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How Does an Intervention Work?

Just about any organisation involved in drug or alcohol recovery will recommend intervention as a possible tool to motivate the substance abuser to seek treatment. Certainly, there is good reason for doing so. The intervention is a tool that has been used since the 1960s as a means of getting the attention of someone addicted to drugs or alcohol. When done correctly, it can be a very powerful tool as well.

We will attempt to describe how an intervention works in the subsequent paragraphs. If you are interested in knowing the step-by-step process, we have covered that elsewhere on this website. What we hope you glean from this information is the fact that interventions can, and do, work.

Why an Intervention?

The first thing to address is the question of why an intervention is necessary. It comes down to the fact that the drug addict or alcoholic is incapable of thinking clearly about his or her behaviour. Moreover, until he or she either hits rock bottom or gets some clarity of thought, it is highly unlikely he or she will be willing to seek the treatment they need to get better. That’s the point of the intervention.

The intervention is designed to bring some much-needed clarity, even if only for a short amount of time. If the alcoholic or drug abuser can see how damaging his or her behaviour is to them self and others, that little bit of knowledge may trigger in them a desire to enrol in a treatment programme. Far better to motivate him or her this way than to wait until they reach rock bottom.

How Does It Motivate?

There are some experts who recommend that intervention be focused on the individual, as a means of showing him or her how they are destroying their own life through addiction. Those who adhere to this philosophy believe the alcoholic or drug abuser will be willing to change once he or she sees the reality of the situation.

Others in the field recommend the opposite strategy. They say it is useless to confront the alcoholic or drug user on the basis of how he or she is harming them self, because their addiction is evidence they are not concerned with their own well-being. They suggest a better strategy is to focus on family members and friends. The idea is to open the person’s eyes to the harm he or she is causing the people closest to them. This knowledge, combined with the fact that very few addicts are intentionally trying to hurt their loved ones, may be enough to trigger a response.

In either case, an intervention is most successful when the group conducting it is able to break through the fog of alcohol or drugs. Breaking through is a strategic and methodical process that seeks to build what one person has to say on top of what others have already said. It is a process of offering such an insurmountable amount of evidence to the damage addiction is causing, that the individual cannot find a way around it.

Very briefly, here is the process for conducting an intervention:

  • assemble a group of willing participants
  • locate and secure a neutral meeting place
  • plan a schedule and a strategy
  • develop conditions to be met and consequences to follow
  • conduct the intervention at the scheduled time.

If you need help conducting an intervention, there are two options: direct and indirect. A direct intervention is one in which a group utilises the services of an experienced professional counsellor. That counsellor leads the intervention from start to finish, including the planning stages. Oftentimes the counsellor also provides the neutral meeting place by way of his or her office.

An indirect intervention also takes advantage of the experienced professional, but to a lesser degree. The counsellor will work with one or two family members to develop the strategies they will employ during the confrontation. However, when the time actually comes, the group conducts intervention without the counsellor present.

How Do You Measure Success or Failure?

There are those who insist that any intervention is a successful one. Others say an intervention is only successful when the alcoholic or drug addict agrees to seek treatment. Obviously, success and failure are relative to the definitions of both words.

Rather than try to define success or failure for you, we will suggest to you that every intervention is worthwhile - whether or not the individual you confronted immediately decides to seek treatment. At the very least, every intervention brings to light some of the issues the addict and his or her family need to deal with head-on. In that sense, the intervention can be as helpful to the family as it is to the addict.

If the addict does not respond by immediately agreeing to treatment, do not give up hope and do not be discouraged. We say don’t give up hope because the addict may need a couple of hours to think about what he or she has heard before drawing the right conclusions. It is entirely possible the individual will wake up the next morning only to call you and say they are ready to get treatment.

As far as being discouraged, you need to understand that some alcoholics and drug users need multiple interventions before the truth can break through the fog. It is simply a matter of the intervention team waiting for another opportunity while also doing what they can to limit the damage caused by the addict.

How Do You Secure Treatment?

In cases where an intervention results in the addict agreeing to seek treatment, the next obvious step is to get the individual enrolled in a rehab programme. This is where we can help. We work with drug and alcohol clinics located throughout the UK and beyond; clinics that can provide your loved one with the treatment and support he or she needs to get well.

Before you conduct an intervention, we urge you to call our addiction recovery helpline first. Let us walk you through treatment options so that you are armed with the information ahead of time. This will enable you to immediately get your loved one admitted to treatment as soon as he or she makes the decision to get well.

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