Intervention: How to Convince an Addict to Get Treatment

Intervention: How to Convince an Addict to Get Treatment

One of the most painful things in the world is knowing a loved one needs help and not being able to provide it. Perhaps your loved one suffers from drug addiction or struggles with alcoholism. You know you want to get them assistance to ease their pain and get them on the path to sobriety, but you do not know where to start. People you know offer contradictory advice about getting your loved one into an alcohol or drug intervention program, and you worry about making the problem worse rather than better if you interfere.

The good news is that there is help for you.

Conducting an intervention, where your loved one is confronted with what impact his or her behavior has had on family and friends, and what has to change in the future, is a smart way to get your loved one on the way to a treatment facility. You are best served using an intervention specialist for these extremely sensitive and emotional cases. There is a lot involved in pulling off an intervention, from logistics to the actual discussion. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you through the difficult process of alcohol and drug treatment intervention, to eventually get your loved one on the path to recovery.

What Is an Intervention?

In simplest terms, an intervention is a pre-planned event in which the loved ones of a person struggling with addiction confront him or her about alcohol, or drug use and how it has impacted them. Family, friends, co-workers and even employers are invited to share their stories of how the loved one’s alcohol or drug abuse has escalated or become a problem.

Often, these testimonies are written down, so the loved one can refer back to their descriptions later, after the shock of the intervention is over and when they are deciding whether or not to get help. Sometimes, the intervention takes place at work, where a drug or alcohol problem can have serious repercussions for employers.

For decades, interventions were designed as surprises, sprung on the loved one when they least expected it. This element of surprise offers many advantages, not the least of which is that most addicts and alcoholics do not want to talk about drug or alcohol treatment intervention. But in recent years it has become more common for families to tell their loved one that they are seeing a counselor to deal with the person’s addiction problems. The intervention is planned in advance and the alcoholic or person struggling with addiction is informed about it.

Interventions generally take two days. 

Day One – Preparation

Everyone who will be involved (excluding the alcoholic) first meets with the professional interventionist. In this first stage of preparation, the family members or friends can receive some general education on the purpose and mechanics of interventions.

The problem is defined, concerns are discussed, expectations are set, roles and procedures are outlined and any necessary logistics are hammered out. Together with the interventionist, you and your loved ones can determine how best to approach the person and discuss what treatment and other arrangements are most suitable.

This first meeting also provides the interventionist with the opportunity to gain some initial insight into the particular situation, dynamics of the family and the life of the alcoholic. Armed with this knowledge, they will be better prepared for the events of day two.

Day Two – Intervention

All that was planned and agreed to on Day One is then carried out at this point, when the actual intervention takes place. And all the preparations will prove helpful.

There is nothing easy about making someone admit to a problem as difficult as alcoholism. More often than not, those involved will find themselves pulled in various directions of guilt, fear and love. With an interventionist present, there is an objective party who can ensure the process continues until the objective is met.

Finally, interventions should always be done with the oversight of a professional, someone who understands the risks involved in this type of confrontation. There is a much better chance of success when a professional is involved. They understand how to keep the intervention under control and moving in the right direction, and they can use their experience to push it toward the desired outcome, getting the loved one into a drug or alcohol intervention program.

The History of the Alcohol and Drug Intervention Program

The concept of intervention was first introduced by Vernon Johnson, a recovering alcoholic who decided to devote his life to getting other addicts the help they needed. Johnson’s most treasured belief was the fact that alcoholics did not have to hit rock bottom before they sought assistance. He thought family and friends could intervene before their lives became endangered or they did something with other, long-lasting consequences.

Johnson, an Episcopal priest in Minnesota, started his first intervention group at a church in 1962. He also founded The Johnson Institute, which offered employers assistance in helping to curb employees’ drinking problems. Johnson wrote several books espousing the benefits of treatment for alcoholism and interventions. The most famous is probably “I’ll Quit Tomorrow,” a 1973 volume that has been in print for decades.

Johnson’s alcohol and drug addiction intervention methods have always been controversial. Some claim that while interventions are a good way to convince people to get treatment, they do not have long-term benefits. They say those who are convinced by alcohol and drug intervention programs to seek treatment are no more likely to kick their habit than those who decide to enter rehab without an intervention and commit themselves voluntarily. Of course, this is difficult to prove because there are very few statistics on the recovery of alcoholics and drug addicts who have experienced interventions.

Why Choose Alcohol and Drug Treatment Intervention?

In fact, there are many good reasons to choose an alcohol and drug addiction intervention. Though everyone’s family situation is different, here are four reasons why an intervention may be the right choice for you and your loved one:


You Catch the Loved One by Surprise
The element of surprise has many advantages. Your loved one will not be able to plan ahead to deny the accusations you are lobbing and you are more likely to get a real, vulnerable response. Plus, surprise means they cannot avoid the conversation.


You Control the Environment
At whatever intervention you choose to stage, you have control over who is there and, perhaps more importantly, who is not. Friends or other family members who may be enabling your loved one can be left out of the picture, leading to a more honest conversation.


You Can Use a Specialist
We’ll go into this more below, but it is always an advantage to ask someone with vast experience with drug and alcohol intervention programs to stage the intervention. This person helps facilitate what could be a very heated and, at times, hurtful family conversation and makes sure the person being confronted does not feel ganged up on.


You Express Yourself
Face it, living with or loving someone struggling with addiction is not easy. At the very least, a drug or alcohol treatment intervention gives you the chance to express your feelings and explain how your loved one’s behavior is affecting you. You will feel better for getting these emotions out in the open.

Does My Loved One Need Alcohol or Drug Addiction Intervention?

You suspect that your loved one has a problem with drugs or alcohol, but you are not completely sure. If you have been noticing signs, that is a good indication a problem is there. Many addicts try to hide their substance abuse issues and these problems only start to become apparent when the person struggling with addiction begins to get sloppy, no longer bothering to hide telltale signs of drug or alcohol abuse. These may include:

Signs May Include
behaviorErratic behaviortimerInability to show up on time
eyesBloodshot eyesfamilyBlowing off family unexpectedly
weightLossSudden weight lossabsencesAbsences at work
beerHanging out with new friends who also use drugs or alcohol

Your loved one may be unaware, until you start discussing drug and alcohol intervention programs, that drug or alcohol use is changing his or her behavior. In fact, many addicts bristle when you suggest they are showing any differences at all. They may appear listless, defensive or forgetful — all indicators of alcohol and drug addiction.

You should not move forward with an alcohol and drug treatment intervention until you are very sure your loved one has a problem. Otherwise, you run the risk of alienating or upsetting your loved one if they are really just distracted about work, upset over a recently ended relationship, or any number of other reasons that might alter their behavior. Talk to their friends and other family members to see if others are observing the same behavior irregularities you are. Document incidences of drug and alcohol abuse to get a clearer picture of how often they are relying on substances.

Finding the Right Alcohol and Drug Intervention Programs

If you want to stage an intervention, it is absolutely essential you work with a trained professional. Interventions are not tea parties. They can be unpleasant, volatile, confrontational and scary for everyone involved. You need an impartial observer to make sure you stay on the right track and are working toward the goal of getting your loved one into an alcohol or drug intervention program.

It is very possible the individual struggling with addiction will be defensive when confronted. The intervention specialist can help the person work through hostility or suspicion. They can also remind loved ones to express their support and compassion, so that it does not become a toxic, accusational environment.

Seek out a specialist to help in your intervention. If you attempt to do it yourself, the drug and alcohol intervention program could go terribly wrong and you will compromise the chances that your loved one will get the treatment he or she so desperately needs.

What to Expect From Drug and Alcohol Intervention Programs

It is important to go into an intervention with realistic expectations. You will not “cure” your loved one with one conversation. You may not even convince him or her to go into rehab. In fact, you may be met with outright anger.

It is also possible that the person struggling with addiction will be hurt by your attempt to help. The loved one may feel his or her addiction is under control and resent your insistence otherwise. Even if this happens, stand your ground. Remember, you are doing this for a reason. You have the best interests of your loved one at heart, even if he or she is in no state to recognize that right now.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind about the big day:

  • It takes only 60 to 90 minutes for an intervention to play out, but clear your entire schedule. It will be a very emotional day. It may be embarrassing for the loved one to have his or her co-workers or boss involved. Be sensitive to those feelings.
  • Realize that you may receive a positive response, too. Some individuals struggling with addiction are relieved to bring their problem into the open and may actually embrace drug and alcohol intervention programs.
  • Be loving, no matter what. This is not a trial. It is a firm nudge.

Drug and Alcohol Treatment Intervention Do’s and Don’ts

The day of the intervention will be incredibly emotional for all involved. Make sure you start the day off with a good breakfast and perhaps do some physical activity to get rid of the jitters. Then remember these do’s and don’ts as the intervention begins.

  • Do focus on the positive in your letter. Mention good times you had together before addiction and how you would like to return to them.
  • Do offer support and encouragement when your loved one speaks.
  • Do tell participants to leave their smartphones in another room. No texting, social media networks or checking email during the intervention. That is just rude.
  • Do give your loved one a cooling off period. Schedule a discussion about drug and alcohol intervention programs for a day or two later, once everyone has had a chance to reflect on what happened.
  • Do treat this as the start of the road, not the end. There will be a long road to recovery that includes detoxification, treatment for alcohol or drug addiction, and making the choice every day to stay on the path to sobriety. A drug or alcohol intervention program is just the beginning.
  • Don’t take an accusatory tone. Nothing turns someone off faster than a finger wagging in their face.
  • Don’t issue ultimatums. In this tense atmosphere, they will only be met by hostility. Instead, work on listening to your loved one’s points instead of judging him or her.
  • Don’t invite very young people to the intervention. While it may seem like a good idea to have the person’s preschool-aged son or daughter in the room, so the loved one can see a tangible example of what he or she has to live for, it can be damaging to a child. You do not need to have an age limit specifically, but you need to make sure everyone in attendance is emotionally mature.
  • Don’t set your expectations too high. Interventions are not foolproof. They do not always result in the person addicted to drugs or alcohol getting help.

Beyond a Drug and Alcohol Intervention Program

It can be incredibly scary to admit you have a problem with alcohol or drugs. Your loved one may need more than just a conversation to realize he or she has an issue that should be treated. By deciding to do an intervention, you are helping your loved one onto the path to recovery.

Clarity Way can help you find an intervention specialist who will help you to convince your loved one to seek help. Let us assist in finding the right person in your area who can meet with friends and family, and make sure your intervention goes as smoothly as possible. The more effective the intervention, the more likely your loved one will get the help he or she needs. Clarity Way will be there for you then, too.

Note: The pictures in this content are being used for illustrative purposes only; and any person depicted in the content, if any, is a model.

Posted on October 24th, 2014 in Help Blog

Editorial Staff

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Editorial Staff

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