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Alcohol Intervention Process



What would you do if a family member or friend exhibits signs of alcohol abuse or dependence but is unwilling to seek help? Well, you cannot force the individual to seek counselling or treatment. However, you can encourage him or her to do so by conducting an intervention.

If you are not familiar with the alcohol intervention, it is a process whereby a group of people close to the alcoholic confront him or her about the addictive behaviour. The purpose of the intervention is to show the alcoholic the reality of the situation and the harm being caused by alcohol. Above all, it is designed to be helpful rather than hurtful.

The alcohol intervention process involves four steps: seeking advice, preparation and planning, execution, and follow-up. Let’s look at each one individually.

Step 1 – Seeking Advice

While alcohol intervention is not necessarily complicated in principle, there are some definite dos and don’ts. It’s always a good idea to get the advice of a professional counsellor before going any further. A counsellor can explain how an intervention should work, what you can expect, and how to go about approaching the alcoholic.

If you were not comfortable conducting an intervention on your own, most professional counsellors would be happy to get involved. They will provide as little or as much help as you need. From planning and preparation to leading the intervention, professionals can be very helpful.

Step 2 – Preparation and Planning

As helpful as an alcohol intervention can be, it can be equally harmful if proper planning and preparation is not undertaken. You should never go through with an intervention unless you have completed this step. Consider the following:

  • Preparation – Preparing for intervention involves choosing team members and deciding what is going to be said. Some experts suggest team members write letters to the alcoholic rather than trying to speak unprepared. Writing a letter makes it easier to put your thoughts down in a way that is coherent and thorough. Each team member can then just read his or her letter at the appropriate time.

  • Planning – The idea of planning goes beyond preparation by devising a strategy and an order of business. You never want to leave a lull in the conversation that allows the alcoholic the opportunity to shut down. The entire event should be planned out so that it moves smoothly from one point to the next.

One final note here comes by way of choosing team members. It is important to select members based on how much positive influence they have over the alcoholic. Even the closest of individuals can be detrimental to the process if their influence tends to be negative.

Step 3 – Execution

The third step is where the real difficulty comes into play – the actual execution of the intervention. It is best when an intervention is held in a neutral environment because it reduces the likelihood of the alcoholic feeling as though he or she is trapped in the enemy camp. A neutral environment could be anything from a counsellor’s office to a public park.

Intervention experts suggest you limit execution to between 60 and 90 minutes. Anything shorter than an hour may not allow enough time for thorough discussion, but an intervention lasting longer than 90 minutes might be an open door to allowing emotions to get out of control. An intervention that goes too long may also cause the alcoholic to withdraw.

Step 4 – Follow Up

In some cases, the alcoholic is ready to make a decision within minutes of completing the intervention. If so, you should be ready to act on that decision right away. However, what if a decision is not made immediately? That’s where follow-up comes into play.

Someone on the team should plan to follow-up with the alcoholic within a couple of hours of the intervention. After having some time to think about it, the individual may conclude that the team was right; he/she needs help. If not, follow-up might include suggesting to the alcoholic just one session with a counsellor. The suggestion can be framed under the premise that the counsellor can help the individual sort out his/her thoughts.

As a side note, members of the intervention team might also benefit from some follow-up counselling. An intervention is often a stressful event that can take an emotional toll on team members. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, especially in light of the fact that the team members are often family members.

The counsellor you originally sought advice from will likely be willing to offer follow-up counselling. Be sure to ask about it during your initial consultation.

Seeking Treatment

The ultimate goal of an alcohol intervention is to bring the alcoholic to a place where he or she is ready to seek treatment. Assuming that’s the case, what are the options?

As an independent referral service, we usually recommend a residential treatment programme as the first and best choice. Residential treatment programmes offer the greatest chance of success because they are the most thorough in their approach. A typical residential programme takes between 6 and 12 weeks and includes:

  • detox

  • one-on-one counselling

  • group counselling and support

  • life skills building

  • family counselling

  • aftercare (usually an additional 3 to 9 months).

The only downside to residential treatment is that the alcoholic may not have the financial resources to pay for it. Nevertheless, there are other options. Financing might be possible through a grant from an alcohol charity, collected donations from family and friends, or even traditional commercial financing.

If a residential treatment programme is completely out of the question, we can assist you in finding free services available through the NHS, support groups, and alcohol recovery charities. Free services tend to be offered in an outpatient setting in the alcoholic’s local area.

There are plenty of treatment options available regardless of your circumstances. The most important thing to understand right now is that we cannot help you until you get in touch with us. All of our services are confidential and free, so there is no need for you to delay.

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