The ABCs of Intervention

In recent years, interventions have earned a bad reputation, due at least in part to a misunderstanding of just what an intervention is (and isn’t). The emotional scenes you see on reality TV bear little resemblance to an average intervention. The real goal of intervening is simply to help a close friend or loved one understand that while you love and care for them, you’re concerned and can’t allow them to continue their harmful behavior.

Understanding Addiction

In order to provide sympathy and support for an addicted person, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of how addiction works. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains that addiction is a disease of the brain that changes the way the brain responds to certain stimuli, like drugs and alcohol. They say “the path to drug abuse may begin with the voluntary act of taking drugs, but over time a person’s ability to choose not to do so becomes compromised, and seeking and consuming the drug becomes compulsive.”1 Because of the ongoing use of these substances and the continued effects on the brain, addiction must be diagnose and treated as a disease.

Most patients require long-term or repeated episodes of care to achieve the ultimate goal of sustained abstinence and recovery of their lives.

“Because drug abuse and addiction have so many dimensions and disrupt so many aspects of an individual’s life, treatment is not simple,” NIDA says. Because addiction is typically a chronic disease, people cannot simply stop using drugs for a few days and be cured.2

Intervention Methods and Models

Often, a professional interventionist is called in as an objective participant, helping everyone to focus on facts instead of the emotions felt by the loved ones of someone in trouble. It can also help everyone keep in mind the desired outcome of treatment.3

There is more than just one type of intervention, and professionals rely on a variety of proven models and methods. From invitational to systemic to a family approach, they should be willing to use what will work best for your loved one. Some models engage the entire family for a longer period, others focus on letting the individual have more control, and some interventions may even go forward without the addicted individual being present. Be sure to ask questions beforehand to make sure you’re choosing a method you believe will be most effective.

When and How to Intervene

It’s important to remember that the primary goal of this process is breaking down barriers to treatment and getting the addicted individual the help they need. Dealing with a loved one’s addiction can be exhausting, leaving family and friends feeling defeated, angry or frustrated. They want to help but aren’t sure how to go about it, and their emotions can get in the way. That’s why it’s helpful to have an unbiased third party come in who can communicate clearly and factually, providing a professional opinion and helping present treatment options in a clear, focused way without distractions.

William shares how his parents planning an intervention for him led him to treatment. He says, “Those four months were extremely needed for me,” even though he was initially resistant to the idea. Don’t be discouraged if your loved one is not keen on the idea of treatment at first. Stay strong and caring to help them choose health for themselves and your relationships. An intervention specialist will be a great guide for these complicated times.

The Right Intervention for Your Situation

Each individual is unique, and what may help one person may not be successful with another. To determine the best option for your situation, there are three main areas to consider including the following:

  • Clinical Approach – To determine the interventionist who will have the best possibility of success, consider factors like gender, age and style or approach. Many interventionists also offer products in addition to intervention, so it’s important to determine early on if your loved one needs additional care and then make sure to hire someone who provides these services.
  • Resources – Unfortunately, intervention isn’t covered by insurance like treatment may be. Unchecked addiction is usually far more costly than getting help, though, taking its toll financially, personally, professionally and emotionally. A reputable interventionist or referral agency will work with you to determine the level of financial support your family can provide and match you with an interventionist that fits your budget.
  • Geography – Often, by the time you reach out for help, the situation is dire and help is needed immediately. In this case, you may want to seek out an interventionist in your region who can get to you quickly. Of course, most interventionists do travel and are willing to do so frequently, but using someone local can also help cut costs or allow for the fastest possible response, which is why geography is a factor.

The Family’s Role

Intervention isn’t just for the addicted individual. In fact, intervention is usually only 10 percent for the individual and 90 percent for the family because professionals know that everyone has work to do during the treatment process for true success.

Codependent and enabling behaviors also need to be addressed, so that the loved one in treatment returns home to a family system that can help support rather than sabotage their long-term sobriety.

If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse and you need assistance in getting help, call us today at our toll-free helpline. We’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can provide information on intervention professionals, treatment programs, help with insurance and answer questions about the treatment process.

1Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.” NIDA. 2016

2 Volkow, N. “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.” NIDA. 2012

3Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction.” Mayo Clinic. 2017

Articles posted here are primarily educational and may not directly reflect the offerings at The Oaks. For more specific information on programs at The Oaks, contact us today.