Five Things You Need to Know About Interventions

By Jennifer Lezcano

Mother and daughter getting notice from doctors at table in clinicHow do you get someone who is so immersed in their addiction to listen up and realize that they need treatment? There are many reasons why someone suffering from a substance use disorder may not want to go to treatment. Some don’t believe they have a problem, some may think they can get well on their own.

And yet, there has been much research done on the psychological or physical conditions a person needs to get well. Some organizations believe in the idea of “rock bottom” – hitting an absolute low allows the person to realize they need help. Others believe that a person must be individually motivated to get well in order for therapy to work. Because of this, families are often at a loss as to how to help their loved one.

For some families, an intervention can be an option. When performed properly by a licensed clinician, interventions can help individuals see their behaviour more clearly and motivate them to seek treatment. There is very little scientific data about the effectiveness of interventions because experts have had trouble agreeing on the definition of effectiveness. A clinical study conducted on a sample of 331 people by the State University of New York determined that the Johnson Intervention was very effective at engaging and maintaining clients in residential treatment. Approximately, 86 per cent and 90 per cent of those who had undergone an intervention were admitted to treatment. Out of those individuals, 83 per cent graduated from treatment.

Interventions are a loving way to motivate a person to get help for their addiction. Family members, friends, and employers come together to express their concern for the addict, share how the addiction is affecting them, and ask their loved one to enter a treatment program.

There are key aspects that come with carrying out an intervention that you should be aware of if you think it might be right for your family. Remember that interventions should never be carried out without an experienced clinician.

  1. Educate yourself on the disease of addiction. Have everyone involved in the intervention speak to an addiction specialist ahead of time to learn how and why this disease happens. It’s important for loved ones to understand that it’s not their fault.
  2. Understand that the individual doesn’t know the impact their addiction is having on your family. People who are caught in the cycle of addiction are in denial. They don’t always understand the damage their addiction has caused. An intervention can help them gain that understanding.
  3. It’s crucial that you express compassion and sincere concern for the person’s welfare. As part of an intervention, participants are asked to write a letter about their concerns and examples of how the person’s addiction is affecting them. Avoid sounding judgmental and confrontational. An interventionist will help you set boundaries around your relationship with the individual if they decide not to get help.
  4. The addict can reject help and refuse to go to treatment. This doesn’t mean the intervention has failed. By carrying out an intervention, the family has actually started on their own path of recovery. Interventions can also be therapeutic for family members to know that they’ve done everything they could to help. On the other hand, interventions can be successful, and it’s important to have an action plan if the person agrees to treatment. Select a person to take the lead to make arrangements ahead of time to get someone admitted into treatment.
  5. Interventions are highly intense and can be an emotional rollercoaster for everyone involved. Have a certified interventionist, a doctor, or a certified addiction counsellor lead your intervention. This can help with the whole process to ensure the intervention is conducted appropriately in a non-threatening, respectful, and supportive manner. The interventionist can also help family and friends prepare, rehearse and stay on point with what is shared during the intervention.

While interventions can be highly effective in persuading a loved one to enter treatment for drugs, alcohol, gambling or sex addiction, one should first educate oneself on the disease of addiction.  Family members, friends and employers must be aware that rejection may be a part of the intervention process, but is usually rare. There is no such thing as a failed intervention. It isn’t over until the addict either goes to treatment or the family returns to enabling behaviours instead of following through with what they said they would do if the addict doesn’t agree to get help.

Interventions are not for everyone and it’s typically a family’s last resort. Consult an interventionist to help you determine if an intervention is appropriate for your loved one.  They will provide you with the support and direction on how to start a journey of recovery for everyone.