How To Stage an Intervention

It can be excruciating to watch a loved one struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. Family members and close friends of those experiencing addiction often find it challenging to help, especially when the sufferer has a difficult time acknowledging that they need help, which is often the case.

Having an open and honest conversation may begin the recovery process; however, a more comprehensive approach is usually necessary. A formal intervention can help someone with addiction understand how their behavior is affecting those around them and offer a way out.

What is Drug and Alcohol Intervention?

An intervention is a thoughtfully planned process that utilizes the guidance of a doctor, a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, or a professionally trained interventionist. The intervention will usually include family members, close friends, and anyone who cares for the person struggling with addiction.

An intervention includes1:

  • Specific examples of harmful behaviors and how they have affected the struggling individual, as well as those in attendance
  • A pre-established treatment plan including clear goals and guidelines to be followed through with
  • A thoughtful explanation of what will happen if they refuse the treatment option presented to them
staging-an-addiction-intervention

Who Needs Drug and Alcohol Intervention?

A loved one struggling with addiction can benefit from an intervention in any stage of their addiction. Addiction is defined as a chronic disorder that includes perpetual drug use regardless of the consequences they may experience as a result of the use of drugs.2

When someone is using drugs in an addictive manner, they may show different signs and symptoms depending on which drugs they are using. Looking out for these signs and symptoms can help determine if a loved one is suffering from addiction and in need of an intervention.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Alcohol3

  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of awareness
  • Frequent falling
  • Memory loss
  • Inability to stop drinking
  • Lying
  • Risky behavior
  • Denial
  • Violence
  • Delirium tremens

Opiates4

  • Isolation
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Poor hygiene
  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased libido
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Weight loss
  • Strange sleeping patterns
  • Stealing
  • Financial Issues

Cocaine5,6

  • Dilated pupils
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Restlessness
  • Twitches
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Nose bleeds
  • Runny nose
  • Weight loss
  • Impulsivity

Methamphetamine7,8

  • Increased activity
  • Increase attention
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of sleep
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Memory loss
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Rotting teeth
  • Skin sores

There are additional addictive drugs that someone may use, and the signs and symptoms of each addiction may be more exhaustive than what is presented here. In general, any combination of these signs and symptoms may be indicative of a drug addiction and should be taken seriously. If a loved one is experiencing any of these signs and symptoms, an intervention may be necessary.

When to Intervene

It might be challenging to pinpoint precisely when it is time to intervene. Different ideologies and misconceptions might hold someone back from hosting an intervention for a loved one.

One common misconception is that someone experiencing addiction needs to hit “rock bottom,” or reach the lowest possible point in their addiction, for treatment to be successful. Identifying this point can be extremely difficult and is not necessary. It is much better to intervene well before this low point occurs.9

An intervention can be done as soon as someone begins to show signs of addiction. Once a family member or close friend identifies that a loved one has a problem and is engaging in risky behaviors related to drugs and alcohol, it is appropriate to host an intervention.10

Once someone decides to intervene, it might be challenging to find an exact time to hold the intervention. The only time it is inappropriate to intervene is when the loved one suffering from addiction is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If they are under the influence, it will be difficult for them to process what is said during the intervention. Any other time is an acceptable time to host an intervention.9

If a loved one is showing signs of addiction, and family members and friends are affected and worried, now is the time to intervene.

How to Stage a Drug and Alcohol Intervention

A formal intervention should always be conducted with the guidance of a professional to ensure safety and effectiveness. This professional might be a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, or professional interventionist. It can be someone the family already works with, a recommended interventionist, or someone found through diligent research. The chosen addiction professional will aid in determining the best approach and will suggest effective treatment and follow-up plans. 1

The intervention group should include people who are important to the individual suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. The group may consist of a best friend, immediate family members, extended family members, and anyone else close to the loved one. Do not include anyone they don’t like or someone who is also struggling with a substance abuse problem. Additionally, if you think someone might become hostile during the intervention, it is best not to include them.1

It is essential to consult with the selected interventionist during the planning process. An intervention can create a highly emotional and intense environment. A professional can help devise the best plan to maintain effectiveness, even if the individual suffering from addiction becomes angry or hostile. The interventionist will also help with the treatment plan and decide who will speak during the intervention.1

After forming an intervention group and making a plan, each member of the group will prepare what they are going to say. It is helpful to write down what will be said during the intervention to ensure that everyone stays on topic and does not say anything out of anger or any other heightened emotion. It is also important to work together to rehearse what the loved one might say and how the group members will respond.1

The individual struggling with addiction may refuse treatment when presented with the option, and it is crucial to predetermine specific consequences. Each member of the intervention group should decide what action they will take if the loved one ultimately refuses treatment. For example, a family member may decide that their loved one needs to move out, or a friend might decide they will need to create distance in their friendship.1

Once the loved one arrives at the intervention site, each member of the group will have a turn to express how they are feeling and what their concerns are, speaking directly to their loved one. After everyone has shared, the loved one will be asked to accept treatment and will need to decide immediately. Then, each member will share their specific consequences should their loved one refuse to accept treatment.1

If the loved one chooses to accept treatment, group members may want to change personal destructive behaviors, attend therapy with their loved one, attend therapy on their own, and come up with a plan in case the loved one relapses. If the loved one does not accept treatment, each group member needs to follow through with their consequences and take care of themselves by setting healthy boundaries and possibly attending therapy.1

Intervention Models

All formal interventions will generally follow this staging process. Depending on each unique situation, there are different intervention models that can be used. Two common models are the Johnson Model and the Family Systemic Model.

Johnson Model

The Johnson Model incorporates seven specific components for intervention11:

  • A Team: The intervention team will be organized with the help of the chosen interventionist and will include family, colleagues, friends, and loved ones.
  • Planning: This stage will determine the time of the intervention as well as exactly what each team member will say to the individual suffering from addiction during the intervention.
  • Focus on Care: This focus should be observed throughout the entire intervention. The intervention should be a space of love and acceptance, and there should be no yelling or criticism.
  • Addiction Only: Addiction is the only issue that should be discussed during the intervention. Past experiences that are unrelated to addiction should be left out of the conversation.
  • Evidence: Evidence of the problem should be provided in each of the letters. The letters should include any events relating to the addiction and how these events have affected each individual. It is important to use as much detail as possible.
  • Primary Goal - Treatment: The goal of the intervention is for the individual to accept a treatment plan. This treatment plan should be agreed upon by attendees beforehand and should be presented as a way to improve the loved one's life rather than as a punishment.
  • Treatment Options: Three different treatment options should be presented to the individual suffering from addiction. Options allow them to have a choice and may make it easier for them to accept treatment.

Family Systemic Model

The Family Systemic Model is a bit different than traditional intervention models and focuses on including the loved one suffering from addiction in every aspect.

The Family Systemic Model incorporates these specific features12:

  • None of the meetings associated with the intervention are hidden from the loved one. The loved one will even attend the very first meeting that occurs with the interventionist.
  • Instead of the intervention taking place as one main event, there might be several meetings that occur each week. The process can last until the problem goes away, or the loved one accepts treatment.
  • In all meetings, family members discuss how the addiction has affected each individual, including the loved one. The conversation may go back and forth while the interventionist maintains control.
  • All family members will commit to a form of counseling. The loved one may accept treatment and attend family therapy sessions during treatment, while other family members attend therapy sessions on their own. After treatment, all family members will continue to attend therapy sessions together.

Cost of Interventions

The main cost of a drug and alcohol intervention is hiring a professional to host the intervention. An interventionist typically costs between $1,500 and $10,000, not including any travel expenses. While this cost might be very high for some, it is essential to include an addiction professional to maintain effectiveness and increase the likelihood of a loved one accepting treatment.

The financial cost of hiring an interventionist to conduct a formal intervention could far outweigh the emotional and financial cost of dealing with a loved one who is suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. When other, less costly options have been exhausted, it may be worth it to bear the financial burden to watch the loved one cultivate a healthy and happy lifestyle.

Why Conduct an Intervention?

If your loved one is showing signs of a drug or alcohol addiction, and it is affecting the quality of their life and yours, now is the time to intervene. An intervention can motivate your loved one to accept treatment and overcome their addiction, with the support of a professional as well as friends and family. An intervention can be the beginning of a more vibrant and wholesome life for your loved one.

Resources

Intervention — Tips and guidelines. National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. https://www.ncadd.org/family-friends/there-is-help/intervention-tips-and-guidelines. Accessed June 7, 2017.

Intervention ebook ― What to do if your child is drinking or using drugs. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. https://drugfree.org/download/intervention-ebook/. Accessed June 7, 2017.

Alcohol and drug addiction happen in the best of families … and it hurts. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. http://store.samhsa.gov/product/Alcohol-and-Drug-Addiction-Happens-in-the-Best-of-Families/SMA12-4159. Accessed June 7, 2017.

Helping an adult family member or friend with a drug or alcohol addiction. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. https://drugfree.org/parent-blog/want-help-adult-family-member-friend-drug-alcohol-problem-7-suggestions/. Accessed June 8, 2017.

Treatment ebook ― How to find the right help for your child with an alcohol or drug problem. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. https://drugfree.org/download/treatment-ebook/. Accessed June 8, 2017.

Copello, A. G., Copello, A. G., Velleman, R. D., & Templeton, L. J. (2005). Family interventions in the treatment of alcohol and drug problems. Drug and alcohol review, 24(4), 369-385.

Association of Intervention Specialists. (n.d.). Learn About Intervention.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2011). The Different Angles of Addiction.

Abuse, S., US, M. H. S. A., & Office of the Surgeon General (US. (2016). EARLY INTERVENTION, TREATMENT, AND MANAGEMENT OF SUBSTANCE USE DISORDERS.

American Addiction Centers. 2018.

Association of Intervention Specialists. (2017). What is the Johnson Model of Intervention?

Association of Intervention Specialists. (2017). What is an Arise Intervention?

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence – https://www.ncadd.org/family-friends/there-is-help/intervention-tips-and-guidelines

SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions – http://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/sbirt/brief-interventions

https://www.hazeldenbettyford.org/addiction/intervention/how-to-do-an-intervention

https://iprc.iu.edu/drug-info/featured-articles/196-the-myth-of-hitting-rock-bottom-the-power-of-intervention

https://psychcentral.com/blog/7-common-misconceptions-about-addiction-interventions/

References

It can be excruciating to watch a loved one struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. Family members and close friends of those experiencing addiction often find it challenging to help, especially when the sufferer has a difficult time acknowledging that they need help, which is often the case.

Having an open and honest conversation may begin the recovery process; however, a more comprehensive approach is usually necessary. A formal intervention can help someone with addiction understand how their behavior is affecting those around them and offer a way out.

What is Drug and Alcohol Intervention?

An intervention is a thoughtfully planned process that utilizes the guidance of a doctor, a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, or a professionally trained interventionist. The intervention will usually include family members, close friends, and anyone who cares for the person struggling with addiction.

An intervention includes1:

  • Specific examples of harmful behaviors and how they have affected the struggling individual, as well as those in attendance
  • A pre-established treatment plan including clear goals and guidelines to be followed through with
  • A thoughtful explanation of what will happen if they refuse the treatment option presented to them
staging-an-addiction-intervention

Who Needs Drug and Alcohol Intervention?

A loved one struggling with addiction can benefit from an intervention in any stage of their addiction. Addiction is defined as a chronic disorder that includes perpetual drug use regardless of the consequences they may experience as a result of the use of drugs.2

When someone is using drugs in an addictive manner, they may show different signs and symptoms depending on which drugs they are using. Looking out for these signs and symptoms can help determine if a loved one is suffering from addiction and in need of an intervention.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Alcohol3

  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of awareness
  • Frequent falling
  • Memory loss
  • Inability to stop drinking
  • Lying
  • Risky behavior
  • Denial
  • Violence
  • Delirium tremens

Opiates4

  • Isolation
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Poor hygiene
  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased libido
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Weight loss
  • Strange sleeping patterns
  • Stealing
  • Financial Issues

Cocaine5,6

  • Dilated pupils
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Restlessness
  • Twitches
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Nose bleeds
  • Runny nose
  • Weight loss
  • Impulsivity

Methamphetamine7,8

  • Increased activity
  • Increase attention
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of sleep
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Memory loss
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Rotting teeth
  • Skin sores

There are additional addictive drugs that someone may use, and the signs and symptoms of each addiction may be more exhaustive than what is presented here. In general, any combination of these signs and symptoms may be indicative of a drug addiction and should be taken seriously. If a loved one is experiencing any of these signs and symptoms, an intervention may be necessary.

When to Intervene

It might be challenging to pinpoint precisely when it is time to intervene. Different ideologies and misconceptions might hold someone back from hosting an intervention for a loved one.

One common misconception is that someone experiencing addiction needs to hit “rock bottom,” or reach the lowest possible point in their addiction, for treatment to be successful. Identifying this point can be extremely difficult and is not necessary. It is much better to intervene well before this low point occurs.9

An intervention can be done as soon as someone begins to show signs of addiction. Once a family member or close friend identifies that a loved one has a problem and is engaging in risky behaviors related to drugs and alcohol, it is appropriate to host an intervention.10

Once someone decides to intervene, it might be challenging to find an exact time to hold the intervention. The only time it is inappropriate to intervene is when the loved one suffering from addiction is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If they are under the influence, it will be difficult for them to process what is said during the intervention. Any other time is an acceptable time to host an intervention.9

If a loved one is showing signs of addiction, and family members and friends are affected and worried, now is the time to intervene.

How to Stage a Drug and Alcohol Intervention

A formal intervention should always be conducted with the guidance of a professional to ensure safety and effectiveness. This professional might be a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, or professional interventionist. It can be someone the family already works with, a recommended interventionist, or someone found through diligent research. The chosen addiction professional will aid in determining the best approach and will suggest effective treatment and follow-up plans. 1

The intervention group should include people who are important to the individual suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. The group may consist of a best friend, immediate family members, extended family members, and anyone else close to the loved one. Do not include anyone they don’t like or someone who is also struggling with a substance abuse problem. Additionally, if you think someone might become hostile during the intervention, it is best not to include them.1

It is essential to consult with the selected interventionist during the planning process. An intervention can create a highly emotional and intense environment. A professional can help devise the best plan to maintain effectiveness, even if the individual suffering from addiction becomes angry or hostile. The interventionist will also help with the treatment plan and decide who will speak during the intervention.1

After forming an intervention group and making a plan, each member of the group will prepare what they are going to say. It is helpful to write down what will be said during the intervention to ensure that everyone stays on topic and does not say anything out of anger or any other heightened emotion. It is also important to work together to rehearse what the loved one might say and how the group members will respond.1

The individual struggling with addiction may refuse treatment when presented with the option, and it is crucial to predetermine specific consequences. Each member of the intervention group should decide what action they will take if the loved one ultimately refuses treatment. For example, a family member may decide that their loved one needs to move out, or a friend might decide they will need to create distance in their friendship.1

Once the loved one arrives at the intervention site, each member of the group will have a turn to express how they are feeling and what their concerns are, speaking directly to their loved one. After everyone has shared, the loved one will be asked to accept treatment and will need to decide immediately. Then, each member will share their specific consequences should their loved one refuse to accept treatment.1

If the loved one chooses to accept treatment, group members may want to change personal destructive behaviors, attend therapy with their loved one, attend therapy on their own, and come up with a plan in case the loved one relapses. If the loved one does not accept treatment, each group member needs to follow through with their consequences and take care of themselves by setting healthy boundaries and possibly attending therapy.1

Intervention Models

All formal interventions will generally follow this staging process. Depending on each unique situation, there are different intervention models that can be used. Two common models are the Johnson Model and the Family Systemic Model.

Johnson Model

The Johnson Model incorporates seven specific components for intervention11:

  • A Team: The intervention team will be organized with the help of the chosen interventionist and will include family, colleagues, friends, and loved ones.
  • Planning: This stage will determine the time of the intervention as well as exactly what each team member will say to the individual suffering from addiction during the intervention.
  • Focus on Care: This focus should be observed throughout the entire intervention. The intervention should be a space of love and acceptance, and there should be no yelling or criticism.
  • Addiction Only: Addiction is the only issue that should be discussed during the intervention. Past experiences that are unrelated to addiction should be left out of the conversation.
  • Evidence: Evidence of the problem should be provided in each of the letters. The letters should include any events relating to the addiction and how these events have affected each individual. It is important to use as much detail as possible.
  • Primary Goal - Treatment: The goal of the intervention is for the individual to accept a treatment plan. This treatment plan should be agreed upon by attendees beforehand and should be presented as a way to improve the loved one's life rather than as a punishment.
  • Treatment Options: Three different treatment options should be presented to the individual suffering from addiction. Options allow them to have a choice and may make it easier for them to accept treatment.

Family Systemic Model

The Family Systemic Model is a bit different than traditional intervention models and focuses on including the loved one suffering from addiction in every aspect.

The Family Systemic Model incorporates these specific features12:

  • None of the meetings associated with the intervention are hidden from the loved one. The loved one will even attend the very first meeting that occurs with the interventionist.
  • Instead of the intervention taking place as one main event, there might be several meetings that occur each week. The process can last until the problem goes away, or the loved one accepts treatment.
  • In all meetings, family members discuss how the addiction has affected each individual, including the loved one. The conversation may go back and forth while the interventionist maintains control.
  • All family members will commit to a form of counseling. The loved one may accept treatment and attend family therapy sessions during treatment, while other family members attend therapy sessions on their own. After treatment, all family members will continue to attend therapy sessions together.

Cost of Interventions

The main cost of a drug and alcohol intervention is hiring a professional to host the intervention. An interventionist typically costs between $1,500 and $10,000, not including any travel expenses. While this cost might be very high for some, it is essential to include an addiction professional to maintain effectiveness and increase the likelihood of a loved one accepting treatment.

The financial cost of hiring an interventionist to conduct a formal intervention could far outweigh the emotional and financial cost of dealing with a loved one who is suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. When other, less costly options have been exhausted, it may be worth it to bear the financial burden to watch the loved one cultivate a healthy and happy lifestyle.

Why Conduct an Intervention?

If your loved one is showing signs of a drug or alcohol addiction, and it is affecting the quality of their life and yours, now is the time to intervene. An intervention can motivate your loved one to accept treatment and overcome their addiction, with the support of a professional as well as friends and family. An intervention can be the beginning of a more vibrant and wholesome life for your loved one.

Resources

Intervention — Tips and guidelines. National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. https://www.ncadd.org/family-friends/there-is-help/intervention-tips-and-guidelines. Accessed June 7, 2017.

Intervention ebook ― What to do if your child is drinking or using drugs. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. https://drugfree.org/download/intervention-ebook/. Accessed June 7, 2017.

Alcohol and drug addiction happen in the best of families … and it hurts. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. http://store.samhsa.gov/product/Alcohol-and-Drug-Addiction-Happens-in-the-Best-of-Families/SMA12-4159. Accessed June 7, 2017.

Helping an adult family member or friend with a drug or alcohol addiction. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. https://drugfree.org/parent-blog/want-help-adult-family-member-friend-drug-alcohol-problem-7-suggestions/. Accessed June 8, 2017.

Treatment ebook ― How to find the right help for your child with an alcohol or drug problem. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. https://drugfree.org/download/treatment-ebook/. Accessed June 8, 2017.

Copello, A. G., Copello, A. G., Velleman, R. D., & Templeton, L. J. (2005). Family interventions in the treatment of alcohol and drug problems. Drug and alcohol review, 24(4), 369-385.

Association of Intervention Specialists. (n.d.). Learn About Intervention.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2011). The Different Angles of Addiction.

Abuse, S., US, M. H. S. A., & Office of the Surgeon General (US. (2016). EARLY INTERVENTION, TREATMENT, AND MANAGEMENT OF SUBSTANCE USE DISORDERS.

American Addiction Centers. 2018.

Association of Intervention Specialists. (2017). What is the Johnson Model of Intervention?

Association of Intervention Specialists. (2017). What is an Arise Intervention?

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence – https://www.ncadd.org/family-friends/there-is-help/intervention-tips-and-guidelines

SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions – http://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/sbirt/brief-interventions

https://www.hazeldenbettyford.org/addiction/intervention/how-to-do-an-intervention

https://iprc.iu.edu/drug-info/featured-articles/196-the-myth-of-hitting-rock-bottom-the-power-of-intervention

https://psychcentral.com/blog/7-common-misconceptions-about-addiction-interventions/

References

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