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What to Know Before Staging an Intervention

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An intervention can be a powerful tool to help a loved one find help for a problem like addiction. When done without the proper planning, though, an intervention can leave the situation unchanged, or in some cases, even worse off than it was originally.

To increase the chances of success, it’s important to understand:

  • What an intervention is.
  • The planning that goes into one.
  • How to follow-up post-intervention.

This information will improve your ability to effectively accomplish the goal.

What Is an Intervention?

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With a superficial glance, an intervention looks like a casual meeting that includes someone that is addicted to a substance and people trying to help that person. Upon closer inspection, an intervention is a formally planned meeting that takes days or weeks of preparation to progress from creation to finalization.

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The preparation includes:
  • Research.
  • Contact with professionals.
  • Contact with to family members and others close to the addict.
  • Planning for treatment.
  • Determining consequences for saying no and commitment to maintaining boundaries after the intervention.

Interventions share the common theme of insistent communication with a substance abuser to find treatment, but interventions can be used to address a variety of concerns beyond drug and alcohol abuse like:

  • Addictions to gambling.
  • Addictions to sex or pornography.
  • Physically, emotionally, or sexually abusive relationships.

Interventions and Denial

An intervention is seen as a needed tool in situations like these because of the level of denial experienced by the target of the intervention. People that are actively abusing drugs or alcohol may not see their use as problematic even if it has lead to financial, social, employment, or legal issues.

It is the goal of the intervention to present information to the addicted loved one regarding the negative impact of their use in an honest and straightforward way. By doing this, the intervention can move past the denial and towards understanding and acceptance. With this, the addict is more likely to go to treatment.


Planning and Staging an Intervention

friend-helping-a-friend-with-treatment-advice-comfortKnowing the definition of an intervention is the easy part. The development and arrangement of the intervention is more complex. Though the complexity may be overwhelming, following established steps and principles will improve the odds of a desirable outcome.

At the onset, an important choice will be whether to employ a professional interventionist. An interventionist or intervention specialist is a trained and experienced professional that can help in many aspects of the intervention — from the planning to the actual meeting to the follow-up care. Their experience can make the planning more efficient, and their skills can help mediate the session.

Typically, an interventionist will increase the likelihood of success and will ease the stress of those attempting to organize the intervention. Payment rates and availability of interventionists vary greatly by region.


Finding a Treatment Program for Your Loved One

The goal of the intervention almost always centers on the target entering some type of treatment. Depending on the drug of choice and the level of use, the user may require detox, which is the medically-assisted removal of the substance from the body.

Detox is important in cases of alcohol and sedatives like barbiturates and benzodiazepines since the effects of stopping use can be very uncomfortable and even dangerous. Other drugs like opiates can lead to extremely uncomfortable symptoms but not necessarily life-threatening ones. In any case, supervised detox is often preferred to avoid any danger to the patient or risk of relapse.

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There are several ways to find available treatment programs including:

  • Consulting with mental health, drug and alcohol, and medical professionals.
  • Learning which programs and forms of treatment are covered by the insurance carrier.
  • Checking trusted, online sources like national and government organizations.

Since treatment will ideally begin immediately after the intervention, checking for availability and transportation before the meeting will help make the transition smooth and more successful.

Do not focus too much on finding the “right” program, as there will be tremendous amounts of variability. Do avoid programs that sound too good to be true or offer promises about recovery. There are no guarantees when it comes to drug and alcohol treatment.


Ensuring a Successful Intervention

When entering into any intervention experience, it will be invaluable to set reasonable expectations. There is no true way to ensure success. There are only steps to improve the likelihood of success. Following the tips above will bode well for the intervention being successful.

On the other hand, there are several mistakes that can be made before and during the intervention process. They include:

  • Performing the intervention when the addict is high or experiencing significant withdrawal symptoms.
  • Having the intervention informally or without preparation. It is advisable to rehearse prior to the event and maintain the formal nature to avoid it becoming a conversation.
  • Being confrontational, aggressive, or overly emotional. This can trigger a defensive stance.
  • Allowing the intervention to spiral out of control or deviate from the goal.
  • Letting your loved one leave the intervention to think. Ideally, the decision to go to treatment will happen at the intervention and quickly.
  • Ignoring possible objections. By anticipating these, the team will be prepared to refute them.

To learn more, visit our page on frequently asked questions on interventions.


After the Intervention

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If the intervention does not go as planned, it will be up to the team to follow through on the consequences previously outlined. If it does go well, the next hours will be a flurry of movement and activity. Ideally, all of the arrangements will be made in advance to decrease the hectic nature of this. The addict will move directly from the intervention to treatment.

Of course, the role of the intervention team does not end here. During and following treatment, they will be responsible for checking in with treatment to track progression, attending family sessions to process thoughts and feelings regarding addiction, and working to provide a safe, supportive environment for the person to return to after treatment has ended.

This last factor is very crucial. The best interventions and treatment programs are useless if the person is allowed to return to a chaotic, triggering environment. Loved ones of the addicted person should understand the role they play in addiction and recovery.

In the end, formal interventions are critically important tasks that require high levels of attention, effort, and skill. When done well, they can lead to dramatically positive results.

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Amanda Lautieri is a Senior Web Content Editor at American Addiction Centers and an addiction content expert for DrugAbuse.com. She holds a bachelor's degree and has reviewed thousands of medical articles on substance abuse and addiction.
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