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What is an Intervention?



As you read through our website, you’ll notice we mention ‘conducting an intervention’ on several occasions. However, what is an intervention? Furthermore, who can conduct them successfully? You’ll be happy to know you can successfully intervene on behalf of a loved one suffering from addiction if you’re willing to do so.

An intervention is a process whereby a team of concerned individuals confronts an addict about his or her destructive behaviour but it is not haphazard or uncontrolled by any means. When done correctly, an intervention is:

  • Deliberate – conducted with purpose

  • Planned – conducted with a strategy in mind

  • Firm – conducted without making excuses

  • Accountable – conducted in light of personal responsibility.

How Is Intervention Deliberate?

An intervention is deliberate inasmuch as it is conducted with a specific purpose in mind. That purpose is to force the alcoholic or drug addict to confront his/her behaviour in a real and productive way. The deliberate nature of an intervention is no different from the way you might complete your tasks at work. You have a purpose in mind; you are going to complete it.

Being deliberate in your actions means deciding prior to your intervention what it is you are trying to accomplish. You are not trying to simply make the addict feel bad about him/herself. You’re trying to bring him to a point where he or she is willing to make the decision to seek help. Everything you say or do is directed toward that one goal.

How Is an Intervention Planned?

An intervention is planned through all of the team members getting together beforehand to work out a strategy. Most of the time this involves each team member going through what will be said when he or she is given the opportunity to speak. It is helpful if every team member addresses the addict personally.

Experts recommend the best strategy as one that focuses on the harm the addict is doing to others. While it’s true addictive behaviour is self-destructive, the individual has already proved how little regard he/she has for themself. Showing him or her how they are harming others seems to be a better motivator in many cases.

In What Way Is an Intervention Firm?

When an intervention is conducted, the tone taken by the team is vitally important. It cannot be one of pity, solace, and juvenile reasoning. Furthermore, team members cannot make excuses for the addict during, or after, the intervention. Every word spoken must be delivered with resolve and conviction, not allowing any room for the addict to believe team members are justifying his or her behaviour.

It should be noted that a firm tone is not an accusatory one. Team members should avoid words that might question the motivations or intentions of the addict. It is better to simply stick with the facts. Here are two examples of statements that might be made:

  • “I don’t think you care about me because you won’t stop drinking.” – This is accusatory and judgemental; it is not an appropriate statement.

  • “Your excessive drinking has harmed our family by draining the bank account.” – This is a factual statement; it is appropriate for an intervention.

What Does It Mean for an Intervention to Be Accountable?

The hardest part about an intervention for most family members and friends is the accountability component. To be accountable in an intervention means you will present the addict with several choices. For example, you might tell him or her they must choose between getting help or leaving the home and finding somewhere else to live. The key is to make good on the choices you present.

Using our example, if the addict refuses treatment he/she must be removed from the home. If you offer choices but refuse to make good on them, you are only enabling the addict to continue without any significant behavioural changes. Without consequences, there is no need for him/her to do anything different.

Results of a Successful Intervention

It is generally agreed among experts that you cannot help an addict until he/she wants to be helped. So forcing him or her into treatment against their will may very well lead to relapse as soon as they get out. The advantage of the intervention is that it can be used as a strong motivator to get the addict to reach the decision you are after without forcing it on them.

If an intervention is successful, the addict will likely agree to seek help within a few hours. If no such decision is made, that does not mean you failed. It simply means the addict is not ready to seek help. You can always try again in a few days or weeks.

Preparing for an Intervention

Prior to conducting an intervention there are couple of things you need to do to prepare. First, seek professional help if you’re not comfortable doing this on your own. Better to get professional assistance than to cause further damage by conducting the intervention improperly.

Second, gather the intervention team to work out your strategy. You should never go into it without proper plans in place. Each member needs to be ready with what he/she intend to say and in what order they will speak. This helps avoid lulls in the conversation that could give the addict room to escape.

Lastly, it’s a wise idea to know what treatment options are available before you begin the intervention. If your intervention is successful, you may only have a very short window of time in which to get the addict admitted to a programme before he or she changes their mind. That’s where we can help.

As an independent consultation and referral service, we make it our mission to advise those who call us regarding all of the treatment options available, both domestically and abroad. We can help you assess the circumstances of your friend or loved one and assist in making appropriate treatment decisions. If your loved one decides to seek treatment because of your intervention, we can also assist you in making admission arrangements at that time.

Now that you know what an intervention is, we urge you to take advantage of the opportunity it presents. Confronting your loved one about his or her addictive behaviour might be one of the most important things you can do for them. It is certainly better than doing nothing at all, even as addiction continues to wreak havoc on both the individual and his/her family.

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