How to Plan an Intervention

Coping with an addicted loved one is an incredibly challenging task. Addiction is fueled by secrecy and deception. Often, family members and friends enable drug and alcohol misuse by allowing substance use to be an “open secret” – everyone has an idea of what’s going on, but no one discusses it or calls for change. As such, addictive behaviors can only be addressed by dispelling the secrecy surrounding them. An intervention can motivate your loved one to seek help for their alcohol or drug problems. Today, we’ll explain what makes an effective intervention, and will provide insight about exactly how to set one up.


How Does an Intervention Work?

Interventions are created through a discrete, step-by-step process.

  1. 1. Plan. One individual (maybe yourself) creates a planning group and encourages other friends and family members to take part in an intervention. Decide on a specific date and time when the meeting will take place and make plans for how to get your loved one to the chosen location. Interventions should happen when your loved one is relatively clear-headed (usually early in the morning), and everyone should have written out what they plan to say. Rehearsing as a group is recommended.
  2. 2. Do Your Research. Gathering information online is integral to this process; it’s also advisable to reach out to an addiction treatment professional or interventionist for advice. By learning as much as you can about the disease of addiction and looking into treatment programs, you will be prepared for what comes next.
  3. 3. Brace for Emotionality. Interventions can be emotionally charged experiences. Because of the hurt feelings and secrecy surrounding addiction, it can be tempting to blame your loved one or lash out at them for their behavior. This is not constructive and can actually sabotage their recovery. Be prepared to calmly convey facts about their behavior with specific examples.
  4. 4. Choose the Consequences. This is a critical component of every intervention. Perhaps you’ve been enabling your loved one by helping them to call out of school, or you have covered for them financially. Explain that if they do not seek help, these safeguards will be removed, and they will be on their own.
  5. 5. Go Through with the Intervention. Without telling them what is about to happen, get your loved one to the meeting spot on time. Those on your intervention team will go around the circle, explaining their feelings and experiences. Provide your loved one with a treatment option and ask them to agree to it on the spot. Make them aware of any consequences tied to their refusal.
  6. 6. Follow Up. Whatever the outcome of your intervention, be sure that you are supportive of your loved one afterwards. Stay in touch and seek opportunities to help them post-treatment, offer to join them in counseling or educate yourself on what to do if they relapse. By adding yourself to their support network, you will strengthen their recovery and give them a better chance of success.


Who Do I Invite to the Intervention?

Intervention teams typically include between four and six individuals who are close with your loved one. Do not invite anyone who is overly emotional, who your loved one dislikes or resents, who has their own addiction problems or who otherwise cannot be trusted to control themselves during the intervention. Some individuals may appear to be invested but will desire to sabotage the meeting for one reason or another. If this is the case, exclude those individuals from the intervention and instead ask them to submit a letter for another person to read at the meeting. 


What Happens Next?

The ideal next step of any intervention is addiction treatment. Programs can be selected by doing your research online and calling around to determine the best fit. Most drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers will offer different levels of care and can advise you about which is best for your loved one’s needs. For example, those who are dependent on alcohol and benzodiazepines need medically supervised detoxification. A large percentage of the time, a 30-day residential treatment program is recommended. Additional levels of care, such as outpatient programming and sober living accommodations, can greatly assist your loved one in maintaining their sobriety in the days, months and years to come. 


The Best Chance of Success

Remember that addiction is a disease fueled by secrecy and deception. Your loved one is not themselves, and they may not react as expected within the context of the intervention, but that does not mean you should hesitate to try. Because this situation is delicate, you should take a few steps to ensure the best chance of success.

  • – Choose a Leader. A single individual should be selected to run the preparation process. Having one point of contact streamlines communication and prevents confusion in the planning process. This person can also be trusted to speak up at the meeting if there is a lull or difficult moment.
  • – Get on the Same Page. If you are involving extended family members or friends of your loved one, they may have some information about your loved one’s addiction that you do not (and vice versa). Share notable information, including dates of specific incidents or evidence of substance use, with all members of the team. This allows the group to have a unified understanding of your loved one’s addiction, going into the intervention as a prepared unit.
  • – Anticipate the Argument. You may be able to guess at your loved one’s objections before you even enter the room. Maybe their opioid or alcohol use stemmed from a desire for pain management, and they are concerned about what this would look like when they are substance-free. Prepare responses to their concerns before the intervention.
  • – Make Them Commit Now. It is important to ask for an immediate decision to enter treatment at the conclusion of an intervention. When given extra time to decide, your loved one’s addiction will convince them that help is unnecessary. The emotional impact of the intervention will fade, and the desire to continue using will take over. Be prepared to get your loved one into treatment immediately – call ahead to the treatment center and ask whether beds are available. Be ready to take your loved one for an evaluation at the conclusion of the intervention.
  • – Do All Things with Great Love. Even though interventions can be an emotional process, remember the reason that all of you are gathered together: you want to help your loved one to break free of addiction. When things become heated or upsetting, do not lose sight of this goal.


Your Partner in Healing

At Cumberland Heights, we have helped men and women to recover for more than 50 years. We make the admissions process as easy as possible, so there are no obstacles to treatment for your loved one after their intervention. We accept most major insurance providers, including Aetna, BlueCross BlueShield, Cigna, UnitedHealthcare and more. We also offer self-pay treatment plans. Contact us online or by phone at 800-646-9998 to learn more about the Cumberland Heights difference.