What Is Actually Involved in an Intervention?
For the family members, friends and co-workers who are concerned about someone’s alcohol or drug abuse, a great deal of confusion and frustration can keep them from taking action. The last thing you may want to do is to admit that there is a problem with drugs; in fact, you may keep hoping that this problem will get better, but, since addiction is a chronic and progressive disease, sitting back and hoping that problems will get better can be dangerous. If you are concerned, then now is the time to get help from a trained, experienced addiction professional.
Most people try to address alcohol and drug problems with what they think will help. In doing so, people may make the problem worse for themselves and the addict, which is why it would help to learn about addiction and how to intervene.
Job 1: Educate Yourself on the Impact of Addictions
For people who are concerned about someone with a substance abuse disorder, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) says the first step is to gather the following info:
- How alcohol and drugs affect the user
- How his alcohol and drug use affects family, friends and co-workers
- What you need to do to get the help and support you need
For some individuals, the education process is enough to support their efforts to help their addicted friend or family member. For other people, the person about whom they are concerned is incapable of admitting that he is in trouble and needs help. Decades of experience have shown that interventions are powerful tools to help people with such deep denial.
Intervention 101: The Basics
Let us clarify a few ideas concerning interventions with help from the NCADD:
What is an intervention? An intervention is a professionally directed education process that results in a face-to-face meeting between family members, friends, employers and the person with the substance use disorder. Intervention helps addicts connect their alcohol and drug use with the problems in their lives; the goal is to present the addict with the facts, the need for change and a strategic course of action.
How does intervention work? Much of the intervention process is education and information for the friends and family. It is an opportunity for everyone to come together, share information and support the addict and affected people. Once everyone is ready, a meeting is scheduled with the person about whom everyone is concerned.
Who gets involved in an intervention? Most successful interventions are professionally directed. The interventionist will help you determine who should participate in the meeting, because involving the right people is essential to the process.
Interventions Have Focus, Require Planning
During the intervention, the team will confront the addict about the consequences of addiction and present a determined course of action. The intervention takes the following actions:
- Provides examples of destructive behaviors and their impact on the addict and loved ones
- Offers a prearranged treatment plan with clear steps, goals and guidelines
- Spells out what each person will do if the loved one refuses treatment
The Mayo Clinic notes that an intervention usually includes the following steps:
- Make a plan – A family member or friend proposes an intervention and forms a group. It is best if you consult a qualified professional counselor, addiction specialist, psychologist, mental health counselor, social worker or an interventionist to organize the meeting.
- Gather information – The group members discover the extent of the addition and research available treatment programs. The group may initiate arrangements to enroll the loved one into a specific center.
- Form the intervention team – The planning group forms a team that will participate in the intervention. DO NOT invite anyone whom the strongly dislikes! Team members set a date and location to present a consistent, rehearsed message with a structured plan for treatment.
- Decide on specific consequences – If your loved one does not accept treatment, then each person on the team must decide what action she will take. Examples include asking your loved one to move out or taking away contact with children.
With help, you can promote your loved one’s recovery.
There’s “Willing”… and Then There’s “Unwilling”
Interventions can be split into two main categories. The first is when an addict willingly agrees to sit down with her loved ones to talk about her drugs and alcohol abuse. In more difficult cases, a surprise intervention may be required, which means the addict is forced to confront her behavior and how it affects others. However, the addict’s initial willingness for rehab does not dictate the event’s success. Regardless of the intervention method you choose, remember that an intervention is never guaranteed to succeed. The outcome depends upon the addict, but a qualified professional and the right tactics will certainly improve the odds for recovery.
The Media Is Doing Us No Favors
Psychology Today notes that movies and TV shows typically feature heavy drug users, not high-functioning alcoholics (HFA), because the depiction therein would not be dramatic enough by today’s standards. The American need for drama has led to a disproportionate amount of lower-functioning alcoholics and drug addicts being featured in Hollywood productions, which leads the public to believe that the “skid row” alcoholic is the total picture concerning substance use disorders. No thought could be further from the truth. HFAs are much more typical in society, and actually more difficult to address due to our distorted view of addiction.
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