The Power of Interventions: Breaking Through Denial

The best-case scenario is for an addicted person to realize that substance abuse has become out of control and to seek addiction treatment willingly, but often, addicted people are in denial about the depth and dangerous consequences of their addiction. After numerous failed attempts to help, friends and family members feel helpless and don’t know where to turn.

The decision to hold an intervention is difficult for friends and families who think they can conquer the problem through patience and persistence, even though they may have lost confidence that reasoning, arguing and even threatening will ever help. It’s important for loved ones to realize that although the primary goal is for the subject of the intervention to finally accept treatment, intervention is also to provide peace of mind for family and friends who are exhausted by constant worry and feelings of profound anger, sadness and guilt.

An effective intervention requires the assistance of a trained professional, especially if the addicted person has co-occurring disorders such as depression or anxiety, or if the person has a history of violent behavior; it isn’t something that friends and family members should attempt without help. A poorly planned intervention can do great damage and make a bad situation even worse.

Interventions are carefully planned and never held on the spur of the moment. Although there may be slight variations, most interventions share common characteristics:

  • The intervention team is carefully chosen and usually consists of a small group of trusted family and friends. Certain people should not be included, such as those who have uncontrolled addictions or mental health problems, or those who may sabotage the intervention.
  • For friends and family, an intervention helps repair damaged relationships by providing education and understanding about their loved one’s addictive behavior, their own negative emotions, and how they may be enabling the addiction.
  • An intervention isn’t a time for blame or empty threats, but a time for each participant to state clearly what will occur if the person refuses to accept treatment. For example, friends and family members may decide they will no longer enable the addiction by providing money, a place to live, or other forms of support, or that the person is no longer welcome in their homes. These decisions must be determined ahead of time with the help of the interventionist.
  • Intervention is also an opportunity for participants to read prepared statements or letters that explain exactly how they have been negatively affected by their loved one’s destructive behavior. The statements should have a positive, hopeful and respectful tone.
  • Be prepared for the subject of the intervention to feel anger, betrayal or resentment, even if the intervention is successful. Interventionists are trained to deal with possible objections and negative emotions.
  • The decision to accept treatment must be immediate, and the person will go directly to treatment. Allowing the subject to go home and think about it provides an opportunity to disappear or to go on a binge. If the subject doesn’t accept treatment, participants must respect their decision and be emotionally prepared to follow through on stated consequences.

Addiction experts estimate that 80 to 90 percent of intervention subjects agree to accept treatment. However, a denial of treatment shouldn’t be considered a failure. A seed is planted and the person may decide to enter treatment at a later time.

At Paracelsus, our addiction professionals can help you decide if an intervention is the best decision for your loved one, and our trained interventionists are ready to travel anywhere around the world to provide an empathic, professional and productive intervention with the goal to move things into the best direction. Contact us for more information if you need more information or are considering an intervention. We are here to help.

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