5 Ways To Prepare For an Intervention

by Balboa Horizons | October 23, 2013

Addiction is something no one should have to face alone. It can sneak up on people. Experimentation with drugs leads to continued use. As a result, a tolerance to the drug of choice develops and the user takes more to counter the increased tolerance. This develops a dependence on the drug and the user becomes fully addicted.

Drugs and alcohol fundamentally alter the chemistry of the brain, and addicts are often not even aware of the change. They become a different person altogether, and likely don’t even see a problem. This takes its toll on the addict’s body, but also their relationships with their friends and family. When an addict’s loved ones reach their breaking point, an intervention could be the nudge that ends up saving a life.

What is an intervention?

In the addiction treatment field, an intervention is the process of confronting an addict with the reality of their addiction. It should always come from a place of love and concern for the addict’s well being, and extensive planning is required in order to ensure the message comes across with positivity and caring. Interventions should not be considered lightly, which is why the Balboa Horizons team wants to help you prepare.

1. Create a Cohesive Group

Only those closest to the person requiring an intervention should be present at one. Spouses, parents, siblings, and the addict’s closest friends may all want to be involved, but only those willing to do what’s best for the person should attend. Everyone has their own perspective, experiences, and opinions to bring to the table, but before holding an intervention, the group should be cohesive and united against the addiction, not the addict.

Every member of the intervention group should be on the same page. Judgments and personal beliefs should be set aside to focus on doing what’s best for your loved one. Addicts often feel isolated, one common reason they began using in the first place. They may feel shame for their addiction and lost in their own life. An intervention is a powerful reminder of the trauma which motivated them to begin using, which is why compassion, concern, and caring should come first.

2. Channel Love & Concern Above All

One way to unite an intervention group against addiction is to focus on the positives. Who was the person before they became an addict? What were they like? Take note of examples of the positive experiences you shared with the person. Why are you so concerned about them in the present?

Coming to an intervention with personal anecdotes and justification for the event prepares you for the challenging conversation to come. It gives you a vocabulary of positivity and love to depend on when things become too emotionally charged. If you find yourself becoming frustrated or angry during an intervention, recognize that these emotions are coming from a place of love and caring for the addict.

3. Write Letters to Express Those Feelings

One large obstacle to any successful intervention is bringing blame and anger into the room. Prewritten letters help eliminate the risk of going off script and becoming too critical of the addict.

The personal anecdotes and experiences above can and should be incorporated into this letter. This allows everyone to express their feelings in a concise and more thorough manner, putting a barrier between the powerful emotions in the heart and the spontaneity of the tongue. It’s also a powerful message to the addict that the people around them are committed and prepared to do what it takes to help them.

4. Speak with a Substance Abuse Professional and/or Interventionist

Interventions are extremely complex and difficult for everyone involved. Relying on the expertise and experience of someone who’s performed one before could make the difference between recovery and continued addiction.

A professional substance abuse psychiatrist or interventionist is better equipped to handle the complications that arise during an intervention. They can interject when necessary to prevent blame or negativity from coming into play. They’re trained in reducing and responding to adverse reactions, guiding the conversation and keeping the group focused on what’s most important: moving forward on the path to recovery. Professional substance abuse professionals and interventionists should also be able to provide you with recommendations on where to hold the intervention, and when.

The A&E channel has a documentary series called Intervention which covers the process from start to finish. It provides real-world examples of both successful and failed interventions and could be a good first step for your group to familiarize themselves with the experience. When researching and planning an intervention, take the time you need to learn as much as you can about the process. Speaking to a professional can expedite this process, helping you get your loved one help as quickly as possible.

Psychology Today has made the process of finding an interventionist easier than ever. Simply search for an intervention specialist in your area and you’ll be on your way. Addiction professionals take interventions extremely seriously and will be a priceless resource throughout.

5. Rehearse the Intervention

Any social interaction can go in any number of ways we can’t predict. Interventions are significantly more stressful and challenging than most and should be respected as such. Rehearsing an intervention beforehand will help your group make sure they’re covering every base they intend to with the conversation. It gives everyone a chance to identify weaknesses in what they want to say to the addict and helps vent some of their frustrations beforehand.

Try to identify what drove your loved one to drugs or alcohol in the first place, and keep that in mind during the rehearsal. Run through what you will do and say on the day of the event. Take the rehearsal seriously, staying focused on the goal of why you’re all here.

No matter how much you prepare, one can’t predict the future. What you can control is how you act and speak during the intervention, and why. The end goal is to have the addict identify that there is a problem, and choose rehab on their own. Your group should also have next steps in mind should the addict move forward with recovery. Do your homework up front, and find a medical detox and/or rehabilitation program that fits the needs of your loved one. Balboa Horizons is available 24/7 to provide referrals and recommendations based on the degree of addiction and type of drug being used.

With this preparation, you are ready for the intervention. Take a few deep breaths, center yourself, and walk in with a loving heart. You are doing the right thing to help save this person’s life. Be confident that it will be successful, and carry out your plan.

Balboa Horizons specializes in medically assisted detox, residential treatment, inpatient and outpatient programs for those in the throes of addiction. Our programs are customized to the individual, and our expert, accredited team is fully equipped to help you or your loved one get your life back on track. Contact us today to learn more about our process, or for help in finding resources for planning and staging an intervention.