Witnessing a loved one’s life falling apart due to substance use is a tragedy. Standing by and doing nothing, waiting for the person to “hit bottom,” is a serious gamble. On the other hand, no amount of begging, pleading, or insisting has yet caused a real change in substance use behaviors. At this point, intervention can be a critical tool.
An intervention involves an encounter between the loved one and his or her close family members and friends. The purpose for family and friends who conduct an intervention is to communicate to the loved one how their substance use disorder personally affects them. The goal is to articulate these feelings in a constructive way that resonates with them and motivates them to get help.
4 Tips to Prepare for a Successful Intervention
If you are considering holding an intervention for a loved one, it’s important to properly lay the groundwork. Follow these tips when planning an intervention:
- Hire a professional. Conducting a successful intervention is best achieved through the guidance of a professional. These individuals are trained to manage not only the meeting but also the powerful emotions that are often part of the process.
- Make a plan. Prior to holding the intervention itself, the family will meet with the interventionist to prepare a plan. The interventionist will also prepare the group for possible outcomes and for setting realistic expectations.
- Write the letters. The participants will be asked to write letters to their loved one that describe the impact their substance use has had on their lives.
- Practice beforehand. Role-playing is useful as a rehearsal prior to the intervention. This helps to anticipate possible issues that could happen and to get prepared for how to respond should they occur.
What to Expect At an Intervention
A typical intervention will look something like this:
- A member of the group will invite the loved one to meet up at a chosen location. When he or she arrives they will be surprised to see their family members and close friends assembled there. At this point, the interventionist will introduce themselves.
- The family members take turns reading their letters aloud.
- The interventionist will manage emotional responses and continue to move the meeting forward.
- The interventionist then presents the loved one with a potential treatment plan. Family members will clearly define boundaries, should the loved one not be ready for treatment. The interventionist then asks if they are ready to accept help. This generally results in one of two responses:
- The loved one accepts the offer for treatment. In this event, the group will help the person make preparations for entering a treatment program. They will also offer their continued support both during and after treatment.
- The individual declines the offer to get treatment. In this event, the family members must adhere to the boundaries that were defined earlier. Even though it is disappointing, it is important to understand that their loved one may not yet be ready for treatment. However, the seeds have been planted.
Having an intervention is difficult. The goal is to handle the meeting in such a way that the loved one doesn’t retreat or become defensive because they feel they are being attacked, but that hopefully persuades them to get the help they need.
How to Set Boundaries in Recovery
Should the loved one decline the offer of treatment, it may create challenging transitions ahead. Someone who is accustomed to being enabled will bristle at the idea of the new boundaries, no matter how reasonable they are. Consider these tips for setting boundaries:
- Identify the necessary boundaries. These can pertain to safety issues, financial issues, being exposed to substance use, and other situations that you identify as threatening your own peace.
- Be clear about your boundaries. Explain the boundaries and the reasons for them. Remain calm and under control while articulating the new boundaries.
- Write the boundaries down. It is difficult to enforce new boundaries. Writing them down can help keep you on track.
- Enforce the boundaries. Setting new boundaries is not useful if the family is not willing to follow through and enforce them. Be willing to have those difficult conversations with the loved one, and stick to your boundaries.
The importance of boundaries is paramount. Setting boundaries is a win-win for both the family members and the loved one. The new boundaries will discourage codependency and enabling behaviors, and may in time motivate the loved one to get treatment for their substance use disorder.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs, and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.