How to Stage a Successful Drug Intervention

stageaninterventionYou’ve seen the signs. You’ve seen your loved one throwing their life away. You’ve seen them grow isolated, lash out at loved ones, and ignore their responsibilities.  You’re sure of it—your loved one is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol. So, what are you going to do about it? Getting your loved one help for their disease is harder than it sounds. Addicts may be defensive, angry, and quick to change the subject if you bring up their getting treatment. How can you get them serious about recovery? The answer: an alcohol or drug intervention.

A successful intervention needs planning, good execution, and thorough follow-up. A thrown-together group of family members haphazardly shaming the addict won’t usually have a very good outcome. A well-designed, well-led, and on-message intervention will have a much better chance. Some interventionists have 95% success rate, with “success” measured as the client seeking immediate treatment.

Here are the keys to making your intervention as effective as it can be:

  • Hire an Interventionist- Addicts are very good at hiding from unpleasant situations, and will do whatever they can to end the intervention. They know how to prey on the emotional biases of their loved ones, harping on their guilt (“I wouldn’t be like this if it weren’t for you”), their fear (“How dare you have an intervention, now I’m going to leave and you’ll never see me again”), and their hope (“If I just had one more chance I swear I’ll get clean”). Interventionists have heard it all before, and don’t have the emotional connection to the subject that make these tactics effective. Thus, having an interventionist in the room keeps emotional manipulation from derailing your efforts. Also, they know how to react if the addict begins to react aggressively or even violently.

    The Ridge’s compassionate staff  can direct you to the best drug intervention resources. Click here to learn more.

  • Prepare a Strong Intervention Team- Ideally, people from all parts of an addict’s life should be present. If there are only people from one facet of the addict’s life—their family, for example—it becomes easier for the addict to dismiss them as betrayers. If they see concern coming from everyone important in all parts of their life, it is much harder to dismiss out of hand.

  • Plan, Plan, Plan- It’s essential that everyone involved knows what they’ll say to their addicted loved one and how they’ll say it. The angry, accusatory style of interventions is long debunked as ineffective—instead, tell your loved one how their addiction has hurt you, how you still care, and how you hope they choose recovery. Writing down what you want to say and practicing saying it beforehand with the rest of your intervention team will be an asset in ensuring that you’re delivering the message exactly how you want to send it. Also, decide on specific consequences if your loved one doesn’t seek treatment. These must be things you are prepared to do immediately if they refuse help. It needs to be clear you’re serious about your loved one’s recovery.

  • The Intervention Itself- Generally, the addict doesn’t know the intervention is coming, but some schools of thought practice successful invitation interventions. Either way, the client should be presented with a specific treatment option that they are requested to accept immediately. The tone of the event should be one of caring, concern, and love, so be careful not to slip into anger, debasement, or accusation.

  • Follow-up- Sometimes a seemingly-successful alcohol or drug intervention turns out fruitless as a family thinks the addict showed so much promise in the intervention that they don’t need rehab. Others do go to treatment but don’t commit to aftercare meetings and don’t change their lifestyle, which increases chances of relapse. These are not acceptable outcomes. Full commitment to treatment, sobriety, and recovery is the best way to keep addiction at bay.


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