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Family Intervention: Where to Start

Two family members that look very concerned about a loved one that is addicted to drugs sit down and discuss a few family intervention strategies with an intervention specialistWhen a loved one is facing a substance abuse problem, with either drugs or alcohol, staging an intervention may be the best way to show your loved one that you care and want to help. It also gives the addict a chance to tell their family and friends what they are going through, and for everyone to work together to come up with a treatment plan.

Staging an intervention requires more than just getting the addict into a room and allowing everyone to unload their thoughts and feelings. A successful family intervention requires planning, sensitivity, and in some cases, professional help and support.

How to Hold an Intervention

Perhaps the most important part of staging an intervention is to not let the person know what is happening. Worst-case scenario is that the person you’re trying to help does not show up; best case is that he or she arrives defensive and angry, unwilling to listen.

Once you’ve decided to hold a family intervention, you need to determine a place and time. The best place for staging an intervention is somewhere that the addict is comfortable, and that he or she will willingly go to. Many interventions take place at the addict’s home, or the home of a close friend or family member.

Before the intervention, each participant – family, friends, co-workers—needs to write down and share how the addict’s behavior is affecting them personally, and what they will do if the person refuses to get help.  This may include cutting off financial support, or all contact. Determining the consequences for not getting help may be the most difficult part of intervention, because it often requires tough love and leads to anger and guilt.


Staging an Intervention

Staging an intervention is difficult, and often emotionally charged. The person you’re trying to help may feel ambushed or attacked, and get angry or defensive – and may even try to leave. For that reason, it’s best to have someone placed near the door, someone that the addict trusts and will be able to keep the person calm and focused on listening to others.

The purpose of a family intervention is to show an addict how his or her behavior is affecting loved ones. Many addicts believe that their problems are their own, and that what they do does not affect anyone else. The intervention is designed to change that perception, and convince the addict that he or she needs to make changes to stop hurting others. For that reason, participants need to keep the focus on how the behavior has changed their lives, not attacking the addict.

After the Intervention

When an intervention is successful, an addict will agree to seek treatment. It’s important to have a treatment program already lined up, so that the person you’re trying to help can go into treatment immediately following the intervention. If you have a representative from the program on hand during the intervention, he or she may bring the person to the facility. Otherwise, have transportation and support lined up ahead of time, so the addict can start getting help that day.

In some cases, though, the intervention fails and the addict refuses to get help. If that happens, the intervention participants need to be prepared to follow through on the consequences they discussed in the meeting.

Do You Need Professional Help?

Many drug and alcohol treatment programs provide counselors trained in non-violent crisis intervention techniques.  While professional help is not required when staging an intervention, having a therapeutic crisis intervention specialist on hand increases the chance of the intervention being successful.

Counselors can help plan the intervention, and offer guidance and support during and after the meeting. A trained counselor can help keep the intervention on track, and counsel the participants afterwards on how to handle the fallout.

If you opt not to have a professional participate in the intervention, there are a number of resources to help. Talk with the rehabilitation facility you’re considering to get instructions and advice. An internet search of intervention resources and family intervention strategies can also help with planning and conducting an intervention.

Many drug and alcohol addicts are in denial that they have a problem, not realizing the damage that they are doing to their lives and the lives of the lives of others. Staging an intervention can change that perception and get your loved one on the road to recovery.

This Post was written by Ricky Stanton.  Ricky has spent the last 10 years working with people going through cocaine rehab, and has helped many families with planning their therapeutic crisis intervention.  He currently works as an online consultant for

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