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Staging a Drug Addiction Intervention: Q & A

An intervention for someone living with an addiction is an event that can propel the entire family into the healing process. It is a period of time set aside for the express purpose of helping someone to face some hard truths about what is happening in their lives and learning about the opportunities that are available to them in terms of overcoming those issues.

Though families may have broached the topic of drug rehab in the past, an intervention is a formal conversation that outlines treatment options and also makes it clear that if treatment is not chosen, other family members will need to make some tough choices about how to proceed, removing support mechanisms that may have been contributing to the ongoing addiction.

Here are some common questions about the process of staging an addiction intervention and their answers.

Should I run the intervention myself?

You may be the perfect candidate to stage an intervention for your loved one living with addiction, or you may feel that you have a lot going on and do not have the time to devote to learning about the process of addiction, teaching everyone else what they need to know, and then ensuring that the intervention goes as smoothly as possible. Many family members feel they are too close to the situation to effectively run an intervention and that a professional interventionist will be better equipped to manage the details. Additionally, many families note that a professional can lend an air of authority to the proceedings and make it clear in no uncertain terms that this is the end of the line in terms of the family’s continued support of the individual who chooses to avoid treatment in the face of a serious medical disorder.

Who should take part in the intervention?

Though it may be that just one person is living with a psychological and physical dependence on a certain substance, addiction hurts the entire family. Often, those who are closest to the individual want to take part in the intervention, and this is a positive choice for everyone. It demonstrates to the person struggling with addiction that love and support are behind the intervention, and it provides participants with the opportunity to share their thoughts about the addiction and their hopes for the future.

In some cases, however, close family members and friends are not the best choices to take part in an intervention. Some reasons why someone may opt out of the event include:

  • A personal problem with drugs and alcohol
  • An ongoing argument or tension with the person struggling with addiction
  • An inability to remain calm
  • A lack of commitment to helping the person get into treatment

It is normal for family members to feel emotions that range from anger to depression to extreme fear and anxiety, but in an intervention, the mood should be positive and the focus should be on helping the person to connect with treatment and nothing else. Those who do not feel that they can contribute at the intervention itself can write a letter in support or assist in other ways.

What should I say?

At an intervention, each participant will have an opportunity to speak directly to the person who is struggling with addiction. This should take just a few minutes and focus specifically on the individual in question and the addiction. Often, people choose to incorporate the following:

  • Fond memories of how things were prior to the onset of addiction
  • How things have changed, how the relationship was harmed, or how the speaker was harmed due to the person’s chronic drug and alcohol abuse
  • Identification of addiction as a medical disorder and an emphasis on the fact that there is no blaming or anger felt by the speaker
  • Hopes for how things will change for the better through treatment
  • What will change in terms of the speaker’s support (e.g., physical, financial, emotional, etc.) of the person living with addiction if treatment is not chosen

What do I need to do before the intervention?

Before an intervention, it is important to set up the details of the intervention, including holding a planning meeting and inviting all chosen participants.

What should happen at the planning meeting?At the planning meeting, all involved should gain a positive understanding of what to expect at the intervention itself, such as who will speak and when. In addition, participants should be able to ask questions as needed. Many opt to assign tasks like who will bring the person to the intervention, who will host the event, and who will escort the individual to treatment at the planning meetings. Addressing details such as where to park and practicing what each person will say can be part of the meeting as well.

How do I prepare for the chance that my loved one may agree to treatment?

In the event that your loved one agrees to go to treatment, it is important that you have already secured a spot in a drug addiction treatment program, packed a bag, and arranged for transportation. The person should be able to leave the intervention and go directly to treatment.

What do I do if my loved one refuses treatment?

If your loved one refuses treatment at the first intervention, all participants will need to follow through on implementing the changes referenced during the intervention. That is, if a husband said he would file for separation or move out, then he should do so immediately. If a parent stated that they would no longer provide financial support to an adult child in addiction, then it is time to rescind that support. Make it clear that there is no love lost and that all will be there to be as supportive as possible should the person choose treatment.

Maintaining boundaries can be difficult, but it means that the intervention is not necessarily a failed attempt. Rather, it can be the first step in the person’s realization that addiction is a real problem that must be addressed immediately.

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