Deciding On An Intervention

One of the hallmarks of alcohol use disorder (AUD) is that individuals often do not recognize that they have a problem with alcohol. This is usually referred to as denial.

In most cases, multiple attempts at helping the individual seek help are made. However, when these attempts are unsuccessful, it often leaves loved ones in a difficult position. In these situations, many turn to professional guidance for assisting in the process of getting their loved one into treatment; this is called an intervention.

A commonly asked question is, “At what point should we have an intervention?” This is a difficult question to answer as each person is unique, however, the answer is usually as soon as possible.

The Intervention Process

The Johnson Model of intervention is one of the most utilized and researched models. It has been proven to be effective in assisting those struggling with addiction to enter treatment. The Johnson model primarily involves utilizing an identified behavioral health professional and people close within the individual to help assist in the intervention.

This model breaks down the intervention process into seven core elements.

1. Create A Team

One of the most important elements of staging an intervention is deciding who will be the best to help the individual understand how their behaviors have harmed others. This may require creating a list of people who are close to the individual, such as family members, romantic partners, business partners, and close friends. It’s important to remember that an intervention is for the individual’s benefit and no one else’s; so no separate agendas should be pursued during the intervention process.

When creating an intervention team, it’s also the time time to identify a qualified professional who can help lead the intervention and provide clinical support for the team. It is best to pick a professional who has experience performing interventions and knowledge of the abused substance. It is also helpful if they have connections to treatment programs to make the transition process smoother.

More support at the start of the process will have more impact for everyone involved, including the individual who is the center of the intervention.

2. Make A Plan

Good planning is the backbone of any successful intervention. Making a plan includes determining the best date, time, and location for having the intervention and ensuring the individual is not intoxicated.

It also includes who will be in attendance as well as what exactly will be said by everyone. This process allows the professionals to assist in guiding appropriate language, wording, and body language for everyone in a way that promotes the feeling of concern versus judgment.

During the planning stage, it can be helpful to review potential excuses or answers the individual receiving the intervention may make and develop thought-out solutions to minimize the chance of the intervention not being successful. It is also helpful to have a few different treatment options identified and immediately available.

3. Set The Focus

The focus of the intervention is key to ensuring the individual understands that the primary concerns being expressed are based on love and acceptance versus anger or judgment.

If individual agendas or feelings of resentment arise, the intervention will often result in failure. Everyone invited to attend the intervention must have the intention to promote a safe space to explore emotions and motivate the individual to seek treatment.

4. Set The Limit To Addiction Only

It can be tempting to drag up old history and feelings during an intervention, as emotions are heavily connected to memories we hold. However, the purpose of an intervention is to strictly discuss issues surrounding the substance use. That means that everything mentioned is directly related to substance use and addiction-related behaviors.

The intervention professional will be able to assist in connecting the dots of behaviors to substance use and will encourage members of the family to share their experiences with the substance use behaviors that result in harm to them.

5. Provide Proof

To reduce the risk of excuse-making, external blaming, or minimization, everyone who attends the intervention is encouraged to write a letter detailing their thoughts and emotions or recalling a specific hurtful event caused by the individual’s AUD.

The individual will be encouraged by the professional to witness how these events have caused harm in their loved one’s lives. The more evidence of the harmful behaviors and experiences, the more opportunity for the individual to recall the events themselves. This format also helps each member of the intervention use language that is consistent with wanting to help.

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6. Set A Goal

After everyone has an opportunity to share their letters and feelings, the entire group will provide the goal of the intervention. The goal is usually to have the individual enter a form of treatment that has been previously decided at the planning stage. The level of treatment should depend on the individual’s needs and can better be assessed by the professional throughout the intervention process.

How the goal is presented can play a significant role in how it’s perceived. Presenting treatment as an option is usually more effective than presenting it as a punishment that must be completed.

It’s important to remember that this process does not always go smoothly, and there is potential for the individual to say no to treatment. Not all interventions work, and sometimes people are simply not ready to enter treatment. This is often the point that requires each member to identify their boundaries or limits they need to impose to feel safe.

Regardless of the boundaries that are set, the most important part is to follow through. Setting boundaries that are not followed through does not help encourage safe behavior and, unfortunately, may teach the individual that there is no “real risk” for their behaviors.

Boundaries may feel like ultimatums, and in some sense, they will feel that way to the individual. The difference is that boundaries are designed to keep people safe from harm and allow the individual a choice in this process as opposed to ultimatums which are designed to force others to make certain actions.

The intention of these boundaries is quite important and should be discussed and developed during the planning stage. It can be helpful to consult with the professional during this process as well to ensure the way it is stated comes from a place of concern versus anger.

7. Provide Treatment Options

This is the time to share that there are different treatment options available, and that everyone in the room would like the individual to pick the option they feel would be best.

Traditionally, having at least three options is considered optimal for selection, though making sure to not include too many options is also important to not overwhelm the individual. If they decide on a program, it is best to have them go to treatment as soon as possible to prevent a change of heart or return to alcohol use before entering treatment.

Many interventionists will personally bring the individual to treatment regardless of location. This might mean purchasing flights or planning travel in advance for the individual and the professional. It can be helpful, if possible, to have a bag already packed for the individual so the process can start immediately.

Finding Help With An Intervention

It can feel overwhelming to start the process of an intervention, especially when there is concern about how the individual may react. These feelings are valid and clearly reflect love for the person and concern for their wellbeing. It is also that sense of love that acknowledges that doing nothing will often lead to an even greater risk of danger.

For more information regarding available treatment options, contact a treatment provider today.