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What are addiction interventions?
The most important point to understand about alcoholism or drug addiction is that it is not a lifestyle. It may be the end result of certain lifestyle decisions, but by the time behaviour has become destructive and harmful, addiction is a disease. Thankfully, that’s a reality now recognised by the medical profession. All too often addicts or alcoholics have entered a rehabilitation centre or an alcoholic treatment programme a long way down the line – at a time when the damage is all but irreparable.
A family intervention can make recovery more manageable and begin sooner. Its a way of demonstrating to addicts or alcoholics the true impact of their addiction or alcoholism at an earlier stage, and encourage them to get help before the downward spiral continues.
Who is involved in an addiction intervention?
An intervention is usually managed by a counsellor or interventionist – someone trained and experienced in professional intervention – and actively supported by family, friends and anyone who cares about the welfare of the addict or alcoholic, including work colleagues and members of any shared community activities.
What is the aim of family intervention?
The overarching aim of family intervention is to help the addict or alcoholic recognise the scale of the problem and convince him or her to seek immediate help – ideally by booking into a rehabilitation clinic. The hope is that by involving as many of the addict’s friends and family as possible, the intervention will help the addict to see just how widespread the devastating effects of the addiction and its resulting behaviours, how many people care and want to help, and of course that the help is immediately available.
What is the intervention process?
It’s important to establish at the outset whether the addict or alcoholic has already looked for professional help from a counsellor or psychologist. While confidentiality rules will usually mean that a professional already involved cannot disclose the details of any discussions with their client, they can usually indicate whether a family intervention would be wise, likely to succeed, and may even want to be directly involved. Before the intervention takes place it’s also important to find a suitable rehabilitation facility or treatment programme with the space to take the addict immediately post-intervention.
The intervention itself needs to be somewhere the addict will feel comfortable and unthreatened, and should involve as many of the affected parties as possible. Even children who are directly affect can be involved, if you think they are mature enough to understand the discussions and won’t find it too traumatic.
There’s significant preparation that needs to take place first, however, everybody involved should receive intervention training to reduce the risk of anger or resentment overshadowing the positive messages of love and support that are ultimately what a family intervention aims to communicate.
So that means a logical, carefully planned approach. In advance of the intervention itself, everyone involved should write notes on what they want to say, including such details as:
- Any changes they have seen in the addict’s or alcoholic’s behaviour, personality, restraint and the way they treat others
- How they personally have been affected by these changes
- How they feel the relationship between them and the addict or alcoholic has changed as a result
- Any hopes and aims they might have individually for, or together with the addict once they have had treatment
- Two promises: that they love the addict and that they will play no part in any continued self-destruction.
How do you know when to intervene?
Quite simply, if someone you know is addicted to a harmful substance or compulsively seeks out unhealthy activities, and is either unaware that they need treatment or do not want treatment, now may well be the time to take action and arrange a family intervention.
More often than not an addiction has deep psychological roots: events or circumstances that led the addict into compulsive behaviour – which is sometimes seen as a way of dealing with a situation. Of course as outsiders we recognise that this is not the way to address such issues; by arranging a family intervention we can help the addict to see that there are real, effective ways of addressing their addiction or alcoholism and indeed its causes.
Are there statistics available tracking the success rates of intervention?
All the indications suggest that the initial response to a well-planned family intervention is often positive and successful. Most people will be convinced to get treatment immediately.
After that, statistics cannot be tracked. That’s for two reasons. Firstly, anyone over the age of 18 has the right to check out of rehab whenever they want. That could mean within days or even hours of arrival. Secondly, medical and psychological records are legally confidential, so the reasons for discharge cannot be disclosed – indeed even the reason for the initial admission cannot be shared.
It is worth remembering that even the process of a family intervention can benefit everyone concerned, even if there are no guarantees about the outcome.
Signs that an intervention is not working
Addiction, as anyone close to an addict can testify, can lead an addict to try to manipulate relatives, friends and colleagues in various ways, often in a way aimed at feeding the addiction. So sometimes an addict will claim they want help. Typical examples include:
- Promising to get help and then breaking that promise
- Promising to get help if given money or a place to stay
- Going through the motions of treatment without committing to the aims
When these responses to intervention happen, it’s because the addict has not fully understood the effects of his or her addiction or alcoholism. Its often hard to recognise the manipulation for what it is, so unless the addict demonstrably commits to some form of rehabilitation or treatment programme, it is critical that everybody involved in the addiction intervention keeps the promises they made at the outset: not to help continue the cycle by providing even the essentials of life – until after the rehab or treatment process has begun.
Who benefits from a family intervention?
The main person to benefit from addiction intervention – irrespective of the shape that addiction takes – is the addict. Until the point of intervention he or she has been heading in a downward spiral, often failing to recognise the reality of their behaviour, let alone address the addiction, its root causes and its effects on other people’s lives. Family interventions provide the opportunity to show addicts exactly what they are doing to themselves and the people around them, and to seek life-changing help.
Professional intervention will also benefit everybody else involved in the process in a number of ways:
- A greater understanding of the cause and nature of the addiction or alcoholism in question, as well as the best means of helping the addict and the level of commitment they need to provide that help
- Learning about local and national support groups aimed at helping the friends and family of addicts and alcoholics
- Friends and family are often brought closer together through their shared responsibility and a common goal.
And that common goal is to show the addict or alcoholic that treatment will work better the sooner it starts and that there are lots of reasons to commit to treatment and return to a healthier way of living and interacting with the people and the world around them.