More than 20 million American adults battled addiction to drugs or alcohol in 2014, yet only just over 11 percent actually received treatment for the disease, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) publishes. A staggering 96 percent of those not getting the help they needed felt they didn’t need it.
Addiction is a complex disease that disrupts families, communities, the workplace, and society in general. It is also highly treatable. Recovery is attainable with professional help. An intervention can help individuals to see the value in treatment and how addiction is affecting the lives of their family members and loved ones.
The main goal of an intervention is to help people make the decision to enter into a treatment program voluntarily. Mayo Clinic defines an intervention as a planned and structured opportunity for families and loved ones to help an individual struggling with addiction to find the motivation to make necessary changes and to accept help. An intervention may make it more likely for an individual to enter into treatment, Psychology Today postulates.
Contrary to popular belief, an intervention does not need to be a last resort, something to turn to when a person has hit “rock bottom” after a catalyzing event. Rather, it can be beneficial as soon as a family recognizes that their loved one may be struggling with alcohol or drug abuse.
Who Takes Part in an Intervention?
An intervention may include close friends and family members, coworkers, and anyone who cares about the person and has been directly impacted by their battle with addiction. Those who are still abusing drugs or alcohol, who are overtly angry or hostile with the person in question, who are currently fighting with them, or who will be unable to control their emotions during an intervention should not be included in the final meeting. Surrounding a person with people they love and respect during an intervention can help to diffuse and keep tension to a minimum.
Trained healthcare providers, mental health specialists, or even a professional interventionist can help families design, plan, and implement a positive intervention. While families can host an intervention on their own, professionals can be very helpful during a potentially stressful time.
In some cases, individuals should not attempt to host an intervention without professional help. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) publishes that trained professionals should be involved in instances when:
- Co-occurring mental health issues are present
- Individuals are prone to aggression and/or violent outbursts
- Previous history of suicidal or self-harming behaviors exists
- The person takes multiple mind-altering substances (polydrug abuse)
A professional interventionist can help families every step of the way, from an initial phone consultation to planning sessions to the intervention itself. It can be very helpful to have a party not emotionally invested offering a different perspective during the whole process, helping to keep participants on track.
The Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS) provides board certification for interventionists. AIS connects families with empathetic and highly trained professionals to guide them through the intervention process, thus minimizing potential risks in the process. Careful planning with the help of a professional interventionist can be highly beneficial to all involved.
What Does an Intervention Entail?
There are three main intervention models out there: the Johnson Model (also called the “surprise” method), the ARISE (A Relational Intervention Sequence for Engagement) Invitational Model, and the Family Systemic Model. All intervention models usually start with gathering all pertinent information on the family and individual in need, and then work to develop a well-thought out and structured plan. An intervention team is built to include all of the necessary people. Before the final intervention meeting, families should have a few treatment options already picked out and lined up, so the individual can go directly to treatment following the intervention.
The Johnson Model
The Johnson Model is perhaps the most recognizable form of an intervention. It does not include the person struggling with addiction in the planning process; rather, the person is surprised at the final meeting. With this method, families and loved ones meet without the knowledge of the individual in need for planning sessions. Loved ones may be asked to write letters detailing how addiction has personally impacted them, citing specific examples and keeping the topic focused on the addiction and its ramifications, and not dwelling on past shortcomings or faults. These letters may be read during the intervention meeting.
With the help of a professional, families and loved ones are to come up with concrete consequences for the individual if they decide not to get help or enter into a preselected treatment program after the meeting. The final meeting should be well structured and set in a safe place. During the intervention, everyone should focus on being caring and positive while trying to help their loved one move forward into recovery.
ARISE Intervention Model
With the ARISE and Family Systemic intervention methods, there are no secret meetings. The person battling addiction is involved from start to finish. These are called “invitational” models. The ARISE intervention takes families through the intervention together until the individual enters into a treatment program. Families and loved ones form a support network, and these networks work together through up to three levels until treatment is sought.
Level 1 involves a loved one calling a professional ARISE coach for a phone consultation and then all members of the “intervention network” attend the first meeting together. If a person still isn’t ready to enter into a treatment program after that point, the intervention network enters into Level 2, and several meetings may occur during this stage. Level 3 is often not necessary, but involves presenting specific consequences if the person continues to refuse treatment.
Family Systemic Intervention Model
With the Family Systemic Model, the entire family unit is involved and attends meetings together, which are an open back-and-forth type of forum for everyone to discuss the disease of addiction and its ramifications on the family as a whole and each individual personally. These are fluid conversations that are best mitigated by a professional interventionist who can help to keep the conversations on track and positive in nature.
Intervention meetings may continue several times a week for many weeks until an agreement to enter into treatment and engage in family counseling and therapy sessions is formed. The goal of this model is not only to get the individual to treatment, but also to improve the workings of the family unit as a whole.
Guidelines for an Intervention
Interventions are not without risk as individuals battling addiction may feel defensive and ganged up on, and not respond to the initial request to enter into a treatment program. In order to enhance the success potential of an intervention, there are several things to keep in mind:
- Have a detailed and comprehensive plan in place. Knowing everyone’s specific roles can keep things moving smoothly forward.
- Choose a time and place that is low stress. For example, do not schedule a meeting when the person is likely to be intoxicated.
- Use a professional interventionist. Their experience, knowledge, and training can be invaluable in a potentially difficult and emotional time.
- Become educated on the disease of addiction, treatment options, and recovery. Knowledge is power. The more families know regarding what to expect, the better equipped everyone is to deal with things that may come up.
- Cite specific instances highlighting how addiction has been personally harmful. Stick to evidence and details of these events and try not to deviate.
- Stay assertive (not aggressive). Use “I” statements about these events and how they have had a direct impact personally.
- Write it down. Having thoughts and evidence on paper can help to keep things on track.
- Stay positive and work on being supportive and caring. Individuals should first feel loved and encouraged to get help.
- Research treatment options ahead of time. It may even be helpful to reach out to the treatment facilities and reserve a space so that the person can go directly into a treatment program after the intervention meeting.
- Be prepared to stick to difficult consequences if an agreement is not reached. Set specific consequences, such as a refusal to give them money, limit access to the family, etc., and do not go back on these consequences if the individual does not get the needed help.
- Engage in treatment together. Entering into counseling and therapy together as a family can help to show support, rebuild relationships, and improve communication skills between all parties.
- Follow up. Recovery is ongoing. Don’t abandon your loved one after the intervention. Ongoing involvement is needed.
An intervention can be a useful tool in getting individuals the help they need for addiction. When an intervention is accomplished with love, respect, encouragement, and empathy through a structured, detailed, and well-implemented plan, individuals may be more likely to enter into a treatment program and get help.