The Five Components of a Drug and Alcohol Intervention

Who, What, Where, When and Why

Who? Who’s involved? Family? Clergy? Friends? Co-workers? Colleagues? The timing of the intervention and the participation of key players is paramount. Who will pay? Is it covered by  insurance, or does the family not wish to use insurance? Who will be the person who reels in the client if he gets too emotionally escalated? Who will take the loved one to a treatment facility, if that is the result?

What? What are the key issues we need to cover?

  • First, we usually need to keep the planned intervention secret from the addict/alcoholic. Or, we can invite the addict/alcoholic to the intervention, if everyone feels that would be appropriate.
  • Everyone needs to write a letter stating how they are affected by the addict/alcoholic’s behavior. Are they financially or emotionally held hostage, or in fear for their safety? How is the addiction jeopardizing their relationships?
  • In what order will everyone speak, to have the most impact. How will we develop our talking points and gauge our impact for each part of the intervention?
  • What are the addictive behaviors we will address: drugs, alcohol, neglecting work, the mortgage/rent or bills, parenting, DUIs, legal issues, domestic violence, etc.?
  • Regardless of all other details, we will all promise to honor a No Harm Contract for the safety of the family and the addict.
  • What is our part in all this? Are we enabling the loved one’s behaviors with codependence, attachment, caretaking, giving money, emotional enmeshing?

Through this process, we will develop healthy boundaries with the addict/alcoholic. If we have no plans for recovery, the addict/alcoholic will make our plans for us.

When? The interventionist and family members will schedule an introductory meeting, followed by one or two planning sessions. When will the intervention take place? Timing is critical. A life-threatening, legal or emotional episode created due to drugs or alcohol creates a sense of urgency. The client may end up harming himself, innocent strangers or loved ones, so use the intervention to halt this dangerous behavior as soon as possible.

Where? Where will the meeting take place? A safe, trusting environment is key to evoking the addict/alcoholic’s willingness for self-introspection. Where will the loved one go for treatment? Where will he/she go for 12-step meetings? Where will he/she get psychotherapy or psychiatric treatment, if these are needed? Where will he/she connect with a support group?

Why? Why are we gathered here? We are gathered here with care and concern to show the loved one that we want to address his/her behaviors and choices, not stigmatize or judge the person. We are here to develop our pro-and-con arguments for dealing with the addict/alcoholic’s actions and our own judgments. We realize that we are dealing with a complicated person living in the unpredictable world of drugs and alcohol, which causes him/her to do harm to himself/herself and others.

You must ask yourself: Why are you doing this? Why are you in discomfort? What is your part in the relationship with the addict/alcoholic that we need to deal with? All participating members must work together for positive results in an intervention. Everyone wants to be able to sleep better, go to work in safety, come home to a safe house, and have relationships that promote healthy boundaries.

If the addict/alcoholic refuses treatment, we still must take care of everyone else involved. This can be accomplished through family consultation. Consulting with the family after an intervention can take care of the family’s concerns and make sure they are moving toward new goals and stages in their lives independently of their addicted loved one. Family consultation helps the family achieve closure. They will know that they did all in their power to help their loved one. Now the family can begin healing, let go and process their feelings and issues together in community.

There is no such thing as a failed intervention. When we prepare fully, and do our part, we dramatically increase the addict/alcoholic’s chances of success. It takes a village to deal with addiction.