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Do Interventions Work?

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Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is a disease that affects the entire family. You recognize that your loved one is struggling because of his or her drug use. It’s causing your relationship to deteriorate. It’s breaking up the family. It’s causing financial issues, and so much more. You want to stage a drug addiction intervention, but not only do you not know exactly how to do it,  you don’t know if it will be effective in the long run.


The short answer is that if you learn how to stage an effective intervention, the chances are that it will be successful are greatly increased.


Below are some general guidelines to staging an intervention. Know that there are professional interventionists available who you can hire to come in and help you through the steps of planning a substance abuse intervention in great detail. Oftentimes, it’s good to have a professional present at the intervention to help guide the conversation.


Planning an intervention

The first thing you need to realize is that an intervention is a strategic tactic to convince your loved one that he or she needs help and should decide to enter a recovery program. So, like any strategy, you need to plan it out and prepare for it. A professional businessperson wouldn’t go into a meeting to sell a product or an idea without creating a comprehensive presentation about why their audience should accept their argument and buy their product or accept their idea.


Know what you need to say

Before you stage an intervention, you should plan what you are going to say. Write it down and read from a letter at the intervention if you have to. Your speech should be short, itemized and straightforward; no more than five minutes. You don’t want to overwhelm or confuse your loved one. In your speech, you should include specific examples of how drug use has affected or hurt you and/ or your family and specific consequences of what will happen if your loved one doesn’t accept help (for example; if you don’t get help, I can’t let you live here, or I can’t give you any more money). Most important; be prepared to enact the consequences should your loved one refuse to get help.


Be supportive

It’s important to let your loved one know that the reason you are doing this is because you love him or her and you want him or her to get help. It needs to be free of blame or judgement. Angry and accusatory statements are only likely to alienate your loved one and lessen the chances of a successful intervention.


Pick the right people, place and time

The people you invite to participate can be critical to a successful intervention. Choose family members and friends that your loved one loves and respects. Don’t pick someone with whom he or she has a questionable relationship. It’s usually a good idea to pick a neutral site like at an office, community center or place of worship. Holding an intervention at your loved one’s home may invite old patterns of behavior and memories of anger. Also, it’s usually best to make it unexpected so that your loved one cannot avoid the confrontation with excuses. Also make sure it’s at a time that your loved one won’t be normally overstressed.


According to Dr. Monica Roberts, Program Director for Symetria Recovery, "Be flexible or creative in how you want the intervention setting to be once you've determined the goal.  You may want to consider a virtual interventionist or significant family member or friend who can make a difference."


Stick to the script

An intervention is an emotionally charged procedure. It’s possible that your loved one will become angry or combative. Everyone in the room should remain focused on the ultimate goal of convincing your loved one to seek professional help. Again, a professional interventionist in the room can be valuable in diffusing unexpected situations.


Remember that the goal of the intervention is to get your loved to make an immediate decision. So, a big part of planning is to find a recovery facility beforehand and arrange a treatment program or evaluation so that your loved one can enter recovery right away.





Dale Willenbrink
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