The Top Ten Tips for Doing an Intervention
Chances are if you are reading this that means you have a loved one who has an addiction and that you are considering doing an intervention. There is a good chance that you are probably nervous about the idea of confronting your loved one about their addiction. Maybe you have already broached the subject and it didn’t go over very well or maybe you just found out that your loved one has a substance abuse problem. Either way, you should know that although doing an intervention can be highly stressful it is oftentimes the very thing that saves an addict’s life.
Let’s be completely honest, confronting an addict about their addiction is not going to be very fun. If this were an easy thing to talk about then you probably wouldn’t need to consider doing an intervention in the first place. Despite this unpleasant fact I would say that if you feel like your loved one needs an intervention then it would probably be a good idea to go ahead and do one. With all of that being said here are some tips to keep in mind while you are planing one out.
1. Make an intervention plan ahead of time.
When it comes to doing an intervention just “winging it” is not really a good idea. It would be wise to have everything planned out ahead of time and to anticipate different reactions that your loved one may have. If you are able to work with a professional interventionist that would be ideal, but if that is something that is financially out of reach for you, then having a consultation with one is always an option, too.
2. Don’t make an ultimatum that you are not prepared to keep.
Ultimatums are a big part of doing an intervention. You ask your loved one to get help and present some sort of consequence for them if they refuse. It is vitally important that any ultimatum you present to your loved one is one that you are willing to follow through with. If your loved one refuses to get help and you do not follow through with the consequence you presented, then you will have an even harder time getting that person to accept help in the future. Showing tough love can be difficult but sometimes that is exactly what an addict needs to receive before they are willing to get help. That being said it is also important to remember that you are doing the intervention out of love, not as a punishment, so it is necessary to show grace and empathy during this process. Kindness will go a long way towards getting your loved one’s agreement.
3. Expect your loved one to get upset.
There is a really good chance that your loved one is going to get pretty upset during the intervention process. From time to time there are people who are already ready and will go into agreement with their family right away and accept help, but this is not a common situation. Most addicts will become defensive because they feel under attack. There is a good chance there will be a lot of yelling, crying, and possibly screaming from your loved one when you confront them about their addiction. This will be uncomfortable but it is okay because it is all apart of the process.
4. Set up treatment before the intervention.
It is very important that you set up a treatment program for your loved one prior to doing the intervention. Many times interventions take a lot of work and as soon as your loved one decides to accept the help, you need to be ready to take them to treatment right away. Do not fall into the trap of waiting a day or two for them to go to rehab because chances are they will change their mind during that time. Speak with a treatment center prior to doing the intervention and make sure there is room available at the program of your choice. As soon as your loved one accepts the idea of getting help then take them to the treatment center right away.
5. Realize that it may take a very long time.
Some interventions are really short but some interventions can take hours to complete. It is important to just expect that it is going to take a long time and that you are prepared in case it does. Eat a good meal beforehand and clear out your schedule. You do not want to have any distractions during such an important process.
6. Wear your running shoes... seriously.
It is a good idea to wear some comfortable running shoes just in case your loved one decides to go on a walk. If you have a professional interventionist with you, they will help go after your loved one if they decide to run away. But it would be a good idea for you to be prepared for this possibility as well. No one wants to be walking through the mud chasing down an angry addict while wearing their nice dress shoes.
7. Do your best to remain calm.
During an intervention tensions will run high, emotions will fill the room and there may be some yelling from your loved one. While there is nothing wrong with crying, I would highly recommend doing your best not to yell. Even if your loved one is yelling at you, try your best not to yell back. Yelling back might make you feel better but it is not going to help the situation, it will only escalate things further.
8. When possible, handle any enablers prior to the intervention.
Before confronting a loved one about their addiction it is very important to attempt to figure out who the enablers in their life are. Chances are there is someone in your family that has been enabling your loved one’s self-destructive habits. It is very important to sit the enablers down for a serious conversation before you do the intervention. The last thing you want is to kick your loved one out and then have your aunt take them in and give them money. If it turns out you are the enabler then it would be a good idea to speak with an addiction professional about things you can do to stop enabling your loved one’s addiction.
9. Don’t take anything that is said during the intervention personally.
There is a very good chance that your loved one will not only lash out at you or someone else in your family but also begin to attack your own integrity. Addicts will oftentimes try to deflect the attention onto someone else when they are confronted about their addiction. This is an “addiction survival mechanism” because the act of putting the attention onto someone else takes the attention off of their addiction. Do your best not to take any attacks or insults that may be thrown your way during the intervention process personally.
10. Seek professional guidance when necessary.
If you feel in over your head about the idea of doing an intervention you are not alone. Interventions can be difficult, they aren’t something that the average person has to deal with every day. If you don’t know where to start and feel like you could use some guidance, then I would highly recommend seeking out professional guidance. There is nothing wrong with asking for a little help, especially when it comes to saving the life of a loved one.
Reviewed and Edited by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, MCAP, RAS