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When a loved one in your life is struggling with an addiction, having an open, honest discussion with them can get them to accept help and seek treatment. You can have this conversation one-on-one or involve close family members, friends, and colleagues.

Addicts are often in denial about their addiction and the pain it causes them and others. As more and more Americans struggle with addiction, it is vital that we all take part in learning how to provide loving, honest support to help them recover.

More than 37 million Americans reported using illicit drugs in the past month, a clear sign of problem usage1. If you include alcohol and tobacco abuse, the number rises to 165 million Americans, or 60.2% of the population aged 12 years and above.

Even though there is little research on the effectiveness of interventions, older studies suggest that it has positive outcomes. Addicts are more likely to seek help after an intervention compared to other types of referral2.

However, without the right approach and planning, an intervention can cause more harm than good. It can degenerate into an emotionally-charged event with a lot of blaming, accusations, anger, shame, and hurt. Knowing how to stage a successful intervention can be the key to helping your loved one find recovery.

What is an Intervention?

An intervention is a structured, planned process by which the close family and friends of an addicted person get together to convince them to enter treatment for their addiction. It is a proactive and collaborative action aimed at pushing their loved ones to seek the help they need.

Addicts rarely admit that they have a problem, even when the signs and effects of their addiction are obvious. They also fail to recognize the effect that their addiction is having on their spouse, children, parents, siblings, and other people close to them.

Because of this, staging an intervention can be difficult. The people closest to the addict will likely be hurt and angry, especially when the addict continues to deny their actions and fails to take responsibility.

An intervention provides an opportunity for the people closest to the addict to have an open, honest conversation. They have the chance to let their loved ones know how their addiction is affecting the family and to offer their help.

The 6 Stages of an Intervention

A good intervention is a structured process. You carry it out knowledgeably, often with the help or guidance of a professional. Therapists, social workers, doctors, or counselors are all professionals that you can engage to help make the intervention a success. Although there are different types of interventions, they usually involve six steps.

1. Form an Intervention Team

An intervention team is a small group of people close to the addicted individual—people who are important to them. The group plans and guides the intervention unless a professional is present.

The group should not include anyone who uses or condones drugs. Anyone the addict doesn’t like or is unable to control their emotions should also not participate because interventions raise strong emotions. Including only people with a loving, positive relationship with the individual ensures a constructive and productive intervention.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, we highly encourage you to consult a professional. They will have experience in dealing with addicts who display hostile behavior. They can help to keep the conversation going by asking the right questions and will help maintain calmness.

2. Plan the Intervention

Create an overall guide for the event. That includes a guest list, location, time, and a program for what everyone will say.

Although intervention is often a surprise for the individual, it shouldn’t feel like an ambush. Hold the intervention in a place familiar to the person and where they feel comfortable and calm.

You should also plan for a time when the person is likely to be sober. Provide time for everyone to arrive and prepare, with 30 to 90 minutes for the actual intervention.

3. Rehearse & Prepare

For the best chances of success, everyone in the intervention must prepare. Preparation provides guidance and clarity towards the overall goal, preventing emotional outbursts and unconstructive talks.

Have everyone write out their stories and review them beforehand. Better still, have them reviewed by a professional. The goal is to help the person have a “moment of clarity,” where they see and feel how their addiction has hurt the people they love.

Addiction changes the brain chemically. A person addicted to a substance or habit values their addiction above everyone else, becoming blind to the consequences of their actions. Getting them to face these consequences could provide the push they need to take action.

4. List Consequences & Commitments

Boundaries and accountability are important in addiction recovery. All the participants in the intervention must agree on the needs, expectations, and goals that the addict has to meet after the intervention.

If they don’t meet these expectations and goals, there should be clear consequences. For example, the person could be asked to move out if they fail to agree to take up a treatment option.

Everyone in the group must also commit to helping the person recover if the intervention is successful. That includes providing financial and social support to help them in their recovery journey. It is vital that every member follow up on their promises to ensure success.

5. Intervention Meeting

Ask your loved one to the intervention site, but don’t reveal the reason for the meeting. Each member of the team takes turns to talk about how the addiction has caused them suffering and pain.

They should also lovingly express their concerns and feelings, before asking the person to accept a treatment option on the spot. Each member says what they plan to do to help the person recover, and what changes they are prepared to make if the addict fails to accept help.

Once again, the help of an addiction expert is very useful here. The members of the intervention team need to understand the importance of following through with their threats if necessary. That includes cutting off the addict, removing children from their custody, or asking them to leave home.

This is vital because family and friends often enable the addict without realizing it. Addicts are experts at manipulating those who care about them, using these relationships and goodwill to continue their addiction.

With this knowledge, the intervention team will be ready to make painful sacrifices to ensure that the addicted person gets the help they need, even though the results may not be immediately apparent.

To this end, it is also important to manage expectations. The addict may not accept the treatment options you are offering. In fact, they may become hostile, abusive, or even violent. If that’s likely, you must have a professional present during the intervention.

6. Follow Up

An intervention is just the start of a long journey to recovery from addiction. It involves the spouse, other family members, friends, and colleagues in various degrees. A strict follow-up plan is important to make sure that the person finishes their treatment plan and avoids relapsing.

Following up can include changing enabling environments, changing patterns of everyday living, going for counseling with the individual, and seeking your own therapy and support.

It is important to realize that relapse rates are high—75-95%—and you may have to repeat the process several times3. Stress is a major cause of relapse, so providing a loving and supportive environment is important to maximize the chances of success during recovery4.

Benefits of Conducting an Intervention

Although an intervention requires a lot of emotional investment, there are many benefits to carrying through with it.

Types of Interventions

Interventions typically fall into four different categories. Direct interventions are scripted interventions designed to break denial. A few of the addict’s loved ones are educated on how to handle the process.

Invitation intervention seeks to heal the whole family. The addict is involved in the meetings from the start and encouraged to seek treatment on their own.  Some interventions are a combination of direct and invitational interventions. 

Love first models focus on staying positive and supportive. This model is based on the idea that addiction is a medical issue. More intervention types have been based off these four models.

Crisis Interventions

These are emergency, direct interventions held after serious events such as an overdose, suicide attempt, arrest, homelessness, bankruptcy, or mental health breakdown. A health professional can also rule that a crisis is emerging and commit the victim to an institution.

Crisis interventions aren’t planned due to the short notice involved, so they can be difficult. It is highly advisable to involve a professional during the intervention to help guide and control the process.

Confrontational Interventions

Create an overall guide for the event. That includes a guest list, location, time, and a program for what everyone will say.

Although intervention is often a surprise for the individual, it shouldn’t feel like an ambush. Hold the intervention in a place familiar to the person and where they feel comfortable and calm.

You should also plan for a time when the person is likely to be sober. Provide time for everyone to arrive and prepare, with 30 to 90 minutes for the actual intervention.

The Johnson Model

For the best chances of success, everyone in the intervention must prepare. Preparation provides guidance and clarity towards the overall goal, preventing emotional outbursts and unconstructive talks.

Have everyone write out their stories and review them beforehand. Better still, have them reviewed by a professional. The goal is to help the person have a “moment of clarity,” where they see and feel how their addiction has hurt the people they love.

Addiction changes the brain chemically. A person addicted to a substance or habit values their addiction above everyone else, becoming blind to the consequences of their actions. Getting them to face these consequences could provide the push they need to take action.

Tough Love

Boundaries and accountability are important in addiction recovery. All the participants in the intervention must agree on the needs, expectations, and goals that the addict has to meet after the intervention.

If they don’t meet these expectations and goals, there should be clear consequences. For example, the person could be asked to move out if they fail to agree to take up a treatment option.

Everyone in the group must also commit to helping the person recover if the intervention is successful. That includes providing financial and social support to help them in their recovery journey. It is vital that every member follow up on their promises to ensure success.

Systemic Family Model

Ask your loved one to the intervention site, but don’t reveal the reason for the meeting. Each member of the team takes turns to talk about how the addiction has caused them suffering and pain.

They should also lovingly express their concerns and feelings, before asking the person to accept a treatment option on the spot. Each member says what they plan to do to help the person recover, and what changes they are prepared to make if the addict fails to accept help.

Once again, the help of an addiction expert is very useful here. The members of the intervention team need to understand the importance of following through with their threats if necessary. That includes cutting off the addict, removing children from their custody, or asking them to leave home.

This is vital because family and friends often enable the addict without realizing it. Addicts are experts at manipulating those who care about them, using these relationships and goodwill to continue their addiction.

With this knowledge, the intervention team will be ready to make painful sacrifices to ensure that the addicted person gets the help they need, even though the results may not be immediately apparent.

To this end, it is also important to manage expectations. The addict may not accept the treatment options you are offering. In fact, they may become hostile, abusive, or even violent. If that’s likely, you must have a professional present during the intervention.

CRAFT Intervention

An intervention is just the start of a long journey to recovery from addiction. It involves the spouse, other family members, friends, and colleagues in various degrees. A strict follow-up plan is important to make sure that the person finishes their treatment plan and avoids relapsing.

Following up can include changing enabling environments, changing patterns of everyday living, going for counseling with the individual, and seeking your own therapy and support.

It is important to realize that relapse rates are high—75-95%3—and you may have to repeat the process several times. Stress is a major cause of relapse4, so providing a loving and supportive environment is important to maximize the chances of success during recovery.
feelings, before asking the person to accept a treatment option on the spot. Each member says what they plan to do to help the person recover, and what changes they are prepared to make if the addict fails to accept help.

ARISE Intervention

This is a combination model that focuses on the whole family, not just the addict. Everyone receives counseling, but meetings are planned in advance with the addict’s knowledge. The addict can choose to attend these meetings or not.

ARISE meetings help the family understand what it is like to be an addict and how to support their loved ones while encouraging them to seek treatment.

How to Hold a Successful Intervention

Whether confrontational, invitational or forcible, interventions can work. In one study, a controlled trial tested two intervention methods on problem drinkers6. The interventions reduced drinking by 57% after six weeks, although one-year reports were less successful.

Another paper shows that substance use disorders can be treated effectively, especially for those with mild to moderate severity7. For those with severe addiction, specialty treatment may be required but with similarly encouraging results.

A successful intervention gets your loved one closer to an addiction-free life. The following tips will help you stage a successful intervention, especially if you do it with the help of a professional.

Get Help with Addiction

Interventions can be the first step to a loved one finding recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. Planning and preparing for interventions are essential to their success. Find a facility your loved one can arrive at immediately after the intervention has been completed. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, reach out to Inland Detox. Our team can answer any questions you may have and give you a better understanding of our detox program

Sources
  1. Types of Illicit Drug Use in Lifetime, Past Year, and Past Month: Among People Aged 12 or Older; Numbers in Thousands, 2019 and 2020. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt35323/NSDUHDetailedTabs2020v25/NSDUHDetailedTabs2020v25/NSDUHDetTabsSect1pe2020.htm

  2. A Comparison of the Johnson Intervention with Four Other Methods of Referral to Outpatient Treatment. (2022). The American Journal Of Drug And Alcohol Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/00952999609001656

  3. Addiction Relapse. (2022). Advances In Alcohol & Substance Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J251v03n01_09

  4. Sinha, R. (2007). The role of stress in addiction relapse. Current Psychiatry Reports, 9(5), 388-395. doi: 10.1007/s11920-007-0050-6

  5. Sullivan, M., Birkmayer, F., Boyarsky, B., Frances, R., Fromson, J., & Galanter, M. et al. (2008). Uses of Coercion in Addiction Treatment: Clinical Aspects. American Journal On Addictions, 17(1), 36-47. doi: 10.1080/10550490701756369

  6. WR, M., RG, B., & JS, T. (1993). Enhancing motivation for change in problem drinking: a controlled comparison of two therapist styles. Journal Of Consulting And Clinical Psychology, 61(3). Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8326047/

  7. (US), S., & (US), O. (2016). EARLY INTERVENTION, TREATMENT, AND MANAGEMENT OF SUBSTANCE USE DISORDERS. US Department Of Health And Human Services. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK424859/