What Is the Best Kind of Intervention?

What Is the Best Kind of Intervention?Addiction causes people to resist treatment. To overcome this resistance, several approaches have been developed to help friends and families intervene before the addicts they love reach a legal or medical crisis point. Finding the best way to intervene depends on the person and the situation.

Classic or Direct Intervention

For many people, the term “addiction intervention” brings to mind a secret gathering of the addict’s friends and family. Like the guest of honor at a surprise birthday party, the addict suddenly encounters a gathering that he or she did not know was taking place. Those assembled express their love and concern for the addict. They each recount, often through the use of intervention letters, the toll that the addiction has taken upon them and the addict. A treatment program is already prepared to accept the addict so that detoxification and rehabilitation can begin immediately. At the end of the meeting, the addict chooses whether or not to accept treatment. If treatment is rejected, friends and family each have promised consequences for the addict, which are designed to make it more difficult to sustain the addiction. Typical consequences might be the withholding of financial help or eviction from the family home.

This classic form of addiction intervention is familiar in part because it has been routinely documented and depicted on television and in other popular media. After careful planning, the family uses all the leverage they have to convince and coerce the addict. Because the intervention is unexpected, the addict does not have any chance to avoid the argument or reinforce denial of the problem.

Although this approach can be successful, it is not without risk. If the addict is the dominant member of the household, he or she may be able to respond to the consequences with countermeasures of his or her own.

Invitational Intervention

A less dramatic kind of intervention does not use surprise or elaborate staging. Instead, the addict is invited to take part in a meeting with a professional counselor, along with concerned friends and family, to discuss the situation. Friends and family help the counselor to learn about the situation before the meeting. The counselor may ask the addict questions about the addiction and about the addict’s hopes and plans for the future. If the addict is able to see the conflict between the direction he or she wants to go in life and the direction the addiction is taking him or her, the addict may become ready for the change that treatment promises.

If an addict has already shown some signs of looking for a way out, the planning, support, and invitation from loved ones may be all that is necessary. An invitational intervention brings much less risk of backlash from the addict.

Community Systemic Intervention

Some addicts are simply too resistant to accept an invitation and too firmly in control to be coerced. Even if the addict cannot be reached directly, counselors can still work closely with the people closest to the addict. They are trained to act in ways that both protect their interests but also make it more difficult, in subtle ways, for the addict to continue using. This kind of intervention is sometimes called a community approach. Over time, the addict may become more receptive to treatment and change.

Getting Started

If you are exploring options for holding an intervention to address an addiction of someone you care about, call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline to learn more about the options available. We are here to help.