What is an Addiction Intervention

It used to be generally accepted within the arena of addiction recovery that a person had to reach ‘rock bottom’ before being treated for addiction. While that still may be true in some cases, experience and research have revealed that it is not true for everyone. We have learned that we can now help some addicts face their problems before they hit rock bottom by using a strategy known as an ‘intervention’.

The intervention is a controlled process of persuasive confrontation designed to break through the wall of denial that alcohol and drug addicts tend to hide behind. When successful, it motivates the addict to embrace treatment and get well. MHA offers assistance with interventions; we can both advise you about conducting one and put you in touch with a professional counsellor who can take the lead for you.

Conducting an intervention is one of the best things you can do to help a friend or loved one struggling with addiction. By getting involved in this process, you are demonstrating your genuine concern for the health and welfare of someone else. That might be just enough to motivate the alcoholic or drug addict to stop running from his or her problems and, instead, get help to solve them.

How Intervention Works

Intervention is no different from any other addiction recovery strategy in that there are right and wrong ways to go about it. To start with, the foundation of the intervention is the goal of motivating the alcoholic or drug addict to admit his or her problem and to subsequently seek treatment. Motivation is not the same thing as forcing your friend or loved one to get help.

It has been proven that people forced into treatment are less likely to succeed at long-term recovery. This is because forced treatment is often approached with an attitude of defensiveness or rebellion. These kinds of attitudes only inhibit getting to the root causes of addictive behaviour, which is necessary to permanently overcome addiction.

With the proper mindset of encouragement and motivation, the typical intervention works as follows:

  1. A family member or friend agreeing to organise the intervention gets advice from an organisation like ours or connects with a private counsellor who will lead the process.
  2. The organiser then begins contacting family members and close friends who might be willing to participate.
  3. A neutral site is selected and the addict is invited to join the group for a frank discussion.
  4. During the meeting, participants address the addict one by one until all have had their say.
  5. The intervention concludes by giving the addict a choice. That choice comes with consequences both ways.

Some family members choose to conduct interventions by themselves after doing some research and getting sound advice. Others are not comfortable enough to handle it on their own, so they work with counsellors to make the intervention happen.

Two Schools of Thought

At this point, you might be wondering what approach to take when conducting an intervention. There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong approach, but there are two schools of thought embraced by experts in the field.

The first school of thought is to approach the addict from the angle of how his or her addiction is causing personal harm. One person may address how drugs or alcohol is harming the addict’s health while another may talk about the psychological and emotional trauma the addict is experiencing. Still another may talk about social isolation and other observations.

The point of this first approach is to try and help the addict to see how he or she is being harmed by addictive behaviour. The hope is that the addict will eventually realise that he or she is self-destructing. That knowledge may motivate the person to agree to treatment.

The second school of thought is to approach addiction from the angle of how it is affecting others. For example, a spouse might address an addicted partner to explain the financial, emotional and mental turmoil being caused by addiction. Children may also address a parent, if they are older, to explain how the addiction is affecting them. Close friends might explain how they no longer want to be around the addict because of his/her behaviour.

Those who subscribe to the second line of thought believe that it is far more effective to address the harm to family members and friends because the addict has already demonstrated he/she is not concerned about his/her own health and well-being. Whether or not that’s true doesn’t matter. What matters is that those conducting the intervention figure out whatever will best work in their situation.

Keys to a Successful Intervention

At MHA, are ready to assist you with an intervention if you need our help. We have plenty of experience assisting families with all kinds of addiction problems. We urge you to contact us right away if a friend or family member is currently in the throes of alcoholism, drug addiction or any kind of behavioural addiction.

Should you decide to conduct an intervention on your own, keep in mind the following things:

  • Attitude – The point of the intervention is not to accuse or blame. It is to show genuine concern, compassion and support. Be sure to go into the intervention with the right kind of attitude that will motivate rather than chase away your friend or loved one.
  • Preparation – It is helpful to prepare for the intervention by having everyone who will address the addict write down his or her thoughts on paper. It is far easier to say what needs to be said by planning ahead of time rather than waiting until the emotion of the moment takes over.
  • Consequences – Your intervention should end with giving an opportunity to your friend or loved one to make the choice. His or her choice has to be met with consequences. For example, if the individual chooses to get treatment you should offer your help to arrange and pay for it. If the individual refuses treatment, you may have to set limits on things pertaining to living arrangements, finances, etc.

In closing, we want you to know that interventions are not always successful the first time. Sometimes families have to try two or three times before they finally break through. MHA is here to help. Please contact us to learn more about how we can assist you. Do not let the consequences of addiction continue to tear your family or friends apart.