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 — people he or she loves, likes, respects or depends on. This may include, for example, a best friend, adult relatives or a member of your loved one's faith. Your intervention professional can help you determine appropriate members of your team.
Don't include anyone who:
- Your loved one dislikes
- Has an unmanaged mental health issue or substance abuse problem
- May not be able to limit what he or she says to what you agreed on during the planning meeting
- Might sabotage the intervention
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?
An evaluation by an addiction professional helps determine the extent of the problem and identifies appropriate treatment options.
Treatment options can vary in intensity and scope and occur in a variety of settings. Options can include brief early intervention, outpatient treatment or day treatment programs. More severe problems may require admittance into a structured program, treatment facility or hospital.
Treatment may include counseling, education, vocational services, family services and life skills training. For example, Mayo Clinic offers a variety of addiction services and has a comprehensive team approach to treating addiction.
If a treatment program is necessary, it may help to initiate arrangements in advance. Do some research, keeping these points in mind:
- Ask a trusted addiction professional, doctor or mental health professional about the best treatment approach for your loved one and recommendations about programs.
- Contact national organizations, trusted online support groups or local clinics for treatment programs or advice.
- Find out if your insurance plan will cover the treatment 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, and 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.
It also may be appropriate to ask your loved one to seek support from a group such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
How can you help ensure a successful intervention?
Keep in mind, your loved one's addiction 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 your loved one needs their help. To help run a successful intervention:
- 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 your loved one 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 of it.
- 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 and agree to present a united team.
- Stage a rehearsal intervention. Here, you can decide who will speak when, sitting arrangements and other details, so 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 your loved one may give to avoid treatment or responsibility for behavior. Offer support that makes it easier to engage in treatment, such as arranging child care or attending counseling sessions with your loved one.
- Avoid confrontation. Deal with your loved one with love, respect, support and concern — not anger. 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, prevent a helpful outcome for your loved one and worsen family tensions. Be prepared to remain calm in the face of your loved one's accusations, hurt or anger, which is often meant to deflect or derail the conversation.
- 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 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 treatment immediately if he or she agrees to the plan.
If your loved one refuses help
Unfortunately, not all interventions are successful. In some cases, your loved one with an addiction may refuse the treatment plan. He or she may erupt in anger or insist that help is not needed 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.
Often, 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 the behavior of your loved one with the addiction. 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.
July 20, 2017
See more In-depth
- Intervention — Tips and guidelines. National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. https://www.ncadd.org/family-friends/there-is-help/intervention-tips-and-guidelines. Accessed June 7, 2017.
- Intervention ebook ― What to do if your child is drinking or using drugs. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. https://drugfree.org/download/intervention-ebook/. Accessed June 7, 2017.
- Alcohol and drug addiction happens in the best of families … and it hurts. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. http://store.samhsa.gov/product/Alcohol-and-Drug-Addiction-Happens-in-the-Best-of-Families/SMA12-4159. Accessed June 7, 2017.
- Helping an adult family member or friend with a drug or alcohol addiction. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. https://drugfree.org/parent-blog/want-help-adult-family-member-friend-drug-alcohol-problem-7-suggestions/. Accessed June 8, 2017.
- Treatment ebook ― How to find the right help for your child with an alcohol or drug problem. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. https://drugfree.org/download/treatment-ebook/. Accessed June 8, 2017.
- Hall-Flavin DK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 13, 2017.