An intervention – whether it be for a drug or alcohol addiction – is a planned process that involves a professional counselor or interventionist, with experience in addiction; as well as the family, loved ones, and sometimes the co-workers of the addicted person. An alcohol or drug intervention may also involve licensing boards or employers if the person is overseen by a board (e.g., doctors, lawyers, dentist, and pilots).
Intervention Process and Steps
An intervention is not simply an event. It is a process. The first thing the specialist does during the intervention process is interview the family or anyone else who will be involved.
Questions an interventionist may ask:
- How long has the person been abusing drugs or alcohol?
- What drugs are they using?
- Have they ever been in treatment?
- Have they been treated 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?
Goals of an interventionist:
- 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 generally wants to be able to take the addict directly to treatment if the intervention help succeeds, so they will likely discuss your options well before the actual day of the event.
Most intervention specialists will recommend a couple different addiction rehabs and will explain the pros and cons of each one.
For example, one drug rehab may be more expensive, but has a specialist that is perfect for your loved one’s specific needs (for example, a PTSD specialist for an addict who experienced a trauma). Or another rehab facility may be far from home, which can actually be a good thing as it will make it more challenging to just up and walk out if things get tough to deal with in therapy.
The most common way intervention is done is by surprise – the family shows up someplace and then the addict is brought in.
However, there’s another intervention plan called “invitational intervention”, where the addict is invited to join vs. being surprised. Always discuss the best option for your particular loved one’s case with the specialist as they can better determine if the addict will show up if invited or needs to be surprised.
Once an intervention plan is organized, the date can be set for the actual intervention event.
The Right Intervention for Your Loved One
The actual intervention process and event will differ from person to person and 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 alcoholics 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 experience manipulating you and others. The 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.