by Kristen Fescoe

What is an Intervention?

An Intervention is a process that involves the entire family, not just the family member who is battling an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Most simply, an intervention is a way for a family to persuade a loved one that they desperately need help and they need is quickly. The process is a several day process that involves a serious commitment from all of the family members who will be involved.

Drug and alcohol addiction affects an entire family. Anyone who has loved someone battling addiction can tell you how painful it is to watch someone they love spiral into the dark and dangerous world of drugs or alcohol. It is because of this that an entire family has to fight the addiction in order to achieve long-term success. During an intervention the entire family is empowered, educated and enlightened on their particular roles in the addiction process. You will learn how addiction is an issue involving your entire family dynamic and it can only be overcome when the whole family unifies to battle the addiction. Family members will work very closely with an intervention specialist who will guide you through the process towards sobriety.

Who is Involved in an Intervention?

An intervention involves any member of your family who is affected by the addiction. The addicted family member obviously takes “center stage”, however each family member plays an equally important role in the intervention process. These people could be spouses, children, parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, close friends and other relatives who love the addicted family member. There could be three or four family member involved in this process or there could be ten or more. In addition to the members of the family, an intervention specialist will be involved in each step of the process.

It is critically important that all members of the family take part in this process. It is during the stages of an intervention where family members learn to take on new supportive roles. They learn how they may have contributed to the problem and how they can avoid that in the future. Therefore, even family members who may be reluctant about the process should participate. The intervention specialist will help them to understand how the process works and how successful it can be.

What Happens During an Intervention?

An intervention is not something that happens in one day. Rather, an intervention is a process that occurs over a matter of days or even weeks. There are several stages for an effective intervention to occur.  Here we will evaluate the stages that must be completed for an intervention to be successful.

Stage One – Finding an Intervention Specialist

The first and potentially most important stage is finding the right intervention specialist for your family. This person is someone you will be working close with through something very personal and emotional. The ideal intervention specialist will be someone with whom you have an instant rapport. Some of the characteristics you will be looking for in your specialist are a degree in psychology or a related area of study, experience in the field of addiction, experience conducting interventions and someone who is a part of a group or private practice. It is important to be sure that your intervention specialist has the proper credentials. There are people who claim to be intervention specialists but lack the training necessary to ensure success.

Stage Two – Preparation

After your family has chosen the right intervention specialist, the process can begin. First, the non-addicted members of the family will meet with the specialist. They will outline what happens during an intervention, what to expect, each persons role, what will be expected of them and what each family member will be asked to do. Because the intervention specialist is there to educate and support each member of the family, this stage will be very focused on giving power to each member of the family. Everyone involved will be armed with the tools to get through the intervention as well as the rest of the healing journey.

Stage Three – Doing Your Homework

The next stage in the intervention process is the individual preparation phase. Each family member will be asked to write down some key points to discuss during the intervention meeting. This “homework” will consist of preparing two critical elements. First some details about how the addiction has personally affected you and your relationship with the addicted family member. Second, you will write down some thoughts on why you need this person to get sober.

The “homework” stage serves several purposes. The first is to simply prepare for the intervention meeting. On a deeper level this stage allows each family member to work through some of his or her own thoughts, feelings and emotions. As the family begins to see how addiction affects the entire family unit, there is often a period of stress, anxiety, grieving and conflicted emotions. These are emotions that you will be able to work through with the guidance of the intervention specialist. You will be able to talk to them in person or by phone, ask questions and get the support you need to properly prepare for this most important meeting.

Stage Four – The Intervention

Once the preparation stage is complete, the intervention meeting can be scheduled. The family members will coordinate with the intervention specialist to choose a time and place for the meeting to occur. Once the logistics have been determined the addicted family member will be invited. At this point they will not know why they are being asked to come. Often times they think they will just be joining a family member for a meal or a social visit. It is better that they do not know to increase the chances that they will come.

Once your loved one has arrived the intervention can formally begin. The intervention specialist will outline for your loved one why they are there and what is about to happen. Often, this person will feel embarrassed, angry or upset about the intervention being sprung on them. This is why enlisting the help of a trained professional is critical. They will help bridge this gap and keep the intervention moving along.

Once the initial stress has subsided, the important work can begin. Each family member will have the opportunity to share the thoughts that they prepared during the “homework” stage. This is their chance to explain why this person they care about so greatly needs to get sober. It is often an emotional exchange, but it can be very cathartic for everyone involved. Once each family member has spoken, your loved one will be issued with an ultimatum; either enter a treatment program immediately or no longer receive the emotional, financial or family support they have been relying on. This is very often very persuasive and in the majority of cases the addicted family member agrees to enter treatment.

What Happens When the Intervention is Over?

Once the intervention meeting has drawn to a close the intervention specialist will take your loved one to a treatment facility. Sometimes this is a detox facility and other times it will be immediate entrance into a treatment program. They will remain in a treatment program for as long as is determined by your loved one and the professionals working with them in the treatment facility.

While your loved one is in treatment, the process of support and education will continue for your family. You can continue working with the intervention specialist (as well as other family support groups) to learn how you can support your loved one once they complete treatment. You will learn to become a tool in their recovery.

As we can see an intervention is an in depth process that involves the entire family. By enlisting the entire family to aid in the intervention process, the chances for long-term success rise. Addiction is a problem experience by an entire family system; therefore the only way to truly get better is to involve the whole family. An intervention is an ideal way to convince someone you love that the time for help is now.