When a loved one struggles with alcoholism, the effects are not only limited to the person with the addiction. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a condition that has far-reaching impacts on the individual’s family and friends, including relationship distress, financial devastation, and increased fear and anxiety. Unfortunately, when someone is abusing substances, it is often difficult for them to see the harm they are causing those with whom they are the closest.
When the burden and pressure of relating to someone with an alcohol problem becomes too great, some families decide that staging an intervention for their family member is needed. By confronting the individual in a non-judgmental and direct way, friends and family members can share their experiences, present options, and help the person get into treatment.
What is an Intervention?
An intervention is a meeting initiated by an addicted person’s loved ones. During this meeting, the family and friends address several issues with their alcoholic family member, including how their harmful behavior explicitly affects them and the consequences if the individual were to refuse treatment.
Staging an intervention can be extremely emotional as the individual with the problem may become angry and feel attacked. Additionally, because of the challenging dynamics often present within families of those dealing with AUD, it can be difficult for family members to follow through with the essential consequences of treatment refusal.
However, planning and executing an intervention is not something that families have to do on their own. Mental health professionals such as alcohol counselors or interventionists specialize in assisting families throughout the experience and can help make it more successful.
Some families may consider using a professional interventionist to help structure and hold the intervention. In many cases, professionals can help families through the intervention process. Utilizing a specialist or consulting with a treatment center can help ensure that the intervention is effective.
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Signs an Intervention is Needed
Although deciding to stage an intervention might seem scary and induce some anxiety, there are some signs indicating that it is warranted. People who are struggling with alcohol addiction or abuse typically show patterns of behavior that indicate they need help.
Here are some common signs an intervention is necessary:
- Risky behavior – Your family member is behaving in ways that are jeopardizing their safety or the well-being of others.
- Financial – The individual spends large sums of money on acquiring alcohol.
- Involvement with law enforcement – Your loved one’s behavior, such as driving while impaired, has resulted in an arrest by law enforcement.
- Job loss – Due to subpar work performance, absenteeism, or other job-related failures, the individual has lost their employment.
These warning signs demonstrate that the person desperately needs treatment before the situation escalates, resulting in more significant hardship or even death. People who are struggling with alcohol abuse typically need some form of treatment to kickstart their recovery journey.
How Does an Intervention Work?
Maybe you have been stressed due to a family member’s drinking problem or substance abuse problem and wondered whether an intervention might help. For many concerned loved ones, knowing where to step in can be challenging.
Before you do an intervention, it is important to become familiar with the three stages of the process: pre-intervention, intervention, and post-intervention. Again, an intervention specialist can help review each stage and what the family’s role is.
Before the Intervention (Pre-intervention)
Although all stages of the intervention process are crucial, the pre-intervention phase is key as this groundwork lays the foundation for effective implementation. This is the time for planning, including getting prospective participants together to educate them about the person’s drinking problem, mapping out the intervention strategy, and engaging an expert to walk the family through the steps.
- Gathering the team – Once someone decides that an intervention is needed, it is necessary to determine who should be a part of the team to confront the individual. These persons should have a close relationship with the family member who is struggling and can be trusted to contribute to the process positively. Optimally, a group of four to six individuals is best. These persons can include family members, friends, those in the individual’s faith community, or other adults with whom they share an emotional bond. After the team has been selected, you all must learn about the addicted person’s condition and research possible treatment facilities.
- Hiring an expert – Although some families choose to perform an intervention without the assistance of a professional, having a knowledgeable source to guide you through the process will not only lessen your burden but can also contribute to a more organized process and successful outcome.
- Mapping out the intervention strategy – The intervention team (including the medical professional) will decide where the intervention will be held, who will say what and when, and especially what the consequences will be for the individual if they do not agree to treatment. As emotions can run high during the intervention, it is wise for everyone to write out what they plan to say and find a time for the group to practice, if feasible. Additionally, selecting a treatment facility in advance is an essential aspect of mapping out the strategy. This step is vital so that after the intervention, your loved one can begin treatment immediately.
Performing the Intervention
An integral element of staging an intervention involves not revealing the plan to the person with the addiction. When the individual arrives at the intervention, using the prepared notes, team members will take turns addressing the addicted family member.
It is important to ensure that comments are focused on the person’s detrimental behavior and not the individual to reduce the feelings of being attacked or blamed. It is also essential that when sharing experiences, family members be specific with how the person’s addiction has harmed them, express clear consequences for the individual not accepting treatment, and be willing to follow through with those consequences if the person rejects the treatment offer.
After the Intervention (Post-intervention)
Of course, the goal is for your family member to agree to treatment. If your loved one accepts treatment, remember that this is only the first step toward recovery. Continued involvement by family members may be beneficial for the individual’s progress and well-being. Be sure to present treatment options in the intervention and put together a treatment plan that can be carried out once the person agrees to help.
Benefits & Risks of Staging an Intervention
Participating in an intervention can be a potent tool for an alcoholic, although treatment success is ultimately up to the individual.
There are, however, specific ways that interventions benefit those with an alcohol problem:
- Increases the likelihood of seeking treatment
- Improves recovery chances due to family support and access to quality services
When it comes to the risks of staging an intervention, they are mainly related to the emotional nature of the actual intervention for the individual and you and your family members. As such, it is imperative to be prepared for a possible negative outcome, such as treatment refusal or extreme anger on the part of the individual. And recognize that uncomfortable changes may need to occur in your relationship with the individual post-intervention.
Tips for a Successful Intervention
When you stage an intervention, you want to do all you can so that it can be as effective as possible. That is why it is essential to ensure that each step of the process is thought out and loved ones are on the same page.
Here are some tips to make the most out of an intervention with your loved one:
- Be prepared – You don’t want to just ‘wing it;’ know what everyone will say. Partner with a professional. Be ready to follow through with consequences. Know that your loved one may get angry. Have a treatment facility lined up to offer the individual after the intervention.
- Speak in a calm, non-judgmental tone – The goal is to help the person see how their behavior hurts family and friends, not make them feel bad.
- Stay on track during the intervention – Especially if emotions start to escalate, you must be able to stay focused on the objective.
- Be specific – Cite explicit examples of how the person’s drinking has caused you distress.
- Pick a good time – Specifically, try not to schedule the intervention when the person is likely to be high.
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Getting Treatment in Los Angeles
No Matter What Recovery offers a variety of addiction treatment programs and specializes in treating the LGBTQ community. Our treatment philosophy revolves around empowering our clients as they gain the tools to aid their recovery. We would love to see how we could help you and your family.
If you are in the Los Angeles area and have decided that you want to do an intervention for a family member or if you want more information, contact us.