Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction
Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction
It can be challenging to help a loved one struggling with alcoholism, drug problems, an eating disorder or other destructive behavior. Sometimes a direct, heart-to-heart conversation can start the road to recovery. But when it comes to addiction, a more focused approach is often needed. You may need to join forces with others and take action through a formal intervention.
People who struggle with addictive behaviors are often in denial about their situation or are unwilling to seek treatment. Often they don't recognize the negative effects their behavior has on themselves and others. An intervention presents your loved one a structured opportunity to make changes before things get even worse.
What is an intervention?
An intervention is a carefully planned process involving family and friends and sometimes colleagues, clergy members or others who care about a person struggling with addiction. During the intervention, these people gather together to confront the person about the consequences of addiction and ask him or her to accept treatment. The intervention:
Who might benefit from an intervention?
An intervention can help people who struggle with addictive behaviors but who are in denial about their situation or who have been unwilling to accept treatment. Some examples of behaviors that may warrant an intervention include:
People with addiction often don't see the negative effects their behavior has on them and others. It's important not to wait until they "want help." Instead, think of an intervention as giving your loved one a clear opportunity to make changes before things get really bad.
How does a typical intervention work?
An intervention usually includes the following steps:
A successful intervention must be planned carefully to work as intended. A poorly planned intervention can worsen the situation — your loved one may feel attacked and become isolated or more resistant to treatment.
Should you consult a professional for an intervention?
Consulting an intervention professional (interventionist), an addiction specialist, psychologist or mental health counselor can help you organize an effective intervention. It may be a good idea to have the intervention professional attend the actual intervention to help keep things on track.
It's a good idea to get professional help if your loved one:
It's especially important to consult an intervention professional if you suspect your loved one may react violently or self-destructively.
Who should be on the intervention team?
An intervention team usually includes four to six people who are important in the life of your loved one. They could be people your family member or friend loves, respects, admires, depends on and likes, and may include relatives, friends, and community leaders such as clergy members or teachers. Don't include anyone who your loved one dislikes, anyone who has an unmanaged mental health issue or substance abuse problem, or anyone who might sabotage the intervention. This includes anyone who may not be able to limit what he or she says to what you agreed on during the planning meeting.
If you think it's important to have someone involved but worry that it may create a problem during the intervention, consider having that person write a short letter that someone else can read at the intervention.
How do you find a treatment program to offer at the intervention?
Depending on the severity of your loved one's behavior or condition, it may be appropriate to ask him or her to seek support from a group such as Alcoholics Anonymous. A more severe problem may require admittance into a structured program or hospital.
If a treatment program is necessary, it may help to make arrangements in advance for admittance. Do some research, keeping these considerations in mind:
How can you help ensure a successful intervention?
Keep in mind, your loved one's problem involves intense emotions. The process of organizing the intervention and the intervention itself can cause conflict, anger and resentment even among family and friends who know a loved one needs their help. To help run a successful intervention:
What if your loved one refuses help despite an intervention?
Unfortunately, not all interventions are successful. In some cases, a loved one may refuse the treatment plan. The addicted person may erupt in anger or insist that he or she doesn't need help or may be resentful and accuse you of betrayal or being a hypocrite.
Emotionally prepare yourself for these situations while remaining hopeful for positive change. If your loved one doesn't accept treatment, be prepared to follow through with the changes you presented.
Oftentimes, children, partners, siblings and parents are subjected to abuse, violence, threats and emotional upheaval because of alcohol and drug problems. You don't have control over an addicted person's behavior. However, you do have the ability to remove yourself — and any children — from a destructive situation.
Even if an intervention doesn't work, you and others involved in your loved one's life can make changes that may help. Ask other people involved to avoid enabling the destructive cycle of behavior and take active steps to encourage positive change.
Last Updated: 2011-08-23
© 1998-2013 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "Mayo Clinic Health Information," "Reliable information for a healthier life" and the triple-shield Mayo logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
Terms and conditions of use