Typically, those who have a loved one with a drinking problem are concerned about the damage that person is doing, not only to themselves but to those close to them as well. The families may feel there are warning signs, and while the person may not be clinically classified as an alcoholic, the potential is there if left unchecked. In these cases, many consider interventions to get their loved ones to consider help. The pioneer of interventionism, Vernon E. Johnson, defines an intervention as:
“Vernon E. Johnson]…a process by which the harmful, progressive, and destructive effects of chemical dependency are interrupted and the chemically dependent person is helped to stop using mood-altering chemicals and to develop new, healthier ways of coping with his or her needs and problems. It implies that the person need not be an emotional or physical wreck (or ‘hit bottom’) before such help can be given.”
What Is An Alcoholism Intervention?
An alcoholism intervention is essentially a structured meeting. An employer or a healthcare professional can initiate it, but it is thought to have the most chance of success when it involves those who love the alcoholic, such as close family and friends. The aim of interventions is to confront alcoholics and problem drinkers with how their actions are hurting those around them.
While those involved are encouraged to be honest and direct, it is also important that they express compassion and support. This combination is intended to trigger recognition in alcoholics that they have a problem, while also showing them they have loved ones ready to support them if they choose to seek treatment.
Is an Alcoholism Intervention Necessary?
While a minority of alcoholics may recognize they have a problem and seek treatment independently, many more often continue to abuse alcohol until an event occurs that changes their outlook.
You may want to consider intervention if:
- Your loved one is showing classical signs of alcohol dependence
- You feel he is a danger to himself or others.
- You feel you have run out of options.
An organized intervention can be a big step, however, and maybe perceived negatively by the person if it seems to come out of nowhere.
Clinically Assessing the Need for Intervention
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has published a guide outlining a brief screening questionnaire useful for clinicians in assessing at-risk drinking behavior and alcohol use disorders. Despite the clinical intention, the guide lends itself well to use by the layperson in initially deciding on the need for intervention, and the intervention strategy to use should it be warranted.
If your friend or loved one meets the criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence, further steps are given that one may follow in planning and conducting a brief intervention for that person.
Some of the important recommendations include an evaluation by an addiction specialist and careful consideration of the possible need for medically managed withdrawal (supervised detox) and the benefits of medication-assisted treatment. Factors such as these reinforce the need to involve trained professionals in the field of addiction medicine, to ensure the highest chance of a successful intervention.
Video: How to Do an Alcohol Intervention
The Day Of: How to Prepare for Success (and the Possibility of Failure)
Different interventionists may have slightly different methods for holding an intervention. Usually, they will want to hold a meeting with family members prior to the intervention, so they can coach each family member on how to express themselves in a constructive fashion. They will also advise on whether certain family members should be included (e.g., children).
Timing for interventions can also be critically important. You should select a time when you know the person is going to be sober and will not have an excuse to leave the intervention immediately. If possible, holding interventions soon after alcoholism-related incidents, such as arguments and accidents, can help make the case for change.
Despite your best efforts, it is important to be also prepared for failure. Not everyone will cooperate first time, but it’s important to remember you tried.
In interventions that go well, the subjects will recognize their problems and make a decision to accept treatment. For those that have made the decision to quit alcohol, various treatment options are available to ease the recovery process. A treatment program should be decided upon and ready for when the alcoholic says yes to getting help. It is important to capitalize on the successful intervention with a treatment program to avoid a swift relapse.
For advice on the treatment options available, call today.
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