Is It Time for an Intervention?
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You can never be sure of an intervention’s success, but you can be sure that you’ve planned it in such a way that you make success easier. Planning the right environment is crucial. Interventions should be carefully arranged gatherings of family and friends (and often doctors or professionals trained in addiction) that occur when the group is concerned about a struggling individual’s health and well-being.
Together, the group works to confront someone struggling with substance abuse in a non-threatening way.
The goal is to let the person know that they are loved and cared for, and that’s why the group wants them to receive professional help.
Deciding that it’s time for an intervention can be extremely difficult. However, if you or someone you love are struggling, some form of intervention may be long overdue. In fact, sometimes, an intervention can be truly lifesaving.
Types of Interventions
Every person, every addiction, and every substance abuse situation are unique, and the same techniques might not work for everyone.
Simple interventions are, unsurprisingly, the most common type of intervention. A simple intervention occurs when a friend or family member confronts the person struggling with addiction in a neutral, non-threatening environment. Before doing so, the friend or family member may consult with a professional. A professional can advise on how to handle the situation. This professional may be their therapist, a substance abuse counselor, or any person trained in the field of addiction. From there, the goal is to confront the person struggling in a neutral and loving manner—not as an attack. The friend or family member will discuss how the addiction has hurt them and others, their concerns for the health of their loved one, and suggest treatment to help.
A classic intervention involves a group of family, friends, or other loved ones concerned for the person struggling with addiction. The group usually meets before the intervention to discuss their concerns and how they want to approach the situation—often with a professional therapist, counselor, or other trained professional.
It’s important that if you are planning this type of intervention that you prepare yourself for hurtful words from the target of the intervention. A classic intervention must create a non-threatening environment where family and friends can express their concerns and suggest treatment for the person struggling.
Family System Interventions
This kind of intervention is designed to confront a family that either enables one individual’s addiction or is collectively struggling with their own addictions. A family system intervention helps to confront the problems that one or more family members share by creating healthier coping mechanisms and ways of communicating with each other.
However, it is important to remember that while it may sometimes help work on the family, individual treatment should be suggested to ensure each person’s needs are met. Because family system interventions are more complicated than other types of interventions, they almost always require a trained professional to ensure the intervention stays on track.
Crisis interventions occur on the spot and without the same kind of planning other interventions require. A crisis intervention most often occurs when a dangerous situation has occurred due to the individual’s substance abuse. This situation could be anything from a drunk driving accident to an overdose.
Crisis interventions usually involve those who are present at the time of the crisis. These individuals confront the person struggling about the danger and hurt they are causing others. In these interventions, the end goal is to get the individual to accept treatment so they are not in a situation like this again.
Are Interventions Effective?
Research indicates that people struggling with substance abuse disorder are more likely to seek treatment after an intervention. While an intervention can’t determine how this treatment will go, it does give the person the power to accept help so they can work on making themselves better. Interventions help to remind people that addiction can be conquered, despite what they feel in the moment.
In this way, interventions are an effective way of reaching those who struggle to see how others are impacted when they are deep into their substance abuse. Many of these people deny they even have a problem in the first place. With words from concerned loved ones, someone struggling with addiction is much more likely to receive treatment and learn how their behaviors affect the people around them.
How to Make an Intervention More Effective
Create a Plan
It’s best to go into the situation knowing what you want to discuss, how you want the intervention to be organized, and what your end goals are. However, you shouldn’t have to do all the planning yourself. Contact family and friends that are also concerned for the person struggling. Plan a day and time where you know you can talk to the person in question with the least amount of stress. Proper planning can help you avoid small hiccups along the way that might impede the process.
Do Not Shame
Another way to make an intervention as effective as possible is by remembering (and encouraging others) not to shame or guilt the person struggling. Most of the time, your loved one is already experiencing these emotions within themselves. Adding guilt or shame into the mix when your end goal is to help them is a quick way to bring the intervention to an unsatisfactory end. Instead, ensure the intervention is about helping the person struggling see the hurt they are causing and take responsibility for it by getting the help they need to fix their harmful behaviors.
Be Specific, Clear, and Concise
Be clear and concise. While you are encouraged to go into detail about the negative ways you have been affected by this person’s substance abuse, make sure not to ramble. If you can, practice what you’ll say ahead of time and bring along notes for reference. Remember, the end goal is for the person who is addicted to get help and get better.
Seek Help from a Professional Interventionist
Most likely, you and your loved ones have not experienced many interventions. Seeking help from a trained professional like a substance abuse counselor can help an intervention go more smoothly. If you’re not able to have a professional come to the actual intervention, asking them for advice beforehand is strongly recommended. A professional can help you plan your statement and ensure you are able to say the right things during the intervention itself. If you are able to have a professional come to the intervention you have planned, they can help make sure the discussion doesn’t get off track. Professionals like interventionists, substance abuse counselors, and therapists have dealt with addiction and the elevated emotions it causes. This can help them regulate the situation as a neutral party.
Signs You or a Loved One May Need an Intervention
Destructive and Dangerous Behaviors
Substance abuse often goes hand-in-hand with destructive behaviors. Many people that abuse drugs or alcohol act carelessly and sometimes even lose their sense of self. These destructive behaviors often arise from guilt and shame, which are two common feelings for someone that may be struggling with a substance problem.
Health Is Deteriorating
While long-term abuse of any substance will have negative effects on your health, short-term addiction can also cause harm. If you see that your loved one’s eyes are sunken in, they’re losing weight quickly, or they seem extremely tired all the time, they may be struggling with substance abuse.
Because people that deal with substance abuse often hold guilt about their addiction, they try to hide their behavior. This can lead to a series of lies, often regarding where they are going or what they are doing when they get there. In addition, money is often a trigger for lying because those struggling may not want to admit their financial problems were caused by an addiction.
Failure to Meet Responsibilities
Substance abuse has the unique ability to take over a person’s mind to the point where using becomes the only priority. When this happens, it is easy for your loved one to overlook everything from special events to parenting responsibilities, going to work, and even taking care of themselves. The resulting chaos increases the odds that other behaviors surrounding the addiction will spiral out of control.
Loss of Memory / Brain Fog
Consistent loss of memory or what seems like brain fog are both signs of prolonged substance abuse. Not being able to remember what you did two days ago or forgetting about the doctor’s appointment you just scheduled can turn into serious problems in the future if you’re not careful. Long-term substance abuse can cause brain fog that makes it harder for your brain to operate, consistently making a person feel slow or groggy. Worse, it can lead to the lying, failure to meet responsibilities, and ill health mentioned above.
Loved Ones Are Being Hurt
Substance abuse can cause a person to act aggressively or hurtful to others due to destructive behaviors they’ve created. Unfortunately, this can result in their loved ones being hurt. Many people struggle to see the hurt they are causing while they are in the depths of addiction, so an intervention with the ones they love can help to shed light on the reality experienced by those around them.
Is It Time for an Intervention?
In the end, it can be extremely difficult to decide when it’s time for change. However, as I’ve mentioned—with substance abuse, change should never wait. If you are worried about a loved one who struggles with drugs or alcohol, take the quiz above to find out if an intervention is recommended.