How to stage an intervention

Watching someone you love suffering from addiction to drugs or alcohol is heartbreaking. You are likely exhausted, frustrated and at your wits’ end. You know that your loved one needs professional help in order to put an end to addiction, but you’re not sure what to do. It may be time to stage an intervention.

What is an intervention?

An intervention is meant to be positive. It’s not the time to blame someone for their wrongdoings. Instead, each person should have a pre-written impact statements that describe how addiction has harmed the person they love. The goal is to shed light on how addiction has negatively impacted your loved one’s life, and to ask them to accept treatment for their addiction.

An intervention is a carefully planned and structured conversation between an addict and their loved ones. It is highly recommended to have a licensed alcohol and drug counselor or interventionist facilitate the intervention. Having a professional present when staging an intervention will help keep the conversation on track.

Steps to Stage an Intervention

  1. Choose your team
    Contact very close friends and family members to participate in the intervention. Avoid people your loved one dislikes, people who are unable to control their emotions and people who are actively using drugs or alcohol. Only people who are 100% committed to seeing your loved one get treatment should be present at the intervention. You may want to consider reaching out to a professional interventionist, social worker, doctor, priest or sponsor that your loved one is close with.
  2. Timing is key
    The location should be comfortable, but not too comfortable, such as the person’s home. A neutral space such as a family member’s or a friend’s home is an ideal setting.
  3. Order is everything
    Everyone attending the intervention should write an impact statement. This statement should describe how addiction has hurt the one they love. The intervention is over as soon as the individual agrees to enter treatment. So, the order to which those speak can make a difference on how successful the intervention is. For example, if your loved one is tired of hearing concerns from family members, you may want to consider having the addicted person’s best friend be the first speaker.
  4. Practice makes perfect
    Emotions run high when staging an intervention, making it easy for one to lose their train of thought. Rehearsals give family and friends the chance to prepare before the intervention. Ensuring each person can say what they have wanted to say to their loved one. Anyone who is unable to attend rehearsals, or doesn’t see the importance in rehearsals, may not be fully invested in your loved one’s recovery.
  5. Stick with the script
    Most people spend hours planning what they will say when they stage an intervention. While it may be tempting to add to your impact statement, don’t. You and your team have put a lot of time and effort into staging an intervention. Saying something that no one is prepared for can result in negative outcomes.
  6. Be aware of body language
    How you say it can be as much, if not more important, than what you say. When speaking to your loved one, keep arms and legs uncrossed, maintain eye contact and tilt your shoulders towards the person you are speaking to.
  7. Offer support
    Those attending the intervention should offer support while the person goes through the detox, rehab and long-term recovery process. Offering to attend family or group therapy sessions with the person is an excellent form of support.
  8. Set boundaries
    If your loved one refuses treatment, everyone involved in staging the intervention should commit to ending codependency and enabling behaviors. It’s important for your loved one to understand that there will be consequences if they don’t seek help. For example, a spouse could tell her husband that he will have to move out of the home if he doesn’t go to rehab.
  9. Have the arrangements made
    If your loved one has accepted to receive treatment for addiction, time is of the essence. You don’t want to give them a night, or even a few hours, to change their mind about getting help. Make arrangements with a rehab facility prior to staging the intervention. You may even consider having a bag packed for your loved one.
  10. Manage expectations
    Even the most well-planned and executed interventions do not always end with the person choosing to accept help. There are likely multiple reasons why the individual has chosen not to accept treatment. If your loved one refuses treatment, follow through with the outlined consequences.
  11. Follow up
    Regardless if your loved one accepts help or not, it’s imperative to uphold statements made during the intervention. A supportive presence of family and loved ones is crucial to helping someone with an addiction stick to a treatment program, and to prevent relapse.

Staging an intervention is a complicated process that requires careful planning. It can take several weeks to plan an effective intervention. Be prepared for your loved one’s objections. Have calm, rational responses prepared for each excuse your loved one may give to avoid treatment. Speak to your loved one with a voice of respect, concern and love, not anger. Avoid labels such as “junkie” or “alcoholic” as your loved one may perceive these terms as accusatory. Don’t give your loved one time to think about accepting treatment. Doing so allows your loved one to continue denying a problem, go missing or go on a dangerous binge.

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