Do Interventions Work?

Edited by Beth Durling

Last updated September 2, 2020

Substance abuse disorder (SUD) and alcoholism can affect anyone at any stage of life. It can lead to negative consequences involving an individual’s job, schoolwork, finances, physical health, and mental state. But the disease impacts more than just addicts. Family members, close friends, and romantic partners often feel the brunt of the effects. When a loved one struggles with drug or alcohol abuse, families often feel helpless or unsure of how to take action.

Most people associate interventions with the long-running A&E reality series, Intervention, in which families were interviewed as they planned to confront their loved one’s problematic substance use. This type of confrontation is an organized attempt to get an addicted person to agree to seek treatment for drugs or alcohol. If you’re like other family members of addicts, you might be considering an alcohol or drug intervention. But do interventions work?

Northbound Treatment has been helping people overcome addiction for over 30 years. We know how much distress and hardship SUD can cause, and we’re committed to fostering successful long-term outcomes. A big part of what we do is help families navigate the road to treatment and eventually heal from the rippling effects of substance abuse. Here’s what families should know about the effectiveness of holding an addiction intervention.

Are Interventions Effective?

When the destruction and turmoil of a person’s addiction start to get out of hand, many wonder, Do interventions work? Ultimately, it depends. Interventions can be effective when they’re carefully planned and executed[1]. But it’s important to remember that even with meticulous preparation, there’s no guarantee.

When someone over the age of 18 abuses drugs or alcohol, they can’t be forced to go to rehab. In some instances, an addicted person might be court-ordered to get treatment. But usually, an addict must internally decide to get help. What you can do is express how their behaviors are unacceptable, how they’ve hurt you, and assist with enrolling them in treatment if they’re willing.

Also, while a formal intervention can persuade someone to seek help for their addiction, it’s only the first step. That’s why you should always prepare with treatment options. If your loved one admits they have a problem and is willing to begin rehab, you may have only a short window of opportunity before they change their mind or use again.

Interventions have the highest success rates when addicts have a strong support system of loving family members and friends. It can be beyond frustrating and upsetting when your efforts to help have failed, but your love and compassion can be a vital component of their recovery.

How Do Interventions Work?

So, what’s an intervention and how does one work, exactly? There are a few different approaches to holding an alcohol or drug addiction intervention, but most follow a general structure. In order to ensure the person with addiction shows up, they’re most often unaware until they arrive.

As you navigate how to stage a family intervention, remember that addiction is a deeply personal matter. The people who intervene typically include an addict’s closest circle of friends and family[2]. All members of the group should have a close relationship with the addict, as each person will share how the substance abuse has impacted their life. Including people outside this circle can make your loved one feel like you’re airing out their private business or make them less willing to accept help.

Most interventions take place in a controlled environment, usually at the addict’s home or a family member’s home. A controlled setting can be helpful in getting them to listen to each person’s perspective about their addiction. This is often the key to a successful intervention. When an addict realizes how their actions have hurt the people they love, they may decide to accept help.

In many cases, interventionists (intervention specialists) assist families with planning a confrontation[3]. Sometimes, it may be helpful to have a professional interventionist present at the meeting. The professional intervention specialists at Northbound Treatment can help you prepare for your confrontation and improve your chances of a positive outcome. Contact us to chat with an expert about intervening with your family member’s alcohol use or drug habits.

Planning a Successful Intervention

If you want the intervention process to work, you’ve got to plan ahead. Your best bet is to get in touch with an addiction counselor who specializes in interventions. They can assist with planning the meeting and coach you on how to respond to various possible scenarios. If a serious co-occurring mental illness is present or you think the drug or alcohol intervention could escalate to an outburst, you may want to have the specialist present during the confrontation.

To improve your chances of a favorable outcome, there are a few basic guidelines you should follow. Put the intervention on the calendar, plan what to say, be specific, avoid shaming, have treatment options ready, and follow through.

Put It on the Calendar

An intervention should be scheduled ahead of time, just like any other important meeting. Consider the date and time, and try to schedule it when your loved one is free for at least a few hours. If they have to go to school or work or have anywhere else to be, they might become distracted or frustrated.

Plan What to Say 

As we mentioned, each person at the intervention will have a chance to speak. Let everyone know they should have some words prepared before the meeting. While you don’t want to seem too rehearsed, as it can come off as insincere, it can be helpful to jot down a few ideas beforehand. Try to keep it brief—a few minutes per person should suffice—because long rants can make people lose focus and be less effective.

Be Specific

Aside from keeping your words somewhat brief, your message should be clear. When addressing how your loved one’s substance abuse has impacted you and presenting any ultimatums, be very specific. For instance, saying, “I can’t do this anymore” is probably too vague. Instead, try something like, “If you don’t get help, you can’t live here.”

Avoid Shaming

Interventions can backfire if they aren’t properly executed, and one of the biggest mistakes families make is shaming an addicted individual for their substance abuse. While it’s true that they’ve acted selfishly and likely hurt others, it’s essential to acknowledge that this person’s addiction is a disease. Try not to raise your voice, guilt trip them, or make them feel ashamed for their condition. The point of an intervention is not to make a person feel bad but to get them to agree to treatment.

Have Treatment Options Ready

Before holding an intervention, be sure to have treatment options sorted out. Call rehab centers to see if they have space for your family member to start treatment immediately after the meeting. Additionally, verifying insurance coverage and going over payment options can help smooth out the process.

Northbound Treatment is accepting new clients every day at our drug and alcohol rehab centers in Orange County. Our facilities are modern, comfortable, and welcoming. We offer a broad range of flexible treatment options and programs for individuals from all walks of life. Plus, Northbound is an in-network healthcare provider for most insurance plans in Southern California, and we can set up a payment plan for any out-of-pocket costs.

Follow Through

One of the most important factors of an intervention is following through on your ultimatum. It can be heartbreaking to see your loved one go through addiction, and it’s easy to feel guilty about cutting them off financially or otherwise. But once an addict catches on to your empty threats, they’ll think they can continue to use without facing the consequences.

Addiction Treatment in Orange County

Interventions are often emotionally draining—especially when your past efforts have been in vain—and planning one can be nerve-wracking. But when all else fails, it can be the thing that finally convinces an addict to go to rehab. The dedicated team at Northbound Treatment is here to guide you through the process of intervening and your loved one through addiction recovery.

Our drug and alcohol rehab programs in Orange County include a full continuum of care. This means patients can begin with a clinically supervised detox treatment program, transfer to inpatient rehab, followed by outpatient treatment, then continue their journey with our aftercare services. Northbound’s rehabilitation center is also proud to offer dual diagnosis care plans, which treat co-occurring mental health conditions along with substance abuse.
Please call us today at (888) 978-8649 to start the process of planning a professional intervention.

External sources:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/intervention/art-20047451
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol-addiction-intervention
  3. https://www.verywellmind.com/would-an-intervention-help-my-addicted-loved-one-4147406

Article Reviewed by Beth Durling

Beth DurlingBeth Durling BA, CADCII, ICADC is the Clinical Director of Northbound Treatment Services. She is also the proud owner of The Durling Group, Inc., a national consulting firm, where she worked closely with large scale corporations, healthcare companies, and universities, helping to enhance outcomes.

Beth founded and resided as CEO for The Center for Life Change, a non-profit drug and alcohol treatment center in Riverside County where she gained national recognition for her outcomes as a leader in the field of addiction surrounding patient care, specializing in retention strategies for both staff and patients.

She also founded The Heart Culture Academy, creating a collaborative national community of trained influencers, helping people change their relationships, their work environments and personal lives through her published Model, Heart Culture.

Beth believes individual lives can be enhanced through learned consciousness, utilizing her specialized techniques that offer long-lasting, connection-based relationships. She has toured the country speaking and distributing this message.

Beth has been writing and speaking to assist individuals and organizations through transformative processes for the last 25 years. She is the mother to two adult children, Ridge and Rachel and resides in San Clemente, California.

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