Planning an Intervention
Careful planning is essential for an intervention — by thinking through all the possibilities, you can come up with the most persuasive and effective strategy.
Choosing an Intervention Team
The intervention team usually consists of the people closest to the person with addiction. It might include family members, close friends or close coworkers. If the person has a strong relationship with their church, you might include a spiritual leader.
In general, it’s best to keep the intervention team small. That way, it feels more like a conversation and less like an attack.
When you’re choosing people to be on the team, avoid anyone who:
- Can’t control their emotions or anger
- Has a bad relationship with the subject
- Is unable to agree to the consequences
- Is likely to undermine the process
- Refuses to stop enabling the subject
This is not to be unkind — by restricting the team to people who can proceed with love and firm boundaries, you can have a bigger impact.
After you choose a team, decide as a group who should be the leader. If no one feels equipped, consider bringing in a professional interventionist.
Educate Yourself About Addiction
Once your team is in place, it’s time to arm yourself with information. Read up on the specific type of addiction or substance use disorder your loved one is dealing with. Understand that it’s not a moral failing but a condition that’s affecting the person’s brain chemistry.
Take extra time to read about enabling and codependency — this process can help participants understand how they might be contributing to the problem. With that awareness, it’s easier to identify the necessary consequences.
Set Goals and Agree on Consequences
The goal of an intervention is to get the person to enter treatment for their addiction. As a group, it’s helpful to come up with treatment options in advance. That way, you’re ready to present them at the intervention.
Not sure where to start? Call treatment centers for assistance. Alternatively, you can talk to a substance abuse organization, a local 12-step program administrator or a local hospital. With their help, collect information on appropriate local programs.
As you research different options, ask questions like:
- When is the next opening?
- How much does the program cost?
- How long is the program?
- Is the treatment residential or outpatient?
- What is the admission process like?
Once you find a program that has an opening, check to see if your loved one’s insurance will cover part or all of the treatment. You can also ask the facility about possible financing options.
When your treatment options are in place, it’s time to talk about the consequences you’ll enforce if the person refuses treatment. The specifics will vary based on the situation, but the goal is to find consequences that protect you and stop enabling the addiction.
If the person has been engaging in dangerous behaviors, you may need to cut them off from your children. If they’ve been stealing, they may not be welcome in family members’ homes.
As you think about consequences, it helps to identify your own enabling behaviors. You may need to stop giving the person money, require them to move out of your home or stop covering for them to their employer or law enforcement.
It’s important that everyone in the group is prepared to enforce these consequences. A united front makes it harder for the person with addiction to manipulate any one person.
Think of it as setting boundaries — if your loved one refuses to accept treatment, you must protect your well-being. Plus, when you take away enabling factors, it forces the person to deal with the natural consequences of their behavior.
Decide Where and When to Hold an Intervention
The location is an important part of an intervention. It should be a place the person feels comfortable, but not overly so. It must also be a place you can get them to without arousing suspicion. The home of a family member may work well. Interventions can be emotional, so it’s usually best to avoid crowded public places.
As you’re planning, choose a time when the person is likely to be in the clearest mental state. An intervention is usually a surprise; this ensures the person doesn’t refuse to attend or arrive with rehearsed answers. However, if you think your loved one is open to it, you can consider using an invitational intervention model.
Write a Script
Are you nervous about the intervention process? It may help to write a script. It doesn’t have to be a word-for-word script — a detailed agenda will do. Decide who will speak and in what order. Each person should make notes about what they want to say.
The script helps you stay on topic, especially if emotions are running high. The leader of the intervention should be prepared to stop tangents and bring the discussion back to the agreed-upon topics.
While you’re at it, write down responses for the objections your loved one is likely to have. If you think they’ll be worried about childcare, come up with a plan or volunteer to share the responsibility. If they’re likely to cite work obligations, find an outpatient rehab program that meets in the evening. When you meet every objection with a solution, you take away plausible excuses for not entering treatment.
Rehearse the Intervention
Before you hold the intervention, get the group together and rehearse what you’re going to do. Decide how you’ll sit, and practice what the leader will say to start the actual intervention.
This rehearsal might seem silly or uncomfortable, but it’s an important step. During the intervention itself, participants may be emotional or nervous; the prior practice can help the process run more smoothly.