- Have a meeting to make thorough plans and learn everyone’s concerns, but do not include the troubled individual at this meeting.
- Plan for a direct intervention at the meeting with family members, friends, and anyone else who is concerned about the individual, and who can attest to the way their actions have negatively affected their own lives and those of others. It is best to involve 3-6 people, and no children.
- Communicate openly with each other, and take notes of what the loved one is doing that is harmful to himself and others. Gather the facts about the person you are dealing with. Make confidentiality a clear rule for this meeting, for all participants in the meeting, and for the loved one’s mutual protection.
- Plan what each person will say, and the sequence of events for the intervention. Ensure there is no contradiction or repetition. Repeating the same negative experiences and statements will only cause more stress and resistance.
- Predict ways in which you think the loved one may respond, and anticipate ways you can address any anticipated denials.
- Meet with a professional, such as a therapist or counselor, prior to the intervention. Guidance can be helpful when preparing for the intervention. The last thing you want to do is make the loved one feel victimized, abused or belittled.
- Rehearse the intervention with the professional to get an objective opinion on the expected responses from your loved one, and on how to stay calm and steadfast both during, and after, the intervention, and how to react to his responses.
- Create and discuss a list of actions and behavioral patterns by the loved one that will no longer be tolerated. Next to each activity, write what your action will be if he continues these behaviors.
- Present a list of probable and already experienced losses. Present to the loved one every possible loss that the family can recount. This can include jobs, possessions, or relationships.
- Highlight Consequences and Ultimatums. Prepare a list of consequences to actions, and explain any required ultimatums to the loved one. Most importantly is the willingness to follow through on consequences you have agreed to implement, as a family, to aid the loved one. Do not state consequences that you are not willing to enforce!
- Follow-through with the consequences or the plans will turn into empty threats. Refusing to loan money can be a simple consequence, or as painful as threatening to leave a spouse, and take the children from the home. Make appropriate preparations, just in case. For example, if his wife tells him that she will be leaving him unless he agrees to treatment, have clothes packed and a place to stay.
- Make arrangements for treatment. Make plans and organize any necessary treatments that should immediately follow the intervention. The professional you meet with should be able to recommend appropriate treatment, given the nature and severity of the problem at hand. Choose the treatment facility and make prior arrangements, considering all possible factors, including location, quality of treatment, good fit for the loved one and financial implications of the treatment.
- Arrange for seating, so that each person has a place to sit. This should all be in place before you begin, because you don’t want people moving around once the intervention begins.
- Confront the individual with everyone present in a private room. Ensure the safety and security of the environment beforehand with no disruptions, etc. Do all you can to begin with your loved one in a calm state, and if the issue is drug addiction or alcoholism, he should be sober. Gently explain to him that you are all there because you are concerned for his well-being.
- Begin by defining the problem. Asking him to acknowledge that there is a problem. If he denies the issue, have everyone in the room provide evidence by explaining what they’ve seen, and how they’ve been affected by the problem. Avoid a “blaming” tone so that you are more likely to be heard.
- Choose a “spokesperson” to facilitate the intervention, so that the loved one does not feel as though he is being overwhelmed, bullied or ganged up on, with everyone making accusations at the same time.
- Avoid labeling him as an “alcoholic” or an “addict” or anything else that may negatively identify him with his problem, and incite unnecessary defensiveness and denials.
- Only use statements that start with “I” when you are describing the effects of the issue. Statements beginning with “you, you’re and your” may seem intimidating and feel like accusations.
- Do not say, for example: “Your drinking is making my life stressful and difficult!” That is an accusatory statement that he will feel he must defend himself against.
- Do say, for example, “I’ve been stressed and disturbed by your drinking.” It helps avoid an accusatory tone and shifts the focus to the problem instead of the loved one.
- Propose immediate treatment. A promise from the person to stop the problem activity or to seek treatment later is NOT enough. Explain what kind of treatment you have already organized.
- Give him or her the ultimatums that you have outlined in previous steps. Explain these one at a time. Realize that the loved one may not agree that he needs the type of assistance that will be proposed during the intervention.
- Be prepared for this to be difficult to observe, as it may cause him to burst into tears or go into a rage. He might have what seems like a tantrum. Even if he is sobbing with all his might, be steadfast and do not weaken. You are trying to save him from himself.
- He will likely deny anything you say, and will resent your saying it. It will hurt you to see and hear his denials and resentment. Ignore these remarks. Keep on your path of assistance to the one you are concerned about, because in order to reach him, you have to knock down the shell that he has built around himself.
- Remember, you are helping him to heal. Sometimes, we need to endure the pain of a loved one in order to provide him with the help that he needs in order to get well.
- That’s why they call it tough love, because it’s not an easy way to help someone. It is indeed tough ~ but you are saving his life.
- Emphasize this is for his good. Tell him you love him, show him how he is hurting himself, and his chances for a good life. Show him love, but be strong. Make sure he knows that you want him to stop what he is doing, because you love and care for him, and you see that he is destroying his life.
- Listen to what your loved one has to say, but do NOT agree with him. Keep explaining your observations in detail. Do not give in. Remain firm in your thoughts and your feelings … never waver. Give each person present a chance to speak his own mind, as each one looks directly at the loved one and does not falter.
- Most loved ones generally choose to go to a treatment facility rather than accept the consequences. Do not allow it to be postponed or put on the back burner!
- Intervention is a well-known method used by many outstanding citizens. The children of Betty Ford used intervention to get her into a rehab center due to her alcoholism. She eventually started the Betty Ford Center.
- Do not fear using it with children who are headed for trouble, and will not listen. The consequences must fit the situation, of course.
- Interventions may hurt the whole family, and it may seem as if you are all ganging up on the loved one, and in a way you are – but it will hurt him less than if he ends up in serious trouble – or worse – dead.
- Do not do an intervention with someone who has a heart problem, or has an anxiety problem. It might be too much stress for them to take. Consult a professional.
- Get legal advice before proceeding, or you may face civil or even criminal, liability for kidnapping or false imprisonment.
- Make sure that there is an actual serious problem, and that the behavior of the loved one in question is causing more harm to others than the intervention would cause to them.
- Denial doesn’t always mean a lie. Some users might actually be telling the truth when they say that their habits are under control. Be honest with yourself about whether they are really causing you harm. Ask yourself if you could be trying to control them!
- Be very careful of the mental state of the person you are performing an intervention on. An intervention should only be performed on someone with a normal state of mind, both for the target individual’s safety, and that of the people performing the intervention.
Finding an Interventionist
At Casa Palmera, we understand the challenges family and friends face as they attempt to save a loved one caught in the vicious cycle of a debilitating addiction to alcohol, and/or other drugs, or associated trauma. The frustration and loneliness associated with continued heart-felt and failed attempts can be devastating, especially over time. Making the right choices is very important, but it can also be extremely difficult and overwhelming.
Help Is Available
To assist in the healing and recovery process, we refer the family and friends of those in crisis to a list of qualified interventionists. Our nationwide directories of certified Intervention Specialists are experienced, compassionate mediators who will guide you and your loved ones through the entire process. Confidential intervention services can be arranged nationally and internationally. Please call for a free consultation from our compassionate intake counselors who will assess your needs, and refer you to the appropriate list of qualified, responsible Intervention Specialists.
How to Perform an Intervention