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Do Interventions Really Work?

A couple of years ago, an acquaintance of mine was sat down by a group of her closest friends for an intervention. They expressed their concerns about her drinking and the increased frequency of her blackouts and drunken outbursts.

Even though her friends had the best intentions, their efforts didn’t go as planned – she stormed out halfway through. She later told me she felt attacked and targeted during the intervention.

To this day, nothing has changed. Her drinking has remained the same, and she still exudes the same negative demeanor…only now she holds a deep resentment towards those who coordinated the intervention.

Interventions: Life Saver or Not?

The situation made me wonder, do interventions actually work? Are these surprise group encounters set up by friends and family (most utilizing peer pressure to get their loved one into treatment) really effective?

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) says yes; the NCADD also cites, when conducted by a trained interventionist, over 90 percent of people agree to get help.

If you choose not to hire a professional, it’s crucial to take your time and be prepared before staging an intervention.

Here’s a look at four useful suggestions that could increase the chances your friend or loved one will say “yes” to seeking help:

  • Tip #1 Don’t Yell, Shame, or Point Fingers

    Assigning blame and venting your anger will only cause your loved one to become defensive and potentially leave the intervention. Instead, make clear distinctions between the person and their disease. Be specific about how their substance abuse, and not your loved one, has negatively affected you.

  • Tip #2 Keep It Short and Sweet

    Nobody wants to hear a long-winded explanation as to why you think your loved one needs treatment. Instead, be concise and to the point. Rehearse your spiel ahead of time so you can get in all of your main points in five minutes or less.

  • Tip #3 Do the Legwork

    Simply telling your loved one to “go get treatment” can be overwhelming, so have a specific rehab facility or provider in mind. Do your homework beforehand and confirm the treatment facility has openings and aligns with your loved one’s personality and values.

  • Tip #4 Follow Through

    This one is a huge determinant of the outcome. Your loved one needs to realize the consequences you’ve laid out if they don’t seek treatment aren’t empty threats. Likewise, you’ve got to be emotionally prepared to follow through with what you’ve said, too, which usually means changing your relationship with them once the intervention is over.

The bottom line is, interventions CAN be effective and many times are what finally convinces someone to get help for their substance abuse. While you might feel there’s no time to waste, it’s crucial to have a game plan in place before you initiate the intervention to ensure you’re setting your loved one up for success and sobriety.

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