An intervention is a planned process that involves a professional with experience in addiction (intervention specialist) and the family, loved ones, and sometimes the co-workers of the addicted person. An intervention may also involve licensing boards or employers if the person is overseen by a board (e.g., doctors, lawyers, dentist, and pilots).
An intervention is not simply an event. It is a process.
The first thing the interventionist does is interview the family or anyone else who will be involved. What types of questions will they ask?
- How long has the person been abusing drugs or alcohol?
- What drugs are they using?
- Have they ever been in treatment? Been treating for psych issues?
- How do they finance their drug or alcohol use?
- What consequences have there been already?
- What consequences do you foresee if they continue using?
- What holds you back from confronting this person?
- What would stop you from being able to put pressure on them to go to treatment?
These are just a few of the types of questions an intervention specialist might ask. They have a number of goals:
- Understand the environment of the addict
- Understand the positions of the significant others
- Look for anything that could undermine the process (weak links in the family)
- Begin discussing treatment options with the family
The interventionist wants to be able to take the addict directly to treatment if the intervention succeeds, so they will likely discuss your options well before the actual day of the intervention event. Most interventionists will recommend a few different drug rehabs and will explain the pros and cons of each one.
One drug rehab may be more expensive, but has a specialist that is perfect for your loved one (for example, PTSD specialist for someone who experienced a trauma).
Another drug rehab may be far from home, which the interventionist things will make it a little more challenging to just up and walk out of the rehab when feelings get tough to deal with in therapy.
Then the date will be sent for the actual intervention event.
The most common way this is done is by surprise – the family shows up someplace and then the addict is brought in.
More interventionists are trying what is called an invitational intervention (the addict is invited to join vs. surprised), but there are some addicts who will bolt with this type of intervention.
The better interventionists can use either approach and will base it on the initial interviews with the family and friends. They will quickly figure out if the addict is the type who will show up if invited or the type that needs to be surprised by the intervention.
The actual intervention event will differ dramatically from person to person, family to family, depending on the circumstances. A young adult who is dependent on his parents’ finances will mean more leverage in moving him or her into treatment. A doctor who is being threatened with losing his license and livelihood will also be more motivated to accept going to treatment.
The toughest interventions are with high-functioning alcohols or addicts who are still managing to hang on to their jobs and families. They might not feel enough threat to their way of life and could very easily walk away from the intervention and refuse help.
However, a good interventionist will spend enough time on the pre-intervention phase so that he or she can find the leverage you need to motivate the person to go to treatment.
It is never a good idea to attempt an intervention without a neutral third-party who is experienced in the process. The addict likely knows all your buttons and has a lot of experiencing manipulating you and others. The outsider (interventionist) can spot this behavior much faster than those close to the addict. Interventions can also turn ugly quickly if mishandled; experienced interventionists can manage the event and are best equipped to keep it from turning into a disaster.