5 Key Components to a Successful Drug or Alcohol Intervention

Miracles Intervention Room

Statistics show that more than half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism, alcohol abuse, or substance abuse.  Family and friends suffer along with alcoholics or addicts and often want to intervene.  Invitational interventions are a way for these loved ones to "raise the bottom" of the addicted individual and get them to accept much needed help before they continue to do damage to themselves and their relationships.  Interventions can seem to work miracles, when done properly.  I'm often asked what components are critical in conducting a successful drug or alcohol intervention.

First, a successful drug or alcohol intervention should not be viewed as a one-time event.  It is a process, and one that is intense, highly-emotional, complex, and can be jarring for everyone involved.  If an intervention is even a consideration then a life is likely at risk and the heath of the entire family hangs in the balance. 

Second, this is not a time to be penny wise and pound foolish, but instead a time to secure professional involvement to coordinate and facilitate the intervention. An experienced professional knows what pitfalls to avoid and will also create a plan for success.  

That being said, if you are unable to afford the fees charged by competent professionals, and intend to attempt a do-it-yourself intervention, following are five key components that I have found are critical in conducting a successful invitational family intervention.

An experienced professional knows what pitfalls to avoid and will also create a plan for success.

1.  The Research

When you conduct an alcohol or drug intervention and ask an addicted loved one to accept help, it is best to have two things already in place: 1)  two to three comparable options for the addicted loved one to choose between when they accept "help";  2) specific actions that the concerned loved ones agree to take in order to simultaneously begin the recovery process.  Family and loved ones also need to recover.

Treatment, although lumped into one category, has several different types and levels.  The facilities that deliver such services can be vastly different in clinical expertise, approach, and price. 

Extensive research to source the best fit for the individual's long-term success - options that are affordable enough to complete treatment, and that are equipped to address their specific needs (e.g. co-ocurring disorders such as trauma or mental health issues, work accommodations, proximity from home, etc.) - results in the best outcome. 

2.  The Team

Assemble a list of potential intervention attendees. This can include family members, trusted friends, and key colleagues.  The list should not be large - you are looking for quality, not quantity. 

Keep in mind that friends - even long-time friends - who are still actively using drugs or abusing alcohol can be very tricky.   Even if they are professionals they typically do not make the cut.  Mentors, respected friends, and close (or previously close) family are the people you want to bring into the process, and who will be receptive to doing their part.

Family members - united as a group, willing to accept help and begin a path of recovery themselves - will strengthen the intervention experience and the initial recovery effort for the addicted loved one.  

3.  The Plan

Devise a plan that includes what will happen at the intervention and what options will be presented.  Following up on the conducted research, contact the potential treatment facilities that you would like to present to the addicted loved one as being their first step in the recovery process.  Confirm dates and availability, payment options if applicable, and print or request any materials about the programs and/or facilities.  

Plan immediate transportation to each of the potential options, and decide who will accompany the loved one once they agree to take that critical first step.  

Coordinate the plan for the family members and loved ones to begin their initial steps in the recovery process.  Solidify all details on paper so that all attendees will have an understanding of the plan.  Planning may involve several gatherings of the involved parties.

4.  The Details

Coordinate a specific date, time, and location where the invitational family intervention will be held.   Secure as comfortable, safe, and neutral of a place as possible, and one that will foster open communication.   

Be sure that the selected location does not have any significant time limitations, because while the meeting may last an hour or two, delays or setbacks can happen and the pressure of a ticking clock will only add unnecessary stress.  

Confirm the immediate transport of the addicted individual or loved one to their chosen option of recovery care.  Since multiple options will be presented, this may require multiple sets of itinerary.  This should include preparation for whoever will accompany them - bags should be packed and any needed travel arrangements solidified. 

5.  The Invitation 

Invite the small group of concerned family, friends, and loved ones to the intervention.  Keep in mind that many of these people may have been hurt or deeply affected by the behavior of the addict or alcoholic and will have their own thoughts or ideas on how the meeting should go.  

Thoroughly explain the goal of getting the individual to take their first step to recovery, and some basic intervention ground rules to prevent the process from backfiring.  

Invite the addicted loved one to the gathering, allowing the transparency that this is a loving gesture of concerned parties who are meeting.   The meeting is about supporting the alcoholic or drug addict on their first step toward recovery. 

A successful drug or alcohol intervention should not be viewed as a one-time event. It is a process, and one that is intense, highly-emotional, complex, and can be jarring for everyone involved.

Planning and hosting an intervention can be a trying time for everyone involved.  Remember that this is an act of great importance and the event should be full of love, not hostility.   In my practice, I've seen many addicts and alcoholics moved from great despair to long-term recovery through being surrounded by love on these first crucial steps.