Intervention 101: Finding the Correct Information

In your thirst for knowledge, don’t drown in the information.”
—Anthony J. D'Angelo

Friends talking in a cafe
(Photo by Andrey Arkusha/

In your preparation for doing an intervention, you are bound to get advice about how an intervention should be done, but be forewarned: A family member, friend or someone you met at a support group who’s been involved in one or two interventions isn’t necessarily giving you advice you want to bet the farm on—maybe yes, maybe no.

I’m not suggesting you should reject what you hear simply because it’s coming from someone without a lot of experience. Every piece of data or suggestion can be valuable, but it’s important to keep things in perspective. Get the backstory.

For example, you might be advised to never use an addict’s “ex” during an intervention because the person advising you had an intervention go south because of it. On the other hand, many ex-spouses, ex-girlfriends, and ex-boyfriends have been involved in interventions with great success. No two situations are alike. What was a bad idea for one might be a great idea for someone else. It all boils down to what will most likely work for the person you are trying to help.

Mainstream Intervention Models

I’ve read books about interventions and can’t say I agree with everything in them. In fact, there are quite a number of “mainstream” ideas floating around which I consider to be counterproductive.

For example, by far the most well-known book on interventions advises that anyone who has an active addiction or alcohol dependency not be involved in an intervention for someone else. If I’d followed that advice I would not have succeeded in a good number of interventions. One Georgia family is a good example: A woman from Atlanta hired me to get her heroin-addicted son into rehab. She and the addict’s sister were to be my support team. The addict himself lived with his father, a blackout drunk.

I found out the addict was stealing money from his father. The father, who was on his own emotional and chemical rollercoaster, knew about it. I took advantage of that and told him all about the program his ex-wife had agreed to pay for. I focused on the amenities and aesthetics. I told him how nice it was, which of course infuriated him because he was already angry about the money his son was stealing from him. He happily came to the courthouse with me where I began helping him file for a restraining order against his son, who would end up with nowhere left to go except treatment. When we found out that the county we were in required the sheriff to serve the restraining order within two hours, the father paused, turned to me and said, “We don’t need this. I will get him to go.”

He was so angry his face had turned bright red and looked like it was about to burst. It was all I could do to keep up with him as I followed him in my rental car. We parked out in front of his house. He went inside while I waited in my car. A few minutes later the kid came flying out of the side door, waving his shirt and yelling back at the house. He made his way over to my car, got in and slumped down into the passenger seat with his arms crossed. He growled at me, “I guess I have to go with you or my father’s going to have me arrested.” Long story short, we were on a plane to the treatment center that night.

Plan to do what you think will work, not what is easy or what someone tells you an intervention is “supposed to be.” A well-done intervention is any series of actions which result in the addict arriving at the program, and—if at first you don’t succeed, try again!


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