Who should be on the intervention team?

An intervention team usually includes four to six people who are important in the life of your loved one. They could be people your family member or friend loves, respects, admires, depends on and likes, and may include relatives, friends, and community leaders such as clergy members or teachers. Don't include anyone who your loved one dislikes, anyone who has an unmanaged mental health issue or substance abuse problem, or anyone who might sabotage the intervention. This includes anyone who may not be able to limit what he or she says to what you agreed on during the planning meeting.

If you think it's important to have someone involved but worry that it may create a problem during the intervention, consider having that person write a short letter that someone else can read at the intervention.

How do you find a treatment program to offer at the intervention?

Depending on the severity of your loved one's behavior or condition, it may be appropriate to ask him or her to seek support from a group such as Alcoholics Anonymous. A more severe problem may require admittance into a structured program or hospital.

If a treatment program is necessary, it may help to make arrangements in advance for admittance. Do some research, keeping these considerations in mind:

  • Ask a trusted addiction specialist, doctor or mental health provider about the best treatment approach for your loved one and recommendations about programs.
  • Contact national organizations, online support groups or local clinics for treatment programs or advice.
  • Find out if insurance will cover the treatment program you're considering.
  • Find out what steps are required for admission, such as an evaluation appointment, insurance pre-certification and whether there's a waiting list.
  • Be wary of treatment centers promising quick fixes. Avoid programs that use uncommon methods or treatments that seem potentially harmful.
  • If the program requires travel, make arrangements ahead of time. Consider having a packed suitcase ready for your loved one.

How can you help ensure a successful intervention?

Keep in mind, your loved one's problem involves intense emotions. The process of organizing the intervention and the intervention itself can cause conflict, anger and resentment even among family and friends who know a loved one needs their help. To help run a successful intervention:

  • Consult an intervention specialist. It's possible to conduct an intervention without an intervention specialist, but having expert help is preferable. An intervention professional will take into account your loved one's particular circumstances, suggest the best approach and help guide you in what type of treatment and follow-up plan is likely to work best.
  • Don't hold an intervention on the spur of the moment. It can take several weeks to plan an effective intervention. However, don't make it too elaborate, either, or it may be difficult to get everyone to follow through.
  • Plan the time of the intervention. Make sure you choose a date and time when the addicted person is least likely to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Do your homework. Research your loved one's addiction or substance abuse issue so that you have a good understanding about what's going on.
  • Appoint a single person to act as a liaison. Having one point of contact for all team members will help you communicate and stay on track.
  • Share information. Make sure each team member has the same information about your loved one's addiction and the intervention so that everyone is on the same page. Hold meetings or conference calls to share updates.
  • Stage a rehearsal intervention. Here, you can decide who will speak when, sitting arrangements and other details so that there's no fumbling during the real intervention with your loved one.
  • Anticipate your loved one's objections. Have calm, rational responses prepared for each reason the addicted person may give to avoid treatment or responsibility for his or her behavior. Offer support to your loved one that makes it easier to engage in treatment, such as arranging child care or attending counseling sessions with him or her.
  • Avoid confrontation. Be honest, but don't use the intervention as a forum for hostile attacks. Avoid name-calling and angry or accusing statements.
  • Stay on track during the intervention. Veering from the plan can quickly derail an intervention and has the potential to make the situation worse.
  • Ask for an immediate decision. Don't give your loved one time to think about whether to accept the treatment offer, even if he or she asks for a few days to think it over. Doing so just allows your loved one to continue denying a problem, go into hiding or go on a dangerous binge. Be prepared to get your loved one into an evaluation to start the treatment immediately if he or she agrees to the plan.

What if your loved one refuses help despite an intervention?

Unfortunately, not all interventions are successful. In some cases, a loved one may refuse the treatment plan. The addicted person may erupt in anger or insist that he or she doesn't need help or may be resentful and accuse you of betrayal or being a hypocrite.

Emotionally prepare yourself for these situations while remaining hopeful for positive change. If your loved one doesn't accept treatment, be prepared to follow through with the changes you presented.

Oftentimes, children, partners, siblings and parents are subjected to abuse, violence, threats and emotional upheaval because of alcohol and drug problems. You don't have control over an addicted person's behavior. However, you do have the ability to remove yourself — and any children — from a destructive situation.

Even if an intervention doesn't work, you and others involved in your loved one's life can make changes that may help. Ask other people involved to avoid enabling the destructive cycle of behavior and take active steps to encourage positive change.

Aug. 23, 2011 See more In-depth