Helping a Loved One Get Help: How to Plan an Intervention

Reviewed Jul 27, 2018

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Summary

  • An intervention is a strategy to engage a person about a problem behavior and motivate the person to get help.
  • It works best when tone is loving and non-confrontational.
  • Interventions require careful planning.

If a loved one needs help for a harmful behavior but refuses it, or denies a problem even exists, you can take action by planning an intervention.

At an intervention, family members, friends, and concerned others join forces to engage a person about a problem behavior in a loving and non-confrontational way and invite the person to get help. It can reach people who refuse or are resistant to help for issues such as:

  • Substance and alcohol use disorders 
  • Addictive or compulsive behaviors, such as with gambling, sex, internet use, gaming, shopping
  • Eating disorders

Planning is vital

A well-carried out intervention involves thoughtful planning and is best done before a crisis happens. These steps can help guide you:

  • Mobilize a planning team. Ask a few close friends or family members to help you. Talk about the problem and set a goal. An example goal would be for your loved one to agree to enter a treatment program.
  • Research help choices and make all needed arrangements before the intervention. Otherwise your loved one might change his mind before the arrangements are set. Think of every detail, from making reservations to deciding who will drive your loved one from the intervention to a care center.
  • Set a time and place. Timing is especially important if your loved one has a drug problem. Pick a time when the person is most likely to be sober and clearheaded, such as after work or first thing in the morning. Choose a comfortable and private location where your loved one would readily go, such as a friend or family member’s home. You also need to decide the approach you will take to get the person to the meeting. Some research suggests that asking a loved one to an intervention works as well if not better than a surprise intervention.
  • Decide whom to invite. Participants should be important to or influential to your loved one and might include close friends and family members, a pastor or rabbi, coach, teacher, roommate, or employer.
  • Plan what to say. Many people find that writing a letter can help them organize their thoughts and make sure the message is delivered in a loving, caring, and respectful way. The letter should express your love and concern and cite specific cases of how the behavior has caused problems for you and for your loved one. The letter should end with a request that your loved one get help and an expressed willingness to be involved. Try to anticipate how the person will react and be ready to respond to excuses, objections or attempts to bargain.
  • Set consequences. Each participant should be ready to name a consequence should your loved one say no to the group’s terms.  Withholding financial help, restricting contact with children, and ending a romantic relationship are some potential consequences.
  • Organize the meeting and rehearse. Choose someone to act as a spokesperson for the group and facilitate the meeting. Make sure participants know the goal, how to plan, and how much time they will have to speak. Decide seating and the order of speakers. Rehearsing the intervention is a good idea. This gives all participants a chance to hear all the letters and to make sure that the collective message is caring and consistent.

After the intervention

If the intervention is successful, you and others close to your loved one should play an active role in healing. This could involve making changes at home or work or finding a new set of friends to lower the chances of relapse. Family or one-on-one counseling can help you and others work through tough emotions and dysfunctional patterns that get in the way of family healing.

If the goals of the intervention are not met, the consequences must go into effect right away. In time, your loved one might make the choice to get help. But that is unlikely if you or others weaken and fail to stick to your plans for the long term. Look for ways to support and hold each other accountable, which can help keep up the group’s unity over time.

Involving a professional

Consult an interventionist, addiction specialist, or other skilled counselor, who can help plan and facilitate the intervention. Moreover, a professional can help family members learn better ways to communicate and look at the problem in the context of the family system. Friends and family may contribute to the problem and need to make changes themselves.

Final thoughts

Intervention involves risk. You risk ending a relationship with somebody you care deeply about in the hope that they will accept your offer of help. But doing nothing is also a risk. A successful intervention offers the chance for personal triumph over a harmful behavior and the chance to restore meaningful relationships.

Resources

The Partnership at Drug-Free.org
855-378-4373
wwwdrugfree.org

Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator
800-662-4357
800-487-4889 (TDD)
www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov

Association of Intervention Specialists
717-392-8488
www.associationofinterventionspecialists.org

Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change by Jeffrey Foote, Carrie Wilkens, Nicole Kosanke and Stephanie Higgs. Scribner, 2014.

It Takes A Family: A Cooperative Approach to Lasting Sobriety by Debra Jay. Hazelden, 2014. 

By Christine Martin
Source: Phil Scherer, CAADC, PCGC, MISA II, BRI II; Intervention: A Free Resource for Addicts, Friends, and Family. Recovery Connection. http://www.recoveryconnection.org/InterventionGuide.pdf; Intervention eBook. Partnership for a Drug-Free America. http://www.drugfree.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Intervention_Guide.pdf; Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/intervention/MH00127; Love First: A Family’s Guide to Intervention, 2nd edition, by Jeff Jay and Debra Jay. Hazelden, 2008; Garret, J, Landau-Stanton, J, Stanton, M.D., Stellato-Kabat, J, Stellato-Kabat D. “ARISE: a method for engaging reluctant alcohol- and drug-dependent individuals in treatment.” J Subst Abuse Treat.1997;14(3):235-248.

Summary

  • An intervention is a strategy to engage a person about a problem behavior and motivate the person to get help.
  • It works best when tone is loving and non-confrontational.
  • Interventions require careful planning.

If a loved one needs help for a harmful behavior but refuses it, or denies a problem even exists, you can take action by planning an intervention.

At an intervention, family members, friends, and concerned others join forces to engage a person about a problem behavior in a loving and non-confrontational way and invite the person to get help. It can reach people who refuse or are resistant to help for issues such as:

  • Substance and alcohol use disorders 
  • Addictive or compulsive behaviors, such as with gambling, sex, internet use, gaming, shopping
  • Eating disorders

Planning is vital

A well-carried out intervention involves thoughtful planning and is best done before a crisis happens. These steps can help guide you:

  • Mobilize a planning team. Ask a few close friends or family members to help you. Talk about the problem and set a goal. An example goal would be for your loved one to agree to enter a treatment program.
  • Research help choices and make all needed arrangements before the intervention. Otherwise your loved one might change his mind before the arrangements are set. Think of every detail, from making reservations to deciding who will drive your loved one from the intervention to a care center.
  • Set a time and place. Timing is especially important if your loved one has a drug problem. Pick a time when the person is most likely to be sober and clearheaded, such as after work or first thing in the morning. Choose a comfortable and private location where your loved one would readily go, such as a friend or family member’s home. You also need to decide the approach you will take to get the person to the meeting. Some research suggests that asking a loved one to an intervention works as well if not better than a surprise intervention.
  • Decide whom to invite. Participants should be important to or influential to your loved one and might include close friends and family members, a pastor or rabbi, coach, teacher, roommate, or employer.
  • Plan what to say. Many people find that writing a letter can help them organize their thoughts and make sure the message is delivered in a loving, caring, and respectful way. The letter should express your love and concern and cite specific cases of how the behavior has caused problems for you and for your loved one. The letter should end with a request that your loved one get help and an expressed willingness to be involved. Try to anticipate how the person will react and be ready to respond to excuses, objections or attempts to bargain.
  • Set consequences. Each participant should be ready to name a consequence should your loved one say no to the group’s terms.  Withholding financial help, restricting contact with children, and ending a romantic relationship are some potential consequences.
  • Organize the meeting and rehearse. Choose someone to act as a spokesperson for the group and facilitate the meeting. Make sure participants know the goal, how to plan, and how much time they will have to speak. Decide seating and the order of speakers. Rehearsing the intervention is a good idea. This gives all participants a chance to hear all the letters and to make sure that the collective message is caring and consistent.

After the intervention

If the intervention is successful, you and others close to your loved one should play an active role in healing. This could involve making changes at home or work or finding a new set of friends to lower the chances of relapse. Family or one-on-one counseling can help you and others work through tough emotions and dysfunctional patterns that get in the way of family healing.

If the goals of the intervention are not met, the consequences must go into effect right away. In time, your loved one might make the choice to get help. But that is unlikely if you or others weaken and fail to stick to your plans for the long term. Look for ways to support and hold each other accountable, which can help keep up the group’s unity over time.

Involving a professional

Consult an interventionist, addiction specialist, or other skilled counselor, who can help plan and facilitate the intervention. Moreover, a professional can help family members learn better ways to communicate and look at the problem in the context of the family system. Friends and family may contribute to the problem and need to make changes themselves.

Final thoughts

Intervention involves risk. You risk ending a relationship with somebody you care deeply about in the hope that they will accept your offer of help. But doing nothing is also a risk. A successful intervention offers the chance for personal triumph over a harmful behavior and the chance to restore meaningful relationships.

Resources

The Partnership at Drug-Free.org
855-378-4373
wwwdrugfree.org

Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator
800-662-4357
800-487-4889 (TDD)
www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov

Association of Intervention Specialists
717-392-8488
www.associationofinterventionspecialists.org

Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change by Jeffrey Foote, Carrie Wilkens, Nicole Kosanke and Stephanie Higgs. Scribner, 2014.

It Takes A Family: A Cooperative Approach to Lasting Sobriety by Debra Jay. Hazelden, 2014. 

By Christine Martin
Source: Phil Scherer, CAADC, PCGC, MISA II, BRI II; Intervention: A Free Resource for Addicts, Friends, and Family. Recovery Connection. http://www.recoveryconnection.org/InterventionGuide.pdf; Intervention eBook. Partnership for a Drug-Free America. http://www.drugfree.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Intervention_Guide.pdf; Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/intervention/MH00127; Love First: A Family’s Guide to Intervention, 2nd edition, by Jeff Jay and Debra Jay. Hazelden, 2008; Garret, J, Landau-Stanton, J, Stanton, M.D., Stellato-Kabat, J, Stellato-Kabat D. “ARISE: a method for engaging reluctant alcohol- and drug-dependent individuals in treatment.” J Subst Abuse Treat.1997;14(3):235-248.

Summary

  • An intervention is a strategy to engage a person about a problem behavior and motivate the person to get help.
  • It works best when tone is loving and non-confrontational.
  • Interventions require careful planning.

If a loved one needs help for a harmful behavior but refuses it, or denies a problem even exists, you can take action by planning an intervention.

At an intervention, family members, friends, and concerned others join forces to engage a person about a problem behavior in a loving and non-confrontational way and invite the person to get help. It can reach people who refuse or are resistant to help for issues such as:

  • Substance and alcohol use disorders 
  • Addictive or compulsive behaviors, such as with gambling, sex, internet use, gaming, shopping
  • Eating disorders

Planning is vital

A well-carried out intervention involves thoughtful planning and is best done before a crisis happens. These steps can help guide you:

  • Mobilize a planning team. Ask a few close friends or family members to help you. Talk about the problem and set a goal. An example goal would be for your loved one to agree to enter a treatment program.
  • Research help choices and make all needed arrangements before the intervention. Otherwise your loved one might change his mind before the arrangements are set. Think of every detail, from making reservations to deciding who will drive your loved one from the intervention to a care center.
  • Set a time and place. Timing is especially important if your loved one has a drug problem. Pick a time when the person is most likely to be sober and clearheaded, such as after work or first thing in the morning. Choose a comfortable and private location where your loved one would readily go, such as a friend or family member’s home. You also need to decide the approach you will take to get the person to the meeting. Some research suggests that asking a loved one to an intervention works as well if not better than a surprise intervention.
  • Decide whom to invite. Participants should be important to or influential to your loved one and might include close friends and family members, a pastor or rabbi, coach, teacher, roommate, or employer.
  • Plan what to say. Many people find that writing a letter can help them organize their thoughts and make sure the message is delivered in a loving, caring, and respectful way. The letter should express your love and concern and cite specific cases of how the behavior has caused problems for you and for your loved one. The letter should end with a request that your loved one get help and an expressed willingness to be involved. Try to anticipate how the person will react and be ready to respond to excuses, objections or attempts to bargain.
  • Set consequences. Each participant should be ready to name a consequence should your loved one say no to the group’s terms.  Withholding financial help, restricting contact with children, and ending a romantic relationship are some potential consequences.
  • Organize the meeting and rehearse. Choose someone to act as a spokesperson for the group and facilitate the meeting. Make sure participants know the goal, how to plan, and how much time they will have to speak. Decide seating and the order of speakers. Rehearsing the intervention is a good idea. This gives all participants a chance to hear all the letters and to make sure that the collective message is caring and consistent.

After the intervention

If the intervention is successful, you and others close to your loved one should play an active role in healing. This could involve making changes at home or work or finding a new set of friends to lower the chances of relapse. Family or one-on-one counseling can help you and others work through tough emotions and dysfunctional patterns that get in the way of family healing.

If the goals of the intervention are not met, the consequences must go into effect right away. In time, your loved one might make the choice to get help. But that is unlikely if you or others weaken and fail to stick to your plans for the long term. Look for ways to support and hold each other accountable, which can help keep up the group’s unity over time.

Involving a professional

Consult an interventionist, addiction specialist, or other skilled counselor, who can help plan and facilitate the intervention. Moreover, a professional can help family members learn better ways to communicate and look at the problem in the context of the family system. Friends and family may contribute to the problem and need to make changes themselves.

Final thoughts

Intervention involves risk. You risk ending a relationship with somebody you care deeply about in the hope that they will accept your offer of help. But doing nothing is also a risk. A successful intervention offers the chance for personal triumph over a harmful behavior and the chance to restore meaningful relationships.

Resources

The Partnership at Drug-Free.org
855-378-4373
wwwdrugfree.org

Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator
800-662-4357
800-487-4889 (TDD)
www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov

Association of Intervention Specialists
717-392-8488
www.associationofinterventionspecialists.org

Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change by Jeffrey Foote, Carrie Wilkens, Nicole Kosanke and Stephanie Higgs. Scribner, 2014.

It Takes A Family: A Cooperative Approach to Lasting Sobriety by Debra Jay. Hazelden, 2014. 

By Christine Martin
Source: Phil Scherer, CAADC, PCGC, MISA II, BRI II; Intervention: A Free Resource for Addicts, Friends, and Family. Recovery Connection. http://www.recoveryconnection.org/InterventionGuide.pdf; Intervention eBook. Partnership for a Drug-Free America. http://www.drugfree.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Intervention_Guide.pdf; Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/intervention/MH00127; Love First: A Family’s Guide to Intervention, 2nd edition, by Jeff Jay and Debra Jay. Hazelden, 2008; Garret, J, Landau-Stanton, J, Stanton, M.D., Stellato-Kabat, J, Stellato-Kabat D. “ARISE: a method for engaging reluctant alcohol- and drug-dependent individuals in treatment.” J Subst Abuse Treat.1997;14(3):235-248.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, assessments, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2018 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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