with the closest relationship to the addicted person should go first. They may be tired of hearing certain lectures from the same people over and over
- Remember to rehearse: emotions can be volatile during interventions, resulting in muddled words or forgetting the script. Rehearsals different reactions and scenarios is also a sure way of preparing for unsuccessful interventions
- Stay on script: Practicing reading your letter will instil confidence to the intervention team. Do not be tempted to ‘ad lib’ as this may result in you saying something sensitive or emotionally charged
- Body language speaks volumes: eye contact, a relaxed posture, and uncrossed arms is vital. Keep your body pointing towards the addicted person to portray a warm and positive approach
- Learn to control your emotions: anger, frustration or violence are not to be tolerated during interventions. Avoid starting an argument, and avoid your desire to blame or counter-attack if the person becomes defensive
- Have a plan B: it’s a fact that interventions sometimes go wrong. Having a back-up plan helps you navigate the situation if the addicted person responds unpredictably
- Try again if you fail: the desire to see immediate action is tantamount. But this isn’t always possible. Refusing to give up is also one of the key elements to addiction intervention
Intervention & Language
Addiction interventions are primarily about communicating. From one loved one to another, just how the individual’s addiction is affecting them, why, and the consequences of this. While it’s important for both parties to feel like they have a voice and opinion, creating a safe and trusted space that enables people to talk freely but with compassion is key.
Because of this, we have dedicated a section to addiction interventions and language. This refers to the type of verbal and physical language you convey during the meeting. Or, in other words, the ‘vibe’ you are giving off to the person struggling. Interventions will most certainly backfire if the tone or body language is in any way judgemental, angry, or negative in any other form.
How Do I Write an Intervention Letter?
Going into an addiction intervention without having planned what you’re going to say to your loved one is a recipe for trouble. This is why you should take the time to write an addiction intervention letter beforehand. The letter should contain everything you wish to say to them. But it is sometimes difficult to do this kindly due to the wealth of negative emotions addiction incurs.
Firstly, your letter relies heavily on your ability to communicate just how much you want your loved one to overcome their addiction. It should depict the severity of their substance abuse. You should demonstrate how you are concerned it will lead them to their own demise. The letter should also highlight (sensitively) how their behaviour is affecting others.
Clear intent that you want to continue to support them and be in their lives throughout their recovery is important. So too is your emphasis that if they do not participate in an addiction treatment programme, you will have no choice but to eliminate them from your life.
The letter should take a serious and clear tone, but it should also constantly remind the addicted person that this severity is coming from a place of love and concern. In no way should this letter express shame, judgement, or hatred towards them or their addiction.
What to Say During an Intervention?
When asked this question, it’s important to remember the reason for an addiction intervention. To get the addicted person into treatment. Although it’s sometimes cathartic and refreshing for loved ones to express their feelings, this is not the sole purpose.
Be careful when you’re writing and reading your intervention letters to not ‘vent’ your emotions without a filter. The overall tone should be empathic, calm and loving. The language used should be kind, understanding and non-judgmental.
What Not to Say During an Intervention
The main concepts to avoid during an intervention are blame, anger and anything that implies an attack. This is why planning what you are going to say is best, so you don’t end up saying anything too aggressive or emotionally-charged.
Never say things like “this is all your fault,” “you’re ruining this family” or calling them a druggie or drunk. Avoiding negative language and hurtful labels are always key.
Are There Different Types of Intervention?
There is much more to holding an addiction intervention than just inviting the addicted person into a room. There needs to be strategy. Below we have outlined the 5 different methods of intervention and the benefits of each:
This method is the most popular of all the intervention types. It is based on the element of surprise and involves family, friends and an interventionist confronting the addicted person.
The aim of this method is talking mainly about the addicted person's behaviour and the harm it is causing everyone, including themselves. The Johnson Model is also aimed at preventing the addicted person from denying or deflecting their problem.
Consequences or ultimatums work well in this method which are presented if the addicted person refuses treatment. Caution with this method should be taken as bringing shame or pressure can often make the addicted person feel out of control or even guilty.
Similar to the Johnson Model, but this method removes the element of surprise by asking the addicted person to meet everyone else to discuss their addiction. Usually a nominee speaks directly with the addicted person about finding treatment.
They then either agree or disagree to attend, knowing full well what the meeting is about and where it could lead.
Advantages of this method include a willingness and expectancy to listen to the opinions of those concerned. However, refusing to attend the meeting is also a possibility. In this case, the family and friends can still meet - without the addicted person present - to put in place another plan.
This whole model is based on flexibility, versatility and adaptability. It allows the intervention to go any way (invitational or unexpected) based on the nature of the situation or the temperament of the addicted person.
This is why only interventionists should use this method, namely during interventions where violence is possible, or where an intervention is needed in an emergency.
The Systemic Model is aimed at being completely non-confrontational, blame-free and shame-free. Family and friends gather to remind the addict that they can live without their addiction.
This method is also different as it invites family, friends and even colleagues to sit with an interventionist and tell the addicted person how they have contributed to their addiction in some way.
This communal approach makes it less likely for the addicted person to feel singled out or ganged up on. Adolescents are a great target group to exercise this model of intervention with.
Similar to its use in psychotherapy and counselling, this method is all about empowering the addicted person to make changes for themselves.
It is all about understanding the addict's point of view, providing a judgement-free environment full of empathy. Creating trust and establishing individual goals is where the power lies.
Does Holding an Addiction Intervention Run Any Risks?
Research suggests that interventions themselves do not incur physical or psychological harm to the addicted person. However, what they can do is worsen your relationship with the addicted person.
Anger, resentment, hostility or even violence can ensue if an intervention goes wrong. Unsuccessful interventions often have to be followed by acting on those ultimatums – meaning family and friends will have to raise those barriers they threatened to.
Should I Hire an Interventionist?
DIY interventions can result in awkwardness, a general feeling of being lost in advice, and even fear at saying the wrong thing. It is a big thing, and so it deserves specialist guidance.
Professional help is always very helpful as it offers an objective perspective to the situation and allows someone neutral to keep the team focused. You should always seek the help of an interventionist if the addicted person is any of the following:
- A history of suicidal ideation, self-harm or suicide attempts
- Severe mental illness (bipolar disorder, schizophrenia)
- A history of aggressiveness or violence (physical or verbal)
- Multiple addictions
Is It Best to Work Alone or As Part of a Team?
The most successful addiction interventions only involve people (usually around 4-6) who would wholeheartedly contribute in a positive manner to the outcome. These are normally important people in the addicted person’s life – perhaps a best friend, close relative, someone with authority they respect or someone who depends on them (a child for example.)
It is vital to not include anyone who the addicted person does not like, or who is likely to sabotage or let their feelings run amok during the intervention. People with mental health problems or substance abuse problems should also be omitted. Ask them to write a letter saying what they wish to convey and have someone else read it at the intervention if it’s important they are involved.
Treatment Programmes After Addiction Intervention
An interventionist will determine how extreme the addicted person’s behaviours are and therefore which treatment is required. Options can vary depending on individual circumstances such as finances, if they have any dependents, any legal obligations, among other commitments.
Doing some research before holding the intervention about the treatment options is a good idea. For more information you could:
- Contact your doctor, an addiction specialist, or a mental health nurse
- Get in touch with national organisations and online support groups
- Look into your insurance options
- Learn more about our admission steps and what referral entails
- Look into locations and travel options
- Get in touch with people you know who have been to rehab for advice
Above all, you should contact our admissions team today for help and advice on hosting an intervention, what to do after the intervention, and how we can help you along in future. We have all the answers you need – put your trust in us today and say goodbye to a life of addiction.