How to Stage an Intervention

how to stage an intervention

Addiction is a terrible force to have to overcome. It can be painful watching a loved one fall victim to an addiction disorder. 

When staging an intervention, it is important to remember that substance abuse disorder is a mental health disorder so that when your loved one says something hurtful during an intervention, remember they are in psychological and emotional pain as well. 

They might be in the first stages of withdrawal if they have not consumed any substances recently. We at Coastal Detox can help you find the right time and way to confront your loved one about their substance abuse and the problems it causes.

Denial of Addiction: What Makes Intervention Necessary

Usually, people who fall into substance abuse experience denial at one point or another. Denial is when someone cannot bring themselves to accept the truth. People with drug and/or alcohol addiction often deny that they have a problem even though they have lost their health, jobs, friends, and more to their addiction. People often use denial to avoid thoughts and/or emotions that might make them feel uncomfortable or troubled. 

While under the influence of substances, denial can become a very strong force. Many people with substance use disorder have trouble accepting that they have a substance abuse problem even after they have lost the trust of their family, friends, jobs, and much more. Some victims of addiction might be under the impression that because some of the substances they abuse might be prescriptions or if their substance of choice is alcohol that they do not have a problem because they might think it ‘safer.’ They are not. It can help to bring facts about how their particular substance is damaging their health.

Many people choose to have a health professional who specializes in interventions plan and moderate the intervention. If you do not want to go to an intervention specialist, a therapist, doctor, or another health professional who has a background in treating addiction may be able to help you plan your intervention.

If you’re curious about how to stage an intervention, let’s take a look at a few vital things to consider before approaching the loved on in your life who suffers from substance abuse and encouraging them to get the help they need.

Get Help with the Intervention

In many cases you may want to get a professional interventionist. Having someone who is impartial can help guide you in speaking to the individual effectively. It is tough to do an intervention alone. 

Also, get help from people who are not only close to you but close to the person who has the addiction disorder. If the people you care for the most aren’t liked by the person with an addiction disorder, remember that the intervention is to encourage your loved one to seek help, not to let people angrily air grievance even though that might be tempting. It might be good to exclude people who have big tempers. It is very important that your loved one does not feel attacked.

Form a Team

When forming your intervention team, it is essential to note that if someone is currently struggling with a substance abuse disorder of their own, they should not be a part of the intervention team. That includes family members who have their own problems with addiction. 

Everyone should be close to the person who is struggling with the substance disorder problem. Someone that the person with a substance disorder cares about. It is also crucial that everyone in the recovery team is willing to follow a general pre-rehearsed plan.

Make a Plan

It is important that everyone is on the same page about the day, time, and location of the meeting. It crucial to have a premeeting. This is when everyone decides what they are going to say and shares their message with each other so that a general guide to the intervention can form. 

An Intervention Guide Might Include the Following:

  • Order in which people will be speaking 
  • If some want to talk more than once
  • If some people want to acknowledge that they might not be able to say anything at the moment so that the others can give them time to collect themselves and then come back to them
  • A list of specific problems your loved one’s addiction is causing

Gather Information

Researching facts about substances, the long-term effects of substance abuse, different recovery centers, and generally narrowing down your loved one’s treatment options so that you will be prepared after the intervention will be very helpful. It might be helpful to contact your recovery center of choice and make sure that your insurance will cover at least some treatment from that facility. It is necessary to choose a treatment facility that specializes in rehabilitating patients from the particular substance(s) that your loved one abuses. 

Having a treatment center that has the ability to care for someone with a dual diagnosis might be beneficial. It is also important to find a center that aligns with your loved one’s values as well. An atheist might not be very interested in staying with an addiction recovery program that is based on the 12-step model, which involves some religious steps. 

Co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis is when someone has another mental health disorder as well as an addiction disorder. Often the pain from an untreated or improperly treated can drive someone to abuse substances to gain relief. Some people suffer from mental health disorders from birth. If someone has shown signs of disorders like depression, it might not just be ‘how they are’. They might have gone through life depressed and the pain came to the point where they turned to substances.

Write Impact Statements

An impact statement is what you want to tell your loved one or what you feel that they need to hear about how you see the substances negatively affecting their lives. Everything that is brought up should have the goal of persuading your loved one to get help. Personal attacks like blaming the person with a substance abuse problem for things they have done will not help, and it might harm the process. Your loved one suffers from a serious mental condition. 

Offer Help

The people who go to the intervention should all be there to support the person with an addiction disorder and help them. Help might mean different things for different people. Things like helping fund their clinical recovery, watching any children they might have while they are in therapy, helping them find a job once they have completed their clinical recovery journey, or anything else that can make the person who has a substance abuse problem’s life easier is valid help. Clinical recovery is very hard. It is worth it to help your loved one get on their road to recovery, though. It is important to remember that recovery is not easy. Therapy can often be draining, and the detoxification process is very unpleasant. Your loved one needs you now more than ever.

Set Boundaries

You have to make a commitment as a group to stop enabling your loved one. You can offer your loved one clinical recovery, but you also have to set consequences if they do not do what they need to do. An example of a consequence might be not giving them money until they have completed a clinical recovery program. It is very important to follow through with your consequences or your loved one might not take you seriously next time you try to set consequences. 

Rehearse

Interventions can become very heated. That is why it is important to rehearse what you are going to say, what order people will speak in, and how you are going to deliver your impact statement thoroughly. This might mean going through the rehearsal process several times. If you have rehearsed more than once, you might be able to keep calm more easily during the intervention because you might not be scrambling for words. 

Manage Expectations

Interventions are not always effective. They are a good tool for setting ultimatums and letting your loved one know that you care and that you want them to get help, even though it might not feel like it is helpful at the moment if your loved one becomes hurtful. Many interventions do work. However, there are very few things that work 100 percent of the time. If your intervention does not work, it is not a reflection of personal failure. You can always repeat the process sometime later.

Do Not Give In

Even if the consequences make you a little uncomfortable, it is important to stick by the consequences you have given your loved one if they do not agree to clinical recovery. Many people feel uncomfortable or guilty over “punishing” their loved ones in any way. It is important to remember that these are not punishments. These are consequences, and they are intended to motivate your loved one, not hurt them.

Choose a Private Location for the Intervention

When planning the intervention, you’ll be tempted to hold it at the home of a family member or your own home, but that isn’t the ideal location for this kind of conversation. If the intervention is held in the home, not only will the person with a substance abuse disorder be tempted to hide in a bathroom or in a bedroom, there is no real leaving the intervention. People can go to their bedrooms, go to the store, or other places, but the place of intervention will always be your house, for better or for worse. 

Because although you want the person being confronted to feel as comfortable as possible, the conversation can become intense very quickly. People who are suffering from an addiction disorder are under a lot of psychological stress and under a lot of emotional pain. There is only so much you can do to make them feel comfortable, but it important to do what you can. This is a difficult experience for them as well as you.

The best idea is to use a therapist’s office or a similar safe space designed explicitly for interventions. This type of formal setting encourages those involved to be on their best behavior and to treat the discussion with respect. This is a significant event for you and your loved one. 

Caring and love should be at the core of your intervention. It is important not to make the person with a substance abuse problem feel shamed, blamed, or threatened. 

Because interventions can become heated, it is important to take precautions if your loved one has displayed in violence in the past or if you, in any way or for any reason, think that they may become violent. You might have to stage your intervention in a public but discreet place. It might also be a good idea to have someone there who can help keep the person with an addiction physically under control even if they do not speak or otherwise participate. 

Plan the Right Time for the Intervention

Another important factor in planning an intervention is the time of day it will take place. It’s vital for the person with an addiction disorder to be as close to sober as possible during the intervention. It’s never a good idea to confront someone with an addiction disorder about their addiction while they are impaired by the effects of substances. When someone is under the influence of substances, they are not in the best place, mentally, to process what is being said, understand it, and seriously think about it. For the maximum effect stage, the intervention should be planned for a time when the person is as close to sober as possible. This might mean staging the intervention early in the day. 

Be sure to select a day and time that you believe everyone involved has time to devote to the intervention. The best plan is to have a whole day to invest in the intervention, which will hopefully include getting your loved one admitted to a clinical recovery facility. It is also important to choose a date and time when the whole intervention team can be there. Because the intervention will be fully scripted by the participants missing, even one person can make the intervention confusing as everyone tries to readjust.

Interventions are Emotionally Charged

It’s important to keep in mind that interventions often get extremely emotional. Once the conversation has begun, emotions will run high, and tempers can flare. It’s crucial that every person involved plans ahead of time for exactly what they will say, word for word. It might be a good idea to have your part of the intervention written out or have notes. That way, when you get emotional, you will not forget anything you want to bring up. Make your impact statement clear and to the point.

It’s also a good idea to decide on the order that each person will speak and to not deviate from the script you’ve agreed on. Then once the intervention has begun, resist the impulse to improvise. Substances can make people unpredictable, and your loved one might react in ways that you are not prepared for, and you may have to adapt. 

Adaptation is not improvising. Adaption is when you make a necessary change instead of a change based on emotions. It is important to remain emotionally calm and support other team members. If someone goes off script, they become unpredictable, and this added unpredictability can make the process even harder on the rest of your recovery team as they try to predict what you will say next and adapt their messages as necessary.

Be Aware of Your Body Language

Your body language communicates as much as your words do. This is why it’s so important to keep your body language warm and open. Sit with your arms and legs uncrossed. Lean in for emphasis, look directly at the person you are speaking to, and resist the impulse to clench your hands. Once more, make sure that your script contains words of support and love, and the use of positive body language will help to reinforce your message. You have been through a lot, but so has the person that you are staging the intervention for. 

Keep Tempers in Check

Once the intervention is underway, and emotions become heated, the person with an addiction disorder will likely say hateful things to those involved and try to push buttons. It is important that you do not allow yourself to become hurtful as well. You have to remember that addiction is a powerful condition. Do your best not to put your loved one on the defensive, or make them feel like you are blaming them. It might also be helpful to gently steer any team members who are starting to get emotional back to their script.

Make Sure your Loved One Feels Physically Comfortable

Keep in mind that the person with an addiction disorder won’t be thinking rationally. Their emotions are usually heightened due to the chemical changes in the brain, which lead to abusive verbal outbursts. In some instances, detox can start within 8 hours of the person’s last dose of the substance. This means that your loved one might be starting to detox in front of your eyes. Detoxification from substances is highly uncomfortable, and it might make your loved even one more prone to anger, defensiveness, and other negative emotions. Once more, it is very important that your loved one is as close to sober as possible but try to make them even more physically comfortable if you can. Have water available so that they do not have an excuse to leave and get any. It might also be good to have some for yourself to give you something to do with your hands or a moment to think as you take a sip.

This is the time when it’s so important for everyone to not get emotional. The person with an addiction disorder will try to divert the conversation away from the issue at hand by placing blame on anything and anyone else. So be ready for angry words and accusations. It is important that you stay level headed and mentally put any accusations that you might feel are justified or unjustified on your mental ‘back burner’ and deal with them later. This is about the person with an addiction disorder and their substance abuse problem. Focusing on the reason you are there and sticking to the script that you have rehearsed is very important. 

The best thing to do is remain calm and not react to any volatile words. Keep in mind that it’s the disease, not the person you love, saying such nasty things to you. Say focused. Recovery is a long, hard journey, but it is all worth it when your loved one is on their road to recovery and feeling healthy. Most addiction rehabilitation centers offer family therapy and/or couples therapy to help you heal.

Have a Backup Plan Ready

Interventions can be unpredictable. People living in the grip of substance abuse can become volatile. You need to prepare for violent outbursts and the person with an addiction disorder’s refusal to participate. If you feel that your loved might refuse to participate, it is a good idea to talk to a therapist. Specifically, a doctor that specializes in addiction or another health professional who has experience working with addiction. They will understand what measures need to be taken if the person with an addiction disorder has shown any sign they might refuse to co-operate.

If you are still worried about how to conduct an intervention, you can contact professionals. There are people whose primary work is helping people with interventions. These people will know how to moderate the intervention, how to help you write your impact statement, how to organize the intervention, and bring other knowledge to the planning and the execution of the intervention. 

However, intervention specialists are very expensive. Mental health professionals, like a therapist who specializes in addiction, might be able to help you come up with a basic plan for the intervention that you are planning, and they might be able to help moderate it as well. Stay flexible and ready yourself to deal with the person with an addiction another way if the initial plan for the intervention falls apart.

Don’t Give Up

Never forget that addiction is a devastating disease. Unfortunately, not every person with an addiction disorder is willing to seek help. Watching a loved one suffer can be sad and frustrating, but don’t give up.

For some people with an addiction disorder, a single intervention might be all it takes for them to seek help. Yet it could take months or years for other people with an addiction disorder to reach the point where they are willing to attempt recovery.

Just remember that treatment works. Don’t give up on them.

The Power of Intervention

Learning how to stage an intervention isn’t complicated, but making it effective can be mentally draining. When a loved one first starts showing signs of alcoholism, this could mean it’s time to confront them about their possible addiction. The sooner an addiction is dealt with, the better for everyone. Be sure not to take any halfway answers from your loved one. They have to make a decision; there is no thinking about it for ‘a day or two.’ They might either go on a binge or go into hiding. Give them options, but make sure that they make a decision then and there.

This article is intended to help you get started if someone you love is suffering from addiction. It can be a difficult and painful process, but just remember that there is hope.

If you would like help staging an intervention or would like more information on our recovery clinic please contact us . You can also reach us by calling (877) 978-3125.

Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.