If a loved one is experiencing addiction, you want to be able to help them. However, they may be in denial and you may be unsure about what to do. An intervention could be the first step to recovery.
During an intervention, family and friends gather together to tell someone how their addiction is affecting their lives and encourage them to get help. In some cases, professionals are involved too. In any case, it’s important to handle the process carefully to avoid backfiring.
Learn how to stage a safe and successful intervention. Use this guide to plan an approach that fits your situation.
How to Prepare for an Intervention:
- Identify the issue. Alcohol and illegal or prescription drugs are often the first thing you think of as the subject of an intervention. However, other destructive behaviors can also be targeted, such as gambling or eating disorders.
- Educate yourself. Researching the condition will increase your understanding and your capacity to help your loved one. Consult reliable sources like government agencies and major universities. Share your knowledge with other family and friends.
- Form a committee. A little structure makes planning easier. A few volunteers can help coordinate the logistics and communications.
- Assemble a team. In general, about 6 participants is ideal for a group large enough to provide support without being overwhelming. You may want to include close family and friends, ministers or other members of a faith community, and addiction professionals such as social workers or specialized interventionists.
- Make notes. Write down what you want to say. Make it constructive and concise. Provide specific examples to back up your observations.
- Arrange treatment. Interventions usually end with an evaluation and treatment plan, such as inpatient facilities or local AA meetings. Taking care of the details in advance will allow you to move forward quickly.
How to Conduct an Intervention:
- Pick a safe time. You want your guest of honor to be sober, so mornings or immediately after work might be preferable. Then, bring them to the meeting place without letting them know the purpose in advance.
- Read your statements. The usual public speaking advice does not apply. It’s okay to read your speech. It may help you to stay on track and deal with strong emotions.
- Describe consequences. Let your loved one know what you’ll do if they refuse your help and continue their addictive behavior. That might mean suspending contact or financial support.
- Ask for a decision. Most interventions ask the subject to agree to treatment immediately. This may be an opportunity to turn their life around before any more damage occurs.
- Deal with resistance. Be ready for a wide variety of responses. Your loved one may be relieved to get things out in the open and start treatment. On the other hand, they may be angry and defensive. Anticipate their concerns and how to respond.
- Offer support. Remind your loved one that you want to help. Shower them with compassion and practical assistance, like childcare and transportation services.
- Stay positive. Focus on being hopeful and upbeat. Let your loved one know that you believe in them and their ability to recover. Reassure them that you’re on their side.
- Manage expectations. Interventions can be productive even if the progress is gradual. Your loved one may be motivated to seek treatment later on, and you’ve had a chance to air your feelings and consider your options.
There is help for addiction. Interventions and other strategies can enable you and your loved ones to cope and heal. Talk with someone you trust, like a family doctor or a community hotline, to find support, and learn more about resources available in your area.