How to Do an Intervention
What is an Intervention?
Before addressing how to do an intervention, it would be helpful to first understand what an intervention is. The definition of intervention in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is: The act or fact of taking action about something in order to have an effect on its outcome. The definition of intervention in Oxford Languages is: Action taken to improve a situation, especially a medical disorder.
Family First Intervention defines an intervention as an act initiated by a professional interventionist in conjunction with the family members and loved ones of a substance user. It aims to educate, create self-awareness, and alter unhealthy behaviors to encourage positive change for all those affected.
It is as important to know what an intervention is and the most effective way to go about it as it is to understand what an intervention is not.
Professional Interventions Can Help
There are all types of interventions, including surgical, military, and governmental, among others. What they all have in common is an unbiased focus of the professionals on the people, place, or thing causing the situation that needs to be addressed. At no time do interventions resolve problems in and of themselves. Other issues may have to be addressed, and alternative guidance is almost always necessary. In other words, when we have a problem that needs to be confronted, we call in professionals to assist, acknowledging their expertise and experience. In cases of addiction, that is oftentimes not what happens. In fact, with addiction, solutions are often determined by those on the front lines, i.e., family members who may be overwhelmed and who possess only a limited ability at best to see the problem and a potential solution.
At some point, it is inevitable that substance users will experience some form of intervention. Either a family initiates the process with the guidance and support of a professional or a societal intervention will take place. What this means is, there will be an end point to the chaos, and without a plan, it is anyone’s guess what will result. It has yet to be the case where substance users ask for help, enter a treatment center, or attend their first 12-step meeting because things are going well. This also rarely occurs when a substance user is part of a codependent enabling family system that directly or indirectly comforts the addiction. Enabling impedes the capacity to see the need for change.
If family members are expecting the substance user to seek help and professional guidance, we can only hope they see the same need for themselves.
You are Unable to be Both the Professional Interventionist and the Family
A professional interventionist spends far more time helping the family rather than the substance user. Although a major goal is for the substance user to accept help and be escorted to treatment, there is far more to it than that. An intervention is not a motivational speech or an act of tough love. “Shape up or ship out” is not a solution. An addicted individual finds comfort in dismantling the family system while creating diversions that cause chaos and confusion. The problem is not solely the addiction, but equally, if not more, the family forming maladaptive coping mechanisms in reaction to the addiction. These, then, create resentments and turmoil among family members. When the substance user enters treatment, it is not uncommon for the family to go through their own emotional detox, thereby enabling the broken family system to correct and heal itself. This is why when a family forgoes an intervention or their own recovery, they frequently find themselves experiencing a repeat of similar crises months or years later.
Although it may be possible for a family to inspire or “tough love” the substance user into treatment, they cannot administer self-therapy to fix the problems that created the environment inhibiting short- and long-term change. Families often explain how many times their loved one attempted recovery but to no avail. In all those situations, the common denominator was: the substance user sought help, but the family did not. In none of those conversations did the family allude to taking charge of their own recovery and doing things differently. Common statements we frequently hear include: “the treatment center didn’t work” or “until they are ready or hit bottom, it is a waste of time.” Fortunately, that is not true.
How to do an Intervention: Guidelines and Takeaways
Professional interventions are not 12-step calls facilitated by people in recovery. Waving a finger at a family with a not too subtle inference of guilt and shame, telling them what to do and what not to do, is not an intervention nor does it provide therapeutic long-term change or growth.
An intervention is not an event; it is a process. A professional interventionist along with the staff should seek to provide insights and solutions while promoting self-awareness among family members. Helping a family bridge to their own recovery program is part of the intervention process.
Finding support and reliable insight in how to proceed about the addiction is not easy. Society, with little to no facts, and family members on the front lines, even with good intentions, may not be the best source of information. Listening to non-professionals or emotionally affected individuals tell you how to do an intervention or how to address the situation may simply not be effective. Believing you have to wait for the substance user to want help or hit bottom is not only dangerous, it also fuels the victim mentality of codependency.
You may not have control over your loved one accepting help, but you do have control over your response to the substance user’s behavior. When we protect other people’s feelings, we are in fact really protecting our own. Intervention is about what a family can do for themselves in response to the devastation brought on by the addiction. An intervention is not about how to control the substance user; it is about how to let go of believing you can.
Each family member plays an unhealthy role in response to the addiction, a role that balances out the family system. A family cannot address or even see the underlying problems without professional intervention. Until this catalyst to a solution is discussed and agreed to, the situation is most likely to continue or return, regardless of whether the substance user goes willingly or is talked into treatment by a family member. It is a beautiful time when a substance user surrenders to professional treatment. It is equally beautiful when the family does the same.
An intervention is not about how to control the substance user; it is about how to let go of believing you can.
Is it time for an intervention?
It’s not always easy to tell when a loved one struggling with drugs or alcohol is in need of professional help. Find out if it’s time with our quiz.
Thankfully, families don’t have to host interventions alone. They can call in a trained professional to help ensure success and make the process easier. Find out how
Intervention Help FAQs
At Family First Intervention, it’s our mission to help families understand how they can help save their loved ones from addiction. Get the facts.