Substance Abuse Interventions: Understanding the Process
Alcohol, street drugs, and prescription medications are common substances to which users become addicted, and such dependence can be challenging to overcome. In fact, even recognizing and accepting the fact that substance abuse is out of control can be one of the hardest things a person ever has to do. While rehab programs are certainly an option for those battling addiction, a loved one trapped in the tangled web of substance abuse is often unwilling even to consider treatment. When a drug or alcohol abuse reaches an unacceptable level, it may become necessary for family, friends, or a partner to stage an intervention with the assistance of a professional.
Recognizing the Need for an Intervention
The loved ones who are closest to an actively addicted individual are typically the individuals who decide to initiate an intervention. Although there are a variety of different reasons to stage an intervention, some of the most common factors noted when doing so include poor performance on the job or in school, low motivation, an unkempt personal appearance, health or financial problems and aggressive or secretive behavior. Exhibiting even one or two of these factors can be a cause for concern, and multiple instances could suggest a serious problem. While there are a number of roadblocks to staging a successful intervention, a lack of understanding on how to proceed is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome.
Planning an Intervention
Whether the family and friends of a loved one have recently realized the need for an intervention or they have been considering it for quite some time, there are several different considerations to make when doing so. One of the vital first steps to organizing an intervention is to keep the goals of the process clearly in mind; common intervention goals include bringing attention to how substance abuse is impacting the user’s life, helping the addict imagine a healthy, productive future without drugs or alcohol and encouraging the individual to seek treatment for addiction immediately. Although stating these goals may not lead a substance abuser to therapy, keeping them in mind while constructively describing how addiction is affecting the closest relationships in his or her life may have a positive impact.
The proper approach, timing, and environment are essential steps to consider while planning an intervention. Taking a calm, non-threatening approach when sharing feelings during an intervention may make the addict more likely to listen to family and friends when they describe how the addiction is affecting the substance abuser and those around him or her. Timing is also vital during the planning stage of an upcoming intervention as the process would be far less effective if delivered when the user is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Finally, selecting a comfortable, familiar environment for an intervention may increase the odds of a successful meeting. Because new places generally elicit a different response than those that are known and associated with positive experiences in the past, it is essential to choose a space that allows the substance abuser to let down his or her guard.
Setting the Intervention Stage
Friends and family members who are preparing for an intervention will want to ensure that they have left open an adequate block of time for the conversation with their loved one; interventions usually take between 30 and 90 minutes, although some may turn out to be shorter or longer. Some professionals suggest planning a rehearsal for the intervention to better prepare for what may turn out to be a very emotional event. The loved ones of a person suffering from addiction may also want to seek intervention assistance from a professional who is trained to facilitate these difficult conversations.
Selecting an Intervention Specialist
While some interventions require no more than an honest revelation of how addiction is affecting a substance abuser’s loved ones, others can be a bit more challenging. Although an addict’s doctor or lawyer may have a clear understanding of his or her history of substance abuse, an intervention specialist can be useful in keeping the discussion on track and offer resources to everyone involved in the process. Despite the fact that intervention assistance historically was not a professional position, today’s intervention specialists should be certified by the Association of Intervention Specialist Credentialing Board; by requiring specific training, administering exams and ensuring that an individual has professional experience and malpractice insurance, this multi-level board certification program works to keep professionals prepared to facilitate an intervention in a recognizable, acceptable fashion.
In addition to keeping the intervention of track and emotions at a manageable level, the intervention worker will also offer a “blueprint” that outlines each step of a planned intervention. While family members approaching an intervention alone may struggle to find the right words or experience uncertainty about how to proceed after the intervention, a specialist can guide the process from its earliest stages to the moment that an addict agrees to go to rehab. However, persuading a substance abuse to seek the help that he or she needs at a rehab facility can often be quite a difficult task.
Managing Expectations After an Intervention
One of the most critical issues that an intervention specialist will address is how the addict’s family and friends should proceed after the intervention is complete. Ideally, the substance abuser will agree that his or her drug or alcohol use is out of control, but that is rarely the immediate case. In fact, it is far more likely that the addict will respond defensively and refuse to seek treatment for the dependencies that he or she is facing. While a substance abuser’s family cannot typically force the individual to enter rehab, they can certainly take steps to ensure that they do not enable the addict. For instance, when a substance abuser refuses to go to rehab, loved ones can be unwilling to compromise on the addict reducing drug or alcohol use as opposed to quitting, point out future legal or personal consequences for continued use and remove specified forms of financial support when necessary. Those substance abusers who are particularly vehement in their refusal to accept help may even require a second intervention. It is vital that loved ones stand firm and refuse to be a party to ongoing substance abuse, also if doing so is emotionally painful. Vacillation after initial firmness in terms of substance abuse and refusal to seek treatment weakens the position of an otherwise dedicated approach to addressing the addictive issue at hand.
A successful intervention will see the addict headed to a residential rehab facility or to an outpatient program that works closely with not only the client but his or her family. Overcoming active addiction is one of the hardest things that a person will ever have to do, and it is vital to provide the kind of support that he or she requires in order to reclaim his or her life. Preparing family members and other close loved ones for the difficulties that they will face as a recovering addict’s support network is another vital role that an intervention specialist can fill.
Intervention Assistance is Available
Whether the family and friends of an addicted loved one has sought assistance in staging an intervention before or they are entirely new to the practice, turning to a professional may be the key that unlocks a substance abuser’s sober future. Opting to work with an intervention specialist may also give an addict’s family and friends the resolve to stand firm on no longer enabling substance abuse; this can be difficult to achieve without the assistance of a trained professional. Regardless of whether the consequences of continued substance abuse are emotional, legal or professional, sticking to one’s resolve on refusing to accept ongoing drug and alcohol abuse is one of the most important things that a truly supportive friend or family member can do for someone who is suffering from addiction.