Inside the Intervention Process

By Alison Lyke

It can be hard to approach an addict about their problem. They can get defensive, refuse to talk about it, or even completely deny their addiction. Behavioral scientists have created the intervention process as way for loved ones to bind together to confront an addict. In some extreme cases, an intervention is more for the family than for the addict. The family needs to feel that they have done everything that they can for the addict.

The first several intervention meetings are between concerned family, friends, and the psychologist who will be overseeing the intervention. The psychologist will make a profile of the addict and the family. She will also council the family on the reasons for some of the addict’s behaviors. She will give the family tips on dealing with the addict, and recommend treatment paths. The psychologist will ask them to write a letter to the addict. On the day of the intervention, everyone will read their letter aloud, to the addict.

The intervention letters cover four ordered points. The first step is to tell the addict how much the family cares for them and why they are loved. The letters go on to talk about how substance abuse has changed the addict. Then the family is asked to share their feelings on the behavior of the addict. As a final point, the letter demands that the addict commit to rehabilitation. Family members must give the addict an ultimatum, a ‘go to rehab or else…”. The ultimatum is often the hardest part for the addicts’ families, who are accustomed to offering unconditional support.

The day of the intervention will be scary for both the addict and the family. Intervention plans have to be unknown to the addict, if they knew they simply wouldn’t come. For the addict, the intervention is a horrible surprise party, one that nobody wants thrown for them. There is no way to predict how an addict will react to their intervention. If they are a flight risk the psychologist may place herself between the addict and the exit. The addict is still free to leave, and they might. They may continue to deny their problems. Many break down and decide to go to rehabilitation.

The psychologist will have an intake nurse in a room near where the intervention is held. The nurse will be ready if the addict agrees to take a drug test and/or go into treatment. Patients with severe problems will be taken directly from the intervention to an inpatient center. Other addicts may be referred to outpatient services.

The psychologist who oversees the intervention will have at least two more meetings with the family and (hopefully) the addict. These meeting will follow up, and ensure that family members are holding to their ultimatums.

Addiction can be devastating to both the addict and their friends and family. If you have a friend or family member who is an addict, they might be able to benefit from an intervention. You should contact an intervention specialist in your area. Most of the time, intervention meetings can go on the insurance of any participating family member. Intervention meetings are billed as psychological counseling. There are also ways to receive intervention and addiction services for free. You should call your local office of mental health, addiction, or social services. They should be able to steer you in the right direction.