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An intervention is a last-ditch effort to convince your loved one to seek treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction and involves a meeting – usually planned without the knowledge of your loved one – during which you and other concerned significant others, or CSOs, tell your loved one how the addiction has personally affected you and encourage him or her to enter a treatment program.

Spur-of-the-moment interventions and those performed without some type of guidance by a professional often do more harm than good. By contrast, as a well known tip and trick, interventions that are facilitated by a professional interventionist or other mental health professional have a 90 percent success rate in getting the loved one to agree to treatment, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD).

The Importance of the Educational Component of an Intervention

An intervention is more than giving your loved one a laundry list of the ways in which his or her addiction has affected you. Before the main event even occurs, CSOs undergo comprehensive education about addiction and how it changes the brain. This helps you better understand what your loved one is going through and how it relates to his or her denial or reluctance to seek treatment. Some professional interventions, like the ARISE model and the CRAFT model, focus heavily on helping CSOs evaluate their own enabling behaviors or co-dependency to better effect change in the life of the addicted loved one.

Finding an Interventionist

According to the Mayo Clinic, any of the following professionals can help you plan and execute an effective intervention:

  • A mental health counselor.
  • A psychologist.
  • An addiction specialist.
  • A social worker.
  • A professional interventionist.

This professional will assist and coach CSOs through the planning stages of the intervention, including presenting the educational component, finding a suitable addiction treatment center, and facilitating the meeting to help keep it positively-focused and on-track.

The Steps for Planning an Intervention

Step 1: Education

After the educational component for the CSOs is complete, the intervention team is formed. This team is comprised of the people who will be in the meeting with the loved one, and it shouldn’t include anyone whom your loved one dislikes or who may stray from the planned agenda, purposely or inadvertently sabotage the intervention, or become hostile or argumentative with your loved one.

Step 2: Planning

The interventionist and the team will research suitable treatment programs and arrange for an admission appointment that will take place immediately following the intervention. In some cases, a team member may even pack a bag for the loved one, arrange for pet care, and take care of other small details to address in advance some of the excuses the loved one may offer for why he or she can’t enter treatment right away.

Step 3: Letters

Each member of the team writes a letter or prepares a speech for the addicted loved one, which should be framed in a positive light and avoid placing blame or making accusations. Each member must also choose consequences that they will follow through with should your loved one refuse treatment. Consequences should be directly related to the substance abuse, and they must be those which you will be able and willing to follow through with, such as no longer giving the loved one money or asking him or her to move out of the home.

Step 4: Initiation

After a rehearsal meeting, a member of the team invites the loved one to the intervention without revealing its purpose. The interventionist will explain to your loved one why the meeting has been called, and each CSO will speak to the loved one for about five minutes. You will then ask your loved one to enter the treatment program you’ve chosen, and each team member will outline the consequences they’re prepared to institute if your loved one declines treatment.

After the Intervention

If your loved one is one of the 90 percent who enters treatment following the intervention, your continuing support will be central to his or her success, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

If your loved one declines treatment, you’ll need to follow through on the consequences you outlined. Failing to do so reinforces the addictive behaviors, but following through with them may help your loved one subsequently decide to seek help for the addiction.

Regardless of the outcome, joining a support group like Al-Anon or, if your loved one seeks treatment, participating in educational programming offered to families by the treatment program, will go a long way toward helping you help you loved one either successfully complete treatment or choose to seek help later on.

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