When and How to Plan an Intervention for an Addicted Loved One

If your loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you’re not alone. An estimated 20-24 million Americans struggle with substance use disorders, and one in 10 will have an addiction in their lives. As a result, 46% of Americans have a family member or loved one who has struggled with substance use disorder at least once. But, while normal, addiction is dangerous, hard on the individual and on their loved ones, costly, and, often, fatal. If your loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, you can get them help. However, they have to agree to go into treatment. With issues such as denial, egotism, and no desire to actually quit drinking or using, doing so can be difficult. An intervention is one tactic used to convince people they need help, but how do you go about it.

While not every person can benefit from an intervention, this article will walk you through when and how to plan an intervention for your loved one.

Is Your Loved One Ready for Treatment?

It’s important to consider if your loved one is ready for treatment. If you stage an intervention, will they go through with it? Are they open to receiving critical feedback? Do they have a relationship with you at all? If you know that your loved one relies on and trusts you and you have some impact on their decisions and actions, you may have leverage to push them into getting help. If not, you may want to work on your relationship first.

Many addicts remain in a prolonged state of denial, even when substance use heavily impacts their life. You’ll frequently find individuals who heavily abuse substances who are completely unaware that anything is wrong. Others will say things like “I can quit tomorrow if I wanted to”, “I just drink to unwind”, “I could stop if…” Getting around these objections requires having strong and convincing arguments that substance abuse is hurting them and you.

You should consider an intervention if your loved one:

  • Is unable to control substance abuse or quit despite substance use causing personal, social, financial, or professional difficulties
  • Fails to see or denies the problems caused by substance abuse, especially to the point of blaming it on others or on circumstance
  • Denies or refutes family members and friends sharing concerns about substance abuse

Individuals who are not receptive to friends and loved ones trying to help often require a much more confrontational approach, which is an intervention.

Putting Together a Plan for Treatment

It’s important to have a plan and a backup plan in place before attempting an intervention. This means:

  • You have a rehabilitation facility ready to take your loved one into treatment or into detox
  • You have transport ready to immediately take your loved one to detox if they agree to treatment
  • You have a backup plan in place to offer other forms of treatment such as outpatient care if your loved one is unwilling to go to inpatient care
  • You have a backup plan in place to continue offering support and care to your loved one until they are ready to seek treatment if they refuse to do so now. Tough love is not a viable way to encourage someone to seek rehab.

In most cases, this means planning what you want from a treatment center such as support for dual diagnosis, different types of treatment and counseling such as CBT or 12-Step, and what level of personalization you prefer in treatment. You can then go through the initial stages of consultation with the rehabilitation center. Some will offer help in the form of a professional interventionist at this stage. It’s also important to settle matters such as insurance coverage and funding before staging an intervention.

Why is this necessary before the intervention? You have to be able to immediately move your loved one into treatment if they say yes, or, chances are, they will change their mind.

southcoastcounseling When and How to Plan an Intervention for an Addicted Loved One photo of smiling-woman-talking-to-a-psychologist

Planning the Intervention

Planning an intervention can be difficult and painful. Pulling it off will be more so. However, you have to plan your intervention so that it has the most impact and the highest chance of success. You can hire a professional to help you do so or your chosen rehabilitation center may offer this type of help for you.

Invitees – Who does your loved one trust? Who do they care about? Who has an impact on their life? The group should include a circle of their closest friends and family.

Location – Choose a space where your loved one will feel safe such as at home or in their therapist or doctor’s office.

What to Say – Everyone in the group should plan what to say in advance. You should discuss your messages as a group, should decide what to say and how, and should have a coherence message together. Professional interventionalists recommend using “I” phrases rather than “You” which can be accusatory. You are also recommended to share concern for the individual’s wellbeing, concern for their health, and concern for their future.

Preparation – You and everyone else involved in the intervention should take the time to prepare yourself with information. For example, you should understand the individual’s drug addiction, should learn about addiction, and should understand its long-term impacts. The more you know the more helpful you can be to your loved one.

While your end-goal is to be able to stage an intervention and move your loved one into treatment, you should know what to do if this doesn’t happen. If your loved one refuses treatment, you need a backup plan. Are you going to use an ultimatum? Are you going to limit their access to enabling support? While tough love such as cutting individuals out of your life completely will not help them get treatment, taking drastic steps such as refusing to allow them to borrow money, sleep under your roof, or ask favors such as car rides from you will have an impact.

Getting Professional Help

Sometimes you will need help in planning and formulating an intervention. A therapist, professional interventionalist, or counselor can help you to do so. If you’re unsure of your ability to get through, feel that your message is not strong enough, or simply want to ensure that you have the best chance of success, a professional will offer insight, solid strategy, and planning to help you make the biggest impact on your loved one.

No matter what happens with your intervention, good luck getting your loved one into treatment.

Contact South Coast Counselling at 1-844-330-0096 and find the help you need or help an addicted loved one get the help they need. All calls are confidential and there is no obligation.