What Is An Intervention and Does It Work?

What Is An Intervention and Does It Work?

What is an intervention?

An intervention is the combination of education and support with the goal of getting a loved one to take the first step of getting treatment for their disease. It is a way for family and friends to essentially ‘hold up a mirror’ to show their loved one’s behaviour so they can confront their addiction before it’s too late. Otherwise, the only possible outcome will be jail, institutions or death.

Often, the person suffering doesn’t want to listen, and they may resist or try to negotiate their way out of it. It’s not uncommon for them to attempt to manipulate those trying to help them.

Interventions are staged when loved ones feel it’s necessary to step in to save a life. There are several different methods for staging an intervention. A professional interventionist can help you choose which method they believe will work best.

How do you conduct an intervention?

(Please note that this is a guideline and is not intended as instruction. We recommend that you do this with a qualified Intervention Professional).

For an intervention to work, it’s key for loved ones to listen to the intervention team.

    • Gather all the people closest to the person with the addiction; people they hold dear to their hearts.
    • People invited to the intervention should include family members, close friends, and when appropriate, employers or fellow employees.
    • Participants need to be educated about the disease of addiction prior to the intervention
    • Choose a neutral location.
    • Have all participants prepare in advance by writing down what they wish to say. Letters should be concise, well-rehearsed, and should accentuate the positive. It is imperative that everyone comes from a place of love and uses ‘I statements’ in their letters and while they’re speaking. A good opener in letters like these is “I love you, but I’m worried because this is what I see happening to you.”
    • Everyone provides an ultimatum, pushing their loved one toward seeking help rather than lose everyone they love.
    • Limit the intervention to about 60 to 90 minutes. At longer sessions, anger may flare up and compassion tends to decline.
    • Schedule a substance abuse evaluation that is made up of screening, assessment, follow-up, and referral services. Screening involves screening clients to determine if addiction or co-occurring disorders are present. Screening often involves a set of basic yes or no questions. 

What reaction can you anticipate from the person you’re trying to help?

The person with the addiction may get angry with their loved ones for interfering with their substance use and pushing them toward treatment. That’s okay. That anger will eventually turn into gratitude as it did for Renee and Lily.

Addiction is a lonely and desperate disease. The person suffering may feel overwhelmed, lost and full of guilt and shame. Many people suffering from substance use disorders won’t seek help on their own – they need the love and support of those closest to them to tell them that it’s okay to get help. Many will be relieved to finally be free to admit what’s happening to them.

Interventions are most successful when loved ones offer compassionate support, nonjudgmental assurance, patience, and understanding

What is an interventionist?

An interventionist is a highly trained professional – often they’re also in recovery and have decided to dedicate their careers and lives to helping people who are suffering as they did in the past.

Trained interventionists are highly skilled in de-escalating what may become a violent situation if the person they’re trying to help is subject to violent outbursts as a result of their use or they suffer from a mental illness that is just exacerbating the addiction. An interventionist can also advise you on how to maintain a positive air and help guide you to a positive outcome.

Two success stories of members who had interventions

Recently, we had two members come to us whose families had staged interventions to get them into treatment. So how does a person feel after they’ve begun recovery following an intervention? Here are two stories of people who experienced an intervention. (Names have been changed to protect privacy).

Renee’s family staged an intervention for alcoholism

Renee was drunk when she walked into an intervention staged by her family. She was completely blind-sided! When she realized that they were there to interfere with her drinking, she got very angry. She and her husband both had substance abuse disorders, and she was stuck in a cycle of drinking, then drinking to feel better. She was barely keeping her head above water, but she was afraid to stop. She was a Mom; she had no time to be sick with withdrawal. Lucky for Renee, she still had a relationship with her family, and when they realized that she needed help, they did just that; they helped by scheduling an intervention.

She chuckled as she recounted how she negotiated with them by demanding that she be allowed to drink right up until she arrived at the treatment centre.

It isn’t uncommon for an Interventionist to allow the person they are trying to save to continue using drugs or alcohol right up until they have arrived at the grounds of the recovery centre. The goal is to do anything to get them there. (Within reason).

Renee shared her intervention experience a few days before she completed her program. By that time, she had already been in treatment for a month and was looking forward to a stay at a sober living facility for a while. Even though she originally did not want to go to treatment and was angry with her family for staging the intervention, when she shared her story, she was grateful to all of them and she was excited to get back home and focus on being a good mom again. She just needed someone to take her hand and lead her out of the darkness, then she took it from there.

Lily’s intervention from meth addiction

Lily described herself as ‘hopelessly’ addicted to methamphetamine for years. It had gotten so bad that she rarely left her house anymore – all she did was sit at home and get high. She was underweight, malnourished, and her overall physical and mental health was declining rapidly.

Meth can cause severe psychological problems, paranoia and hallucinations. It’s also one of the hardest drug addictions to treat. Lily explained that she was so far into her addiction, that it was a couple of weeks before she even knew that she was in a rehab facility. It was obvious that she was still quite uncomfortable. The anxiety was visible in her eyes and body language, but she was truly trying to get better. She was genuinely happy that her family had intervened because she thought dying was the only escape from her addiction.

Many people suffering from substance abuse disorders see no way out. They feel hopeless and overwhelmed; they feel like a burden to their loved ones. It’s a vicious cycle to be stuck in. That’s where Lily was when her family stepped in. She smiled when she shared that they had also arranged for her to stay in a sober living facility for six months after she completed her inpatient residential treatment. It was obvious that she felt cared for; a feeling that isn’t common when you’re using.

Both Lily and Renee had a certified Interventionist from Aurora Recovery Centre facilitate their interventions along with their families. After being in treatment for a while, they realized the gift that their families had given them, and their gratitude was obvious from how they spoke. They both shared that they were finally hopeful for their futures.

What to do if an intervention doesn’t work the first time

If it doesn’t work – it’s imperative that everyone involved in staging the intervention follows through on their ultimatums. This will help the person they’re trying to save know that you were telling the truth, and many will reconsider – or at least be willing to listen.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, over 90% of people who attend a professional intervention, more than 90% will make a commitment to seek help. That said, some people do refuse help. But, keep in mind, treatment can work even when the person suffering is reluctant to enter treatment!

If you have a loved one suffering from a substance use disorder and would like to talk to a Professional Interventionist, Aurora Recovery Centre is on call 24/7. Click on the link below to get help now.