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An Intervention Guide for Families

Intervention Guide: How to Navigate Helping a Loved One Get Into Treatment

This intervention guide will be a helpful tool as you seek to get help for your addicted loved one. As a concerned family member, you may feel like you’re at the end of your rope. It’s possible that you’ve lost all hope that the addict will ever change. We want you to know that there is another way. An intervention might be exactly what you need to finally get your loved one into treatment.

This may be the first time you’ve ever thought about doing an intervention. In fact, you may not have even known that this option was available to you. You’ve seen the A&E Intervention TV show, but you thought that was something that had been scripted. We want to assure you that they are very real. Sometimes addicts need their loved ones to intervene once the addiction takes control of their lives. This guide will lead you through the process.

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What is an Addiction Intervention?

It’s important to understand the definition of what an intervention is. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, it is an education process. It culminates in a face to face meeting of families, friends and the addicted individual.

Addicts rarely understand the toll that their substance abuse problem is having on them. Some may know the consequences, but the addiction has gripped them too hard. They feel like they have to keep using to survive.

The term staging an intervention is often used when this type of meeting is arranged. The goal is to help the addict make the connection between the addiction and their problems. Once they’re able to make that connection, they’re much more likely to agree to treatment.

It’s also important for friends and family to be educated about the addiction. The intervention specialist in charge will provide this service. It can be difficult to understand what the addict is going through when you’ve never been addicted. Much of the process is devoted to this purpose. The participants must be prepared ahead of time for the meeting to take place.

The interventionist’s job is to oversee the entire process from start to finish. You’ll begin by meeting with them and talking about the problem as you see it. The specialist will want to know everything that you can share with them. You’ll talk about the addictive behaviors you’ve witnessed, as well as other details. It’s important for the interventionist to feel as if they know the addict personally.

Once they understand the situation, they’ll provide you with insight into the individual’s addiction. You’ll learn about how to separate the person from the substance abuse problem in your mind. The specialist will talk with you about the fact that addiction is a disease and make sure you understand that.

During the actual meeting, the interventionist will have a plan in place. They’ll keep everyone on task and help it move along smoothly. They’ll use various techniques to help keep the addict from losing control if they become angry. It’s important to have someone with this type of professional training during the meeting.

How do You Know When it’s Time to Intervene With an Addict?

It’s not always easy to tell when it’s time for you to consider intervening with someone with an addiction. It’s easy to put it off in hopes that the addict will somehow change their mind eventually. Families will often wait for months, or even years, praying that the addiction will somehow get better.

An Intervention Guide for Families

This is a hard reality to face, but addictions never get better on their own. That’s just not the way they work. If nothing is done to intervene, the addiction will continue to progressively get worse.

You may have tried to talk with your loved one many times about their substance abuse problem. It’s possible that they’ve given you empty promises, stating that they’ll change someday. Or, perhaps they’ve simply refused to listen to you, or become angry when you bring it up. In either case, it’s time for you to consider staging and intervention.

Some of the signs you can look for that indicate it’s time to intervene include:

  • Borrowing or stealing money
  • Displaying aggressive behaviors
  • Displaying secretive behaviors
  • Deterioration of physical appearance and hygiene
  • Deterioration of physical and mental health
  • Problems at work or at school
  • Lack of motivation or energy

You could also take a quiz if you’re not sure if your family member is addicted. This will help you understand the situation with some more clarity.

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How Much Does This Type of Service Cost?

Sometimes families hesitate to move forward with an intervention because they’re worried about the cost. This could be your hesitation as well. While it’s true that this service isn’t inexpensive, it can still be very affordable.

The cost depends on the type of services you need, as well as your location. If the interventionist has to travel, it could be a few thousand dollars. You may also need to cover the cost of flight, gas and the hotel stay. If a rental car is needed, you would need to cover that expense as well. A local intervention would be much less expensive.

Fortunately, many health insurance plans have benefits to help pay for this service. This is definitely something that you should check into. You may find that your insurance provider will cover all or at least most of the costs. If they don’t, there are still more options available to you.

You should talk with the drug and alcohol rehab you choose about any financing options. You may be able to get this particular service financed with very little to no interest. They can also assist you with coming up with other ideas to help pay for it.

In the end, the cost of an intervention should not be your main concern. The priority is getting your loved one the help they need. With a little creative thinking, it’s possible to find a way to cover the expense.

There are services that will be able to assist you with free addiction interventions. They will often partner with families whose addicted loved ones have insurance that will cover rehab. This is an excellent way for you to minimize your costs and get your loved one into substance abuse treatment.

Additionally, you should contact the local drug or alcohol rehab you have in mind. They may be able to assist you with an alternative option that’s available in your community.

How Long Will You Need to Wait Before the Meeting Takes Place?

This will depend on the facility’s schedule that you choose. However, interventionists understand that many families are desperate to get the intervention done quickly. After all, the life of their loved one may be at stake. You’ll want to have the meeting before it’s too late. For this reason, every effort will be made to schedule the intervention as quickly as possible.

Trauma is frequently diagnosed as a co-occurring disorder. This could mean one of three things for the individual. It could mean that they:You shouldn’t have to wait too long. Many times it might only take a few weeks before the interventionist can arrive. In some cases, it may even be able to be done faster.

What is the Intervention Process Like?

It’s important to understand what the entire process will be like. This is probably the first time you’ve ever gone through an intervention before. You may feel nervous, but it helps to know what you can expect.

The first step is to contact the drug and alcohol rehab to schedule the services. They’ll ask you several questions about your loved one’s addiction. They may also want to know if they’ve ever been in drug and alcohol rehab before. Try to gather as much information as you can before you call. That will help to speed up the process.

The main goal of an intervention is to get your loved one to agree to treatment. The hope is that they’ll agree, and then they’ll leave right away. Some people will even leave directly from the meeting as soon as it ends. This is really the best way because it doesn’t give them any time to change their mind.

Because of this, you’ll want to have their insurance information ready when you call for the intervention. The person you speak with will take the information from you right over the phone. They’ll contact the insurance company to verify their coverage. Then they’ll get back in touch with you to give you the information.

This step is very important because you don’t want there to be any holdups. The more you can take care of now, the better. After everything is done, and arrangements are made, you’ll be given a date for the intervention.

Most of the time, interventions are done within two days. The first day involves meeting with friends and family. The second day is when the actual meeting will take place. Some specialists will stay longer, depending on what the family requests.

Ideally, the process is really quick. Most addicts are moved by interventions, and they’re very agreeable to getting treatment as soon as possible.

This is an important question you’ll want to ask yourself. The first step once the specialist arrives will be to meet with them. You’ll want to have everyone who will be participating in the intervention to come to this first meeting. They’ll need to get the information the interventionist will be sharing.

You won’t want to invite a lot of people to come. Too many people can cause a lot of problems during the actual meeting. If you ask a lot of people to come, it could result in:

  • The addict feeling ambushed instead of helped
  • Too many people with high emotions
  • A lot of personal issues between the addict and some of the participants
  • Some confusion for the addicted individual
  • A feeling of being overwhelmed for everyone involved

On the other hand, you don’t want the only person there to be yourself. One of the reasons why interventions work so well is because there is a strong show of support. Your loved one needs to see that other people are just as concerned as you are.

Try to think of people who would be willing to participate. Some good examples include:

  • The addict’s older children
  • A spouse
  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Best friends or close friends
  • The addict’s employer

You should try to keep the number of participants to no more than eight, including the specialist. Between five and six is really an ideal number.

You’re likely to be a little nervous when you meet with the interventionist the first time. There’s no need to be. People have a common misconception about what interventions are like. They tend to think that they’re an attack on the addict, or that they’re a confrontation. This simply isn’t true.

The first time you meet with the interventionist, they’ll want to talk with you about many things. You’ll talk about the addict and the patterns of addiction you’ve seen over time. You’ll also talk about your family and how it functions as a whole. The specialist will want to know information about your family dynamics. For instance, they may ask:

  • How has the addict been able to influence the way your family functions?
  • How do the people in your family feel about the addiction?
  • Is there anyone in the family who has been severely impacted by the substance abuse problem?
  • Is there anyone in the family who has been enabling the addict?
  • What concessions have you made to make the addict’s life more comfortable?

These are hard questions to answer, but knowing the truth is very important. The specialist will talk with you about the addiction so you understand what your loved one is going through. They’ll also discuss any enabling behaviors with you.

Unfortunately, enabling is something that a lot of families are guilty of doing. They feel that they’re doing the right thing because it seems so at the time. In general, when you enable someone with an addiction, you’re allowing the problem to continue. Certain behaviors make it much easier for addicts to keep on using. 

Some examples of enabling include: 

  • Paying their bills so that the addict no longer has to work
  • Taking care of their children
  • Allowing them to live with you and continue to use
  • Bailing them out of jail
  • Making their food to ensure they get enough to eat 

As someone who is concerned about your addicted loved one, it’s hard to stop enabling. However, one of the things the interventionist is going to talk with you about is putting some limits in place. Enabling has to stop, and if it doesn’t, your loved one really has no reason to get sober.

How to Write an Intervention Letter

A lot of families struggle with what to say at an intervention. They may be afraid to say the wrong thing, or that they’ll forget something. Interventionists know that one of the reasons these meetings work well is that they are scripted. The meeting itself must be highly organized to keep everyone on track.

This is why your interventionist will ask each of you to write an intervention letter. This will prevent you from becoming too emotional, or from forgetting what you want to say. There are several components that should make up your letter. These are:

  • Beginning the letter by talking about how much you love the addict.
  • Including a time when the addict has helped you or made you feel proud.
  • Your new understanding of addiction being a disease.
  • Your feelings of concern about the addict, including specific examples of negative behaviors.
  • Repeating your feelings of love for the addicted individual.
  • Asking your loved one to get help for the addiction at drug or alcohol rehab.

This format is very easy to follow for anyone who is writing a letter. When everyone follows it, it works out very well.

When the intervention begins, your addicted family member is probably going to be on edge. They’ll be listening carefully for anything that they can use to start an argument. This is why it’s so important that your letter be written with love. This will disarm the addict and they may become quite emotional. You want that emotional response. It will be what will move them to seek help.

We thought it might be helpful to offer you some examples of intervention letters. This is an example of one that may be written to someone who is addicted to drugs.

Dear Mom,

I can’t begin to tell you how much you mean to me. You’ve always been there for me, no matter what challenges I’ve faced. You’ve always made sure I knew that I could come to you with any problem I had. I love you so much for so many reasons. I can remember when my first child was born, and how scared I was. You took my hand and told me that I was strong enough to overcome anything. You also said you’d be right there by my said, and you were. That has always been one of my favorite memories.

I’ve been doing some research, and I understand now that addiction is a disease. It’s something that grips people, much like diabetes and cancer. I know that what you’re facing now is not your fault. However, I am concerned about you using drugs. I know that it has become an addiction, and that you didn’t mean for it to happen. I feel hurt because we don’t talk as much as we used to. When I call you, you’re not always able to come to the phone because you’re high or passed out. I feel as though so much has come between us because of the drugs. You weren’t able to attend the birth of my last child because you were high. The pain of the loss of that experience will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Mom, I love you more than words can express. I would lay down my life for you, and give anything to make this addiction just disappear. We both know that can’t happen. I want you to go to drug rehab and get help for your addiction. I know that it won’t be easy to recover, but you won’t be in this alone. Just as you’ve said you’ll be with me always, I want to be there for you. Will you please get help? 

This is another example of an intervention letter for someone who is an alcoholic.

Dear Dad,

We don’t say it often enough, but I love you. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve looked up to you. I used to get picked on for being Daddy’s little girl, but I was OK with that. I was proud to be your little girl because I’ve always been proud of you. You’ve always worked hard to take care of our family. You never made sure any of your kids went without what we needed. It wasn’t always easy, but somehow, you made sure we were taken care of. You’ve given me so much over the years, and I can only someday hope to repay you.

I’ve been looking into learning more about what alcoholism is and what it means. All this time, I’ve thought that you were choosing to drink, but that’s not true at all. I know now that alcoholism is a disease. It’s not something that you can easily escape from on your own. I wish you could just stop drinking so that things could go back to the way they were. I know that’s not possible.

When I think about all the special events of mine that you’ve missed over the years, it makes me sad. You were too drunk to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day; the most important day of my life. That’s a memory that I can never get rid of, and I wish I could. As time has gone on, your alcoholism has spiraled out of control. It’s caused our family so much pain, and it’s caused you pain too.

Dad, I’m writing this letter because I want you to know how much I love you. I know that you can recover from alcoholism if you do it the right way. I want you to go to alcohol rehab so that you can get help. The people there will help you detox so you can quit drinking safely. They’ll also give you therapy to help you stay sober. Will you please go to alcohol treatment for your alcoholism?

The Day of the Meeting

The day of the intervention, emotions will be running high. Your addicted loved one won’t know that they’re about to walk into an intervention. You’ll need to keep this a secret so that they’ll agree to come with you to the location.

Usually these meetings are held at neutral places. Sometimes people may rent a room at a hotel, or you might use a church classroom. The goal is that you don’t want the addict to feel threatened in any way. This is why having it at a rehab facility probably isn’t the right decision.

Before the actual meeting, the interventionist may ask to see you all again. They may want you to practice reading your letters aloud. This helps them because they get to hear what you’re going to say in advance.

When it’s time, you’ll pick up the addict and bring them to the meeting place. As soon as you walk in, the intervention will start.

Every interventionist has their own way of proceeding through the process of intervening. Yours will talk with you about the method that they prefer. In general, there are five different ways that this meeting can be conducted. 

  • The Johnson Interview – This one is the most popular, and if you watch Intervention on A&E, it’s the one you’ve seen. This model involves bringing the addict to a location to talk with friends and family. Letters are written and the addict is asked to get help. Also, consequences are laid out for the addict if they refuse to go to rehab.
  • The Invitational Model – This method involves letting the addict know about the pending intervention. They have a choice about whether to go or not. If they refuse to go, the meeting still takes place.
  • The Field Model – This is a combination of the Johnson Interview and the Invitational Model. The specialist is able to quickly adapt if the situation calls for it. It’s most useful when an intervention needs to happen fast, or the addict has a violent history.
  • The Systemic Intervention Model – This one is based on the belief that everyone contributes to the addiction. The addict is not forced to talk about their denial of the problem. Instead, everyone talks about how to help the person stop using drugs or alcohol.
  • The Motivational Interviewing Technique – With this model, the interventionist and the addict do most of the talking. The specialist will conduct an interview, and they get to know the addicted person. They offer empathy and build trust through this process. Together, they make a plan to change negative behaviors. 

The Johnson Interview style is definitely the most used. This is probably the way that your interventionist will proceed. However, the other methods are available if needed.

Once the interventionist introduces him or herself, they’ll allow everyone to read their letters. You’ll probably begin with the one that everyone believes will have the least impact. Gradually, the emotions of the letters should become more intense. The last letter that is read should be the one that is the most impactful.

No matter how many times you read your letter, you’re likely to be emotional at this point. It’s moving to actually read it to the person it was intended for. Crying is OK, and you shouldn’t be afraid to show some emotion. You’re pleading with your loved one to make a change, and that’s difficult. They need to see you shed some tears.

After all the letters have been read, it will be time to ask your loved one collectively to go to treatment. The interventionist may ask them. If they refuse, they may lay out some consequences that will occur as a result. These will be discussed with the family beforehand.

For instance, the specialist may say that since they refused treatment, they need to move out. Or, they may indicate other changes that need to be made in the home. Another plea will be made for the addict to get help for the addiction. Once they understand the consequences of saying no, they may agree.

What to Expect at the End of the Intervention

At the end of the intervention, a decision will need to be made. The addict must decide to get treatment or to refuse it. You will likely be holding your breath, waiting for this decision.

It’s important to be prepared for either scenario once the meeting has come to an end. You should know that your loved one could get angry and storm out. The interventionist may follow them and continue to plead with them to get help. It’s also possible that your loved one may readily agree to treatment. According to Psychology Today, most interventions are effective. 90% of the time, people agree to get help. 

Again, the goal is for your loved one to get help right away. You should have their belongings packed and ready to go in the event that they’re agreeable. The interventionist will take them directly to the addiction treatment center from the meeting.

Following Through and Not Enabling the Addiction to Continue

The worst thing you can hear at this point is that your loved one refuses treatment. However, it can happen, and in about 10% of cases, it does. Please know that even if they refuse to get help now, that “no” might not be forever. Many times, addicts change their minds and agree later on.

Your specialist will talk with you about how to change any enabling behaviors. You absolutely must follow through on the things you said you would change. You should no longer provide childcare, money for bills, or anything else. It’s hard to watch someone you love suffer, but this is a time that calls for tough love. It may be the only thing that will save your loved one’s life.

Can You Try to do a Drug or Alcohol Intervention on Your Own?

Sometimes people want to attempt to do interventions on their own. This is something that you may want to attempt, but you should do so with caution. Without the professional guidance of an interventionist, it might not be successful. You could end up ruining your relationship with your loved one in the long run.

If you do decide to proceed on your own, only do so after you’ve planned well. Make sure that you’re not angry when it comes time for the meeting. Also, you want to avoid using words like addict and alcoholic. These labels are negative, and they could derail your efforts.

Also, you’ll want to choose a time when the addicted individual hasn’t been using. When you begin the conversation, do so with love. Talk about how much you care about the person, and convey the fact that you’re worried. This will go a long way toward producing a positive result.

For many of these individuals, drugs or alcohol seem to be a welcome escape from their problems. Alcohol has the ability to calm anxiety significantly, at least for a little while. If they feel depressed, a drug like cocaine or Adderall may help them to feel better. This is essentially a form of self-medication, and it happens all the time.

Eventually, the substances don’t work as well as they once should. This could be because of the natural progression of addiction. Or, it could be because the person has formed a tolerance. Either way, they’ll use more in order to get the same effects. Continuing to use will ultimately result in the return of symptoms. It is a vicious cycle that is very hard to escape from.

It’s much better to work with an interventionist for a few reasons. Most importantly, they have the training necessary to navigate the meeting. They can also educate you on addiction, and it’s important for you to know as much as possible. The specialist may need to change the plan very quickly, depending on how the meeting goes. They’re very good at keeping everyone on track and making sure the meeting is organized and not chaotic.

Where Can I Find an Intervention Specialist Near Me?

Here at Northpoint Recovery, we offer intervention services for anyone who needs them. We’ll make sure you understand how the process will go. We’ll carefully explain everything to you so you don’t feel lost.

Our goal is to get your loved one into treatment. We’re committed to offering you excellent services and we have a high record of success.

Have we answered all of your intervention questions with this guide? Please contact us to learn more, or to schedule an intervention.

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