The Dos and Don’ts of Staging an Intervention

staging an intervention

Watching a loved one go through addiction is never easy, but it’s hard to know how to help, too.

A lot of times there is history in your relationship that can make it difficult to bring it up without being emotional.

If you want to know what you can do for a loved one who is an addict, it may be staging an intervention. Here are some dos and don’ts for holding an intervention to get the best outcome possible.

Staging An Intervention

Here are the best tips and strategies for confronting a friend or relative who needs help. Following these dos and don’ts will help you be kind and get them the help they need.

What To Do

Even though you clearly know they have a problem, sometimes an addict can’t make the connection between their dependence and the problems in their life. This is where an intervention can help.

Understanding what addiction is and how to help is key. Do some research on your own and learn more about why the addicted person may be in denial or not willing to look for treatment.

You should also find out about rehabilitation centers and detox programs that would be a good fit for your loved one. If possible, have the brochures and information available at the meeting.

This would be a good time to research how the recovery process works, too. You want to be as informed as possible, so that your surprise isn’t a factor in the intervention. If you are prepared, you can help deal with your loved one’s reaction, instead of managing both theirs and your own.

Gather your team together. There are several qualifications for being part of the team. People who don’t meet these requirements will not be helpful to your loved one and should not be included.

  • People who are facing their own substance abuse problems
  • People who are not close family, friends, or coworkers
  • Children or elderly people who may not be able to deal with intensity or mature subjects
  • Anyone who will not commit to attending rehearsals

If you feel you are not equipped to stage the intervention on your own, you can get help. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) has a list of affiliates that have counselors and specialists ready to assist. They can join your team and help you prepare for the meeting.

The next step is to schedule a meeting. You should find a place that is private, and also a bit formal. Sometimes a meeting like this does not go well at home.

Home is too comfortable, and affords places for your loved one to retreat and refuse to continue the meeting. It also may hold memories of other discussions about the same topic.

Instead, a neutral space is a better choice for an intervention. A church, or a neighborhood community center, would be a great place for a discussion like this. If you have reached out to a therapist or intervention specialist, you can also ask if they have an office or other meeting place that would work.

Schedule a specific day and time that works for everyone involved. The loved one should be available and have no obligations immediately following the intervention, and the meeting space should be available for a significant period of time as well. Cutting a meeting short because of a schedule conflict is not a good way to get the most out of your time.

Rehearse what you will say, along with the rest of the team. Rehearsals are important for the team members, because while they are with the loved one they may feel emotional. Having rehearsed what they will say ahead of time helps them stay calm and on track.

Remember to rehearse what you will do if things don’t go according to plan. How will the team respond if your loved one yells, or leaves the room? Having a plan B can increase your likelihood of success.

What Not To Do

One thing to figure out during rehearsal is in what order the participants will speak. Don’t underestimate how strategic the order of speakers can be. It’s important to remember that the goal is to convince the loved one that they need the help of a rehab center.

Near the end of the meeting, when that person is vulnerable, would be a great time for the person closest to the loved one to speak (someone like a spouse may give the most moving words, when the loved one is most likely to agree to try and get help).

Another idea is to have a child go first, or whoever the loved one is most likely to listen to. This will help start on the right foot and get them to at least stay and listen.

Don’t adlib too much. Holding rehearsals keeps everyone accountable for sticking to what they decided to say. Ask everyone to write out a personal statement about the impact the addicted person’s choices have made, and make sure they know to stick to their script.

Don’t look confrontational or grumpy. Try to match your body language to the loving, kind words of the script. You want to be warm and welcoming to your loved one, instead of making them defensive right away.

Some tips for using body language to communicate openness are as follows:

  • Maintain eye contact
  • Don’t cross your arms
  • Avoid holding anything or putting anything in between you and your loved one (can act as a barrier)

You can also try these tips for using positive body language. Assuming an approachable position is an easy way to contribute to a great outcome for your intervention.

Don’t Give Up

Sometimes, even after staging an intervention, the team of loved ones can be disappointed. Not everyone agrees to get help after one conversation. Don’t give up on your loved one or lose patience.

Keep trying to get through to them, and remember that several conversations can be necessary before they understand the impact their addiction is having.

It’s so hard to approach someone close to you who may be struggling with addiction, but if you have noticed the warning signs, their life might be at stake. Don’t give up.

For more information about staging an intervention or to get help, click here.

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