What to Consider when Planning an Intervention

An intervention is an organized, face-to-face meeting used to prompt a friend or family member to seek treatment for an addiction to drugs and alcohol, or to gambling or other compulsive behaviors. Often, interventions are planned when nothing else has worked and loved ones are running out of hope.

Although it may seem like a drastic move, a carefully planned intervention can be very effective. The National Council on Alcoholism estimates that interventions work 90 percent of the time. This means the person makes a commitment to enter treatment at the end of the intervention – it doesn’t guarantee that the person will complete treatment or that he won’t relapse.

Read on for a brief “how-to” guide for planning an intervention. If you think an intervention may be helpful, discuss the situation with a professional drug and alcohol counselor or interventionist.

How to Prepare for an Intervention

  • Select a quiet, private location. Don’t tell the person you are staging an intervention as she probably won’t attend. Instead, invite the person to a family dinner or friendly get-together. The event should feel natural and shouldn’t seem odd or out of the ordinary.
  • Have a plan in place if the person agrees to the terms of the intervention, such as a drug or alcohol rehab or outpatient treatment. The person should be ready to enter treatment immediately, and somebody should be prepared to accompany him to the treatment location.
  • Although there are no guarantees, try to plan the intervention for a time when the person is most likely to be sober.
  • Turn off mobile phones and other devices that may disrupt the intervention. Remove pets from the room.
  • Stress the importance of showing up on time. All attendees must be present before the person arrives.

What to Say at an Intervention

The addiction professional or interventionist will meet with friends and family members and will conduct a “rehearsal” before the event. The interventionist will help you decide how to speak to your friend or family member, but here are a few tips:

  • Bring a written list or letter, truthfully, honestly and authentically explaining how the person’s addiction has affected you. You can read the statement, but it’s best to use it as a guideline to remind you of pertinent points.
  • Be positive and encouraging. Tell the person how much you love him or her.
  • It’s okay to cry and express sadness. However, it’s not okay to blame, yell or criticize. Remember, an intervention is not simply an opportunity to vent your anger and disappointment.
  • Present the person with consequences that will occur if he fails to enter treatment. For example, consequences may be losing contact with family and friends, losing monetary support, getting kicked out of the house, divorce, or a decision to no longer bail the person out of legal or financial trouble.
  • Tell the person the plan has been carefully considered, and that all agree it is the best course of action.

Whom to Include in an Intervention

The addiction professional will help you decide who should be asked to attend the intervention and who should speak first. When planning, keep the following in mind:

  • Including the wrong people can do more harm than good, so take your time and consider carefully.
  • It’s critical to work as a team. Everybody must be in agreement about the terms of the intervention and must be ready to stick to the plan. For example, if one person announces he will no longer pay the addiction person’s rent, it won’t help if another person comes to the addicted person’s defense and takes over the rent payments.
  • Invite people who have the addicted person’s best interests at heart. Include only people that the person likes and trusts.
  • Include close friends, as friends can have tremendous impact at an intervention.
  • People who are uncomfortable or unsure shouldn’t be included. Be careful about inviting family and friends who are likely to become overly emotional. In some cases, it’s best for another person to read a letter from that person.
  • Invite people who aren’t afraid to speak their minds and carry through with the planned consequences.
  • Weed out friends or family members who are likely to sabotage the event by telling the person of the planned intervention.
  • Be careful about involving children. While a child’s concern can be extremely effective at an intervention, it’s critical to consider the child’s age and emotional maturity. Keep in mind that the person may become angry, which can be too difficult for children.
  • If you decide to include children, give them the choice to leave the room if the situation becomes too volatile or frightening. Make sure somebody is available to stay with them.
  • And finally: Follow through on the decisions which have been made at the intervention and remember, it is an opportunity for growth and healing, for a better future for all involved.

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