Everything You Need To Know About an Intervention for Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a very complicated disease. The individual suffering can cause a domino effect of pain to others. To prevent this cycle of pain, strategic action must be carefully taken. 

How to Help Someone Struggling with Addiction, If They Are Not Willing to Go to Treatment For Help

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, only 11.2 percent of those in need of addiction treatment end up going to a treatment facility. This may be due to a number of reasons, but one can hypothesize that refusal to enter treatment may be a leading cause. In addiction treatment, nearly half of the battle is getting the people who are suffering to cooperate with receiving the help they need. 

The disease of addiction is the only disease where the individual suffering commonly and consistently will tell themselves that everything is under control and no treatment is needed to save their lives, regardless of apparent evidence they may see. A common mentality found in those struggling with addiction is the denial of their substance use being a problem or that they will use only one more time. With this self-destructive mentality, many of those who love someone struggling with addiction will turn to an intervention as the solution. 

Typically an intervention will occur after all other options of convincing the individual in need of help have failed to get them into treatment. While it may seem like a simple solution, an intervention is a delicate process that can very easily go terribly wrong. Therefore, it is important that a professional experienced in providing intervention services assist in this process.

What is an Intervention? 

An intervention is a carefully orchestrated attempt, typically made by family and friends, to get someone to understand they need to seek professional help with a substance use disorder. This attempt is usually executed in the form of a surprise conversation. 

An intervention is not spontaneous in any way for anyone other than the addict whose usage is being intervened upon. It is imperative that all information presented in this discussion be united and empathetic. 

Friends and family present well thought out statements to the individual they are concerned about without making accusations or placing blame on the addict. The intention is not to bombard the person struggling nor humiliate them, but to calmly shine a light on their struggle and the effect it has on their loved ones and enlighten them of a solution. 

How to Stage an Alcohol or Drug Abuse Intervention

Staging an intervention is no simple task. It’s definitely easier said than done. There are a series of necessary steps that must be carefully executed in order to maximize the overall success.  

Involve a Professional to Facilitate the Intervention

When planning an intervention, it is important to first have a professional aid in the process. Often, by the time an intervention occurs, friends and family have already attempted to convince their loved one to take the necessary steps to free themselves from addiction and have been met with less than a cooperative and open reaction. 

The presence of a professional aids the family and friends in staying on track. This is a highly emotional moment for everyone involved. It is very helpful to have someone leading the talk who is not as emotionally invested and can maintain a rational understanding of the effects of what is being said. As mentioned, an intervention is a very delicate process, which, if not done properly, can lead to the addict feeling attacked and misunderstood, resulting in further isolation and deepening their substance abuse. 

Identify Who Should Attend the Intervention 

When identifying the intervention team, it’s important to, first and foremost, not include anyone else who is actively abusing substances. If there is a loved one who can not be trusted to be strategic in their wording and avoid accusatory statements, they should be left out of the conversation as well. There is a fine line between addressing a problem to work together to solve and shaming someone for wrongdoing and demanding they “fix” the issue. All individuals who contribute to the intervention must be capable of approaching it with compassion and kindness. All attendees must understand that their purpose is to lead their loved one to safety, not to risk shaming them into further harm. 

Establish a Plan for the Intervention 

When establishing an intervention, every detail needs to be planned in great detail. A day and time must be identified when family and friends are all available to attend. This day and time must coincide with a time when the individual whose addiction is being addressed will unsuspectingly come by and be available to stay and listen to everyone’s concerns. Aim for a time that causes as little stress to the individual in need as possible, and attempt to establish the meeting at a time when the individual will be sober, if at all possible. 

The plan must also include a detailed understanding of how the process will go and what will be said. 

Come to the intervention prepared with a basic treatment plan for them, including having identified a treatment facility for them to go to. Make sure the facility chosen provides all that the individual needs. For example, detox services, inpatient treatment program or dual diagnosis treatment may be needed. If the person in need wants to look into different programs than the one chosen, then offer assistance in finding an alternative program.

Learn About Substance Abuse Treatment and the Intervention Process

Gathering information is vital to an intervention. Learning about the recovery process empowers individuals to educate their loved one on how to improve their quality of life. In addition, identifying the personal and unique needs of the individual in need of help is also highly important.

Sometimes addiction is paired with a mental health condition. When mental health is paired with addiction, it is recommended to find a location offering dual-diagnosis treatment. Aside from a general dual diagnosis facility, it can be necessary to find facilities that specialize in treating certain conditions, such as eating disorders or gambling. Aside from facilities specializing in specific conditions, identifying facilities that provide certain therapies, such as EMDR or CBT, can be worthwhile. 

It can be useful to research facilities that specialize in or offer things that will attract the person needing help to be more cooperative. For example, suppose the person in need is an atheist. In that case, it may be advisable to identify a treatment facility that does not solely rely upon the 12-step programs since these programs require reliance upon a higher power. 

The more educated everybody attending the intervention is, the more capable the group will be of overcoming objections made by the person in need of treatment. 

Writing Impact Statements for an Intervention 

Each person who attends the intervention serves a purpose. Their purpose is to make an impression upon the person in need. The impression is made through personal statements entailing how much they love and care about the person who is in need of help. 

Rather than solely saying that substance abuse is harmful, those participating in the intervention should list the specific types of suffering they’ve experienced. This hopefully will result in the individual in need seeing the profound effects of their behavior. The impact statements must detail how each individual has observed how addiction has affected their loved one, how they want to see their loved one with an improved quality of life, and how the only way for them to improve their quality of life is by eradicating the substance from their life by admitting to a treatment program. Not only the observed suffering inflicted upon the addict needs to be mentioned, the suffering inflicted upon family and friends needs to be mentioned in the impact letters as well. 

This is not about self-pity, though. Written expressions depicting the harm caused to relationships assist the individual struggling with addiction understand that their choices do not solely impact them individually. 

It is imperative that all impact letters avoid accusations. These statements need to be emotionally transparent and centered around love for the individual to coerce cooperation. The more supportive and loving the statements are, the more likely the individual struggling with addiction is of agreeing to go into treatment. 

Contribute to the Treatment of Addiction 

Intervention attendees must not only be willing to intervene with the substance abuse, but they must also be willing to support their loved one throughout the duration of treatment and after treatment. Having a strong support system further empowers individuals to maintain lifelong sobriety after addiction treatment. The more supported the individual suffering from addiction feels they have, the more likely they are to be willing to follow through with going into treatment. Showing willingness to do whatever it takes to support and assist loved ones carry out the hard work that is required to overcome addiction encourages them to do whatever it takes as well. 

Setting Boundaries in an Intervention 

When arranging the intervention, it is important that all attendees take inventory of any ways they are enabling their loved one to continue using substances. Is any financial support enabling continued use? Is a vehicle or shelter being provided regardless of if the individual gets clean? 

It needs to be made clear in the intervention that if the individual in need of treatment refuses to go to treatment, that relationships will change. Family and friends must set boundaries to eliminate all codependency or enabling of continued use. There needs to be consequences for if the person refuses to admit to treatment. These consequences need to be realistic ones that everyone is capable of following through with. 

Prepare and Rehearse Prior to the Intervention

An intervention is a highly emotional and intense discussion while also being a possibly pivotal moment in everyone present’s lives. Each individual needs to have a planned speech and stay focused on the goals of the intervention. When addressing substance abuse and addiction, friends and family may have a lot of resentment and frustration. It is important that the impact statements be rehearsed to prevent any counterproductive emotional outbursts. The intervention must be a carefully choreographed conversation. Again, the more organized and well thought out each statement is, the more likely it is that the intervention will be successful. 

Set Realistic Expectations for the Intervention 

Regardless of how well executed the intervention is, there is a possibility that the individual in need of help will reject the help. Understanding that it may take some time to convince the person struggling with addiction is a part of understanding their struggle. When setting boundaries in the intervention, they must be boundaries that everyone will follow through with. Perhaps the rejection of help could be an attempted calling of bluff because the individual does not believe their loved ones will stop enabling. Maybe it will take time for the individual to recognize that they will no longer receive support from their loved ones unless they get sober. 

It is also essential to understand that even if the individual enters treatment, there is the possibility that they will not complete treatment. For many, relapse is a part of the road to recovery. Therefore, it is important to be realistic and not have an all-or-nothing mentality. All efforts towards making the needed changes must be recognized, even if unsuccessful. 

Follow-up After the Intervention 

If treatment is declined, the person in need must be shown through actions that the consequences outlined by their loved ones in the intervention will be enforced. The concept of this method is to make seeking treatment the obvious, simplest, and most rewarding choice for them to make. Sometimes it can take some time for the statements made in the intervention to be internalized by the addict. Enforcing boundaries set in the intervention shows the person in need that seeking treatment is the most rewarding choice to make.

If treatment is accepted, be prepared to take the individual in need straight to a rehabilitation facility. When an intervention is successful, and the individual agrees to get the help they need, there can oftentimes be a small window of willingness to go. Action needs to be immediate and readily available to be taken.

With realistic expectations, thorough education about addiction treatment, and an overall understanding of the situation, it must be understood that the intervention is not going to be a cure-all for the person in need. Even if recovery seems to have been attained after a full-length stay in treatment, there is always the lingering threat of relapse. If relapse occurs, the individual struggling must have support maintained throughout that slip-up. Statements made in the the intervention must be upheld for years to come. The road to recovery is a lifelong journey that must be carefully maintained every second of every minute of every day to help your loved one with addiction and recovery.

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