Addiction Intervention Definition
Interventions are not about issuing ultimatums but offering support, perspective, treatment options, and boundaries for the person struggling with addiction and the family and friends affected.
What Is an Intervention?
An intervention is a planned, organized meeting that addresses problematic and destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse and addiction. Ideally, a neutral, professional interventionist will work with close friends and family members to educate everyone involved about what to expect and ensure the intervention goes as smoothly as possible.
Interventions seek to get the loved one into treatment; however, when it comes to family, systemic problems like co-dependency, trauma, and dysfunctional communication may also need to be addressed by the intervention team.
How to Stage an Intervention
Staging an intervention is usually the last resort for friends and family members trying to convince a loved one to enter a treatment program for their alcohol or drug addiction after a one-on-one confrontation and other failed attempts. Every person, addiction, and family dynamic is different, so no two interventions will be the same; however, there are some basic guidelines and steps to take to maximize the chances of success.
If you are planning to stage an intervention, here are some steps you can take to help it go smoothly:
- Enlist professional help. There are a lot of complicated emotions involved with addiction; an outside, neutral party that is experienced and familiar with the intervention process, helps remove stress and provides clear guidance. Professionals can include intervention specialists, faith leaders, social workers, medical professionals, and licensed mental health professionals. Ideally, the interventionist will attend to the actual intervention to help everyone stay on task; however, if for whatever reason that is not possible, they can still provide preparation and instruction during the intervention planning stage.
- Decide who will participate. Friends and family members closest to the person are the best participants as long as they are not enabling drug or alcohol abuse or experiencing a lot of conflict with the person. Too large of a group can feel like an attack and have the opposite of the desired effect. Intervention teams generally avoid having young children participate in interventions. Often, when these core people gather and start communicating, many of the person’s addictive and destructive behaviors come to light. This increased communication can help give a clearer picture of the situation’s severity and help form a united front during and after the intervention.
- Plan ahead. An intervention specialist is beneficial for this step; they can help you prepare what you want to say, explore consequences if the person refuses to seek treatment, and plan ways to follow through with immediate treatment or what to do and say in the event of other outcomes. During this time, everyone should agree on a neutral and safe place to physically hold the intervention, the best time to conduct it, and the immediate steps afterward. Most addiction treatment specialists recommend entering residential treatment right after the intervention because of all the benefits, including medical detox from substances to avoid withdrawal or people changing their minds.
- Hold the intervention. Once everyone has established the points they want to make, what treatment options they will offer, and the consequences and boundaries for not going to treatment, it is time to meet with the person struggling with addiction. Interventions are emotionally charged, so staying focused and calm and remembering the ultimate goal of getting your loved one to accept treatment is essential.
- Follow through. If a person refuses treatment, hold your boundaries. If a person agrees to enter treatment programs, follow through with working on yourself and any promises made to them to attend therapy or programs to support them and improve interpersonal relationships and communication.
Types of Interventions
Because every situation, person, and relationship is unique, it is important to explore different types of interventions and decide which will be the most effective approach. Based on where a person is at in their addiction and their history of attempting or rejecting treatment, an addiction professional can help plan the most effective approach. Below are a few of the most common types of interventions.
Brief interventions (BI) generally happen during opportunistic settings, meaning a person isn’t seeking treatment for their substance use disorder, but there is an opportunity to address it and explore options. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), brief interventions work best for people beginning to display addictive or dangerous behaviors like binge drinking but who have not developed a dependence on a substance.
Most brief interventions involve a medical or mental health professional with an established relationship with the person. The BI model uses the five stages of change and motivational enhancement to help people realize that seeking treatment will benefit them. Many harm reduction centers rely on the BI method to introduce the idea of treatment to their clients.
Traditional or Classic Intervention
This type of intervention also called the Johnson Model of intervention, is what most people picture an intervention as. Traditional interventions involve the person’s closest friends and family members and a planning process that helps ensure things go smoothly.
Treatment options will already be ready and in place by the time the intervention happens to avoid delays or the person changing their mind. Led by a professional, loved ones will describe the harm addiction has caused them and ask the person to agree to accept treatment; they also explain how they’ll support the recovery process or enforce their boundaries if the person rejects treatment.
Professional interventionists have different approaches to traditional interventions based on what they learn about the addict and the dynamics of the people holding the intervention. Some will recommend a “tough love” approach, and others will take a concerned, “love first” approach. Most people don’t do well with confrontations, so an aggressive approach is uncommon for this type of intervention.
Crisis interventions are one of the few times there may not be formal pre-planning for an intervention. These happen in response to a legal or medical emergency, like someone getting arrested for drug possession or experiencing an overdose or mental health crisis. Once the person is safe and stable, before they are released, their care team, family members and friends, or a combination can approach them and offer treatment.
These interventions can be effective because the person is generally sober during the intervention, and it is easier to have a coherent and logical conversation. Sometimes, a family has been planning a traditional intervention and has to speed up the process because a crisis occurs. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes the prospect of losing their freedom or life for an addict to grasp the seriousness of their addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), people who enter treatment centers to avoid incarceration or because the court orders them to tend to stay in treatment longer than those entering under other circumstances.
Some people will need to experience more than one type of intervention before they seek treatment. For instance, someone who lands in the hospital with alcohol poisoning might reject a crisis intervention only to have a traditional intervention be effective later, or vice versa. As situations change and evolve, the types of interventions that offer the best chance of a person entering an addiction treatment facility will also vary.
Do Interventions Fail?
An intervention fails when there is a lack of planning, unclear communication, or a breakdown of the order, resulting in fighting and shifting blame. Enlisting professional help can avoid these pitfalls. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) considers a person agreeing to treatment a successful intervention and cites a 90% success rate for interventions with a professional interventionist involved.
Not every intervention meeting ends with the person immediately going to treatment, but that doesn’t mean it was a failure. Many people who initially refuse treatment during an intervention decide later that they do want to get help for their addiction. Enforcing the consequences and boundaries stated during the intervention goes a long way to show the person struggling with substance abuse that their family and friends are serious about making changes and not enabling destructive behavior. When the dynamic changes and people around the addict start to get better, it often prompts the person to seek treatment.
There is a common saying that “addiction is a family disease,” so even if the intended person never seeks treatment, interventions can lead to families addressing their dysfunctional patterns and communication and bettering themselves, which is a success of a different kind.
Ultimately it is never a failure when you do your best to help a loved one get treatment and support to overcome their struggle with drugs or alcohol. Love and effort are never the wrong choices.
Get Help for Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Convincing your loved one to seek treatment is one of the hardest things you will ever do, but it is always worth the struggle.
White Oak Recovery Center specializes in evidence-based treatment with custom-tailored treatment plans for substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders. Our residential treatment center offers onsite medical detox, medication-assisted treatment, family therapy, and many more therapeutic approaches to addiction treatment.
Our compassionate treatment experts are happy to discuss the following steps to find substance abuse treatment that puts you or your loved ones in the most beneficial care.
Reach out now with any questions you have. We look forward to helping you or your loved one start a new life rooted in recovery.