You’ve Had an Intervention, Now What? 

3 min read · 1 sections

American Culture on Addiction TreatmentLooked at broadly, an intervention is largely an organizational exercise.

As Mayo Clinic explains, having a rehab plan in place is a central component of an intervention. When a group of concerned individuals come together, with the goal of helping a loved one to overcome an addiction, it makes sense that they should offer an immediate solution. It wouldn’t be very helpful in many situations if the group simply said, “We believe you need help for your drug abuse, please get it.” In fact, one of the hallmarks of drug addiction is that it often destroys one’s ability to act in one’s best interest. Rather, the group does the rehab admission work in advance. The message is then, “We believe you need help for your drug abuse and we are ready, right now, to provide you with that help.”

In the planning stages of an intervention, individuals may truly feel out of their depth. All the people involved may know there is a serious problem, and it is time to offer help. Many people in this situation feel they must self-educate and self-direct this process, or they hire a professional interventionist. There are different ways to find a professional interventionist, including but not limited to:

  • Contact a rehab program of interest. The rehab center may have an interventionist on staff or can make a professional referral.
  • Contact the Association of Intervention Specialists. The association can provide a referral to a professional member who serves the area where the concerned individuals live or where they plan to hold the intervention.
  • Ask for a referral from a person who has hired a professional interventionist in the past.
  • Get help from a professional who works in the medical field, in mental health, or in addiction treatment. Such individuals include family doctors, therapists, counselors, social workers, addiction specialists, and insurance companies. If these individuals do not directly know a professional interventionist, they may know a source that can make an effective referral.

Whether a group of people decide to hire a professional interventionist or self-organize, the same guidance pertains.

As Mayo Clinic discusses, there are some main steps that should always be taken when organizing and holding an intervention, as follows:

  • Have a plan. There is an administrative aspect to the intervention. Some basics must be covered, such as who will be involved, where the intervention will occur, and when.
  • Set up the rehab plan as soon as possible before the intervention takes place. There are numerous ways to find a suitable rehab program. Some considerations are insurance coverage (if any), the cost of treatment, location, level of care, the affected individual’s mental health history (i.e., if a person has a co-existing mental health disorder), identity markers that the affected person would feel are relevant (e.g., gender or sexual identification, sexual orientation, the drugs of abuse involved, age, professional status, etc.). If a person has a co-existing mental health disorder, it is advisable to seek treatment at a rehab facility that accommodates a dual diagnosis.
  • Get the group on the same page. The group will benefit from one or more meetings in which information about the drug abuse is exchanged. Meetings can also help members to overcome any resistance they may have to the process. It will also be critical that each member agrees not to disclose the intervention plan to the loved one who needs help.
  • Members will each need to prepare a letter for the loved one in need. The letter should contain at least three key components: (1) explain one’s concerns with specific examples, (2) offer help in the form of rehab, and (3) explain the consequences if the person refuses the offer of rehab. For instance, a grandparent might state, “I worry about you often. I’m afraid for your health and safety, and that of others, when you use injectable heroin. I want to help you. Please accept the rehab offer we are making you today. If you do not accept our offer for drug treatment today, you will no longer be able to use my car.” The person who needs help would need to be detrimentally affected by the stated consequences. In this scenario, assume the grandchild relies on the car to buy drugs and wouldn’t be able to conveniently do so otherwise.
  • Hold the intervention. If a professional intervention is not leading and moderating the meeting, it is a good idea to have a neutral person direct the meeting. It is going to be critical to avoid threats, name calling, or any words or actions that will undermine the goal of the intervention.
  • Commit to being part of the recovery process. Imagine the loved one’s perspective. They are being asked to make a sudden change. Offering to be active in the recovery process (provided one will do so) can be a great comfort and encourage acceptance of the offer.
  • If the offer is accepted, immediately start the admissions process. This will involve contacting the rehab to advise of such, and then physically getting the loved one to the intake office.
The intervention group will undoubtedly experience relief when the goal is reached. If the rehab offer is not accepted, the group is advised to follow through on the consequences that they stated in their letters to the loved one. To revisit the example, the grandparent would have to remove the grandchild’s car privileges. Understandably, this can be difficult. For this reason, it is important for loved ones to understand their role in enabling the addiction.
Caring for individuals who are addicted to drugs can essentially mean helping them to continue their self-harm, which can prove fatal. It can therefore help to learn about codependency. Individuals who are codependent have come to psychologically rely on their role as a caretaker to a person in need, such as a person struggling with addiction. In this way, codependent people can unwittingly enable addiction. Recognizing the symptoms and signs of codependency is the first step in ending this cycle.

After the Intervention

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence accurately notes that addiction is a family disease. Families play a role in creating and maintaining addiction, and they can also help to heal it. For this reason, those who are committed to supporting their loved one’s recovery process have different options available to them. Such options include, but are not limited to:

  • Seeing a therapist: If a loved one is already in therapy, but not for this issue, it can be helpful to work the person’s addiction into the discussion. From there, the therapist can help to ensure that the addiction (and any issues of codependency) are being appropriately worked on during sessions.
  • Attending family therapy at the rehab center: As the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, family therapy involves the recovering person and at least one loved participating together in sessions. Family therapy is adjunctive; it is always advisable that the recovering person have individual and group therapy as well. A family therapist will help the family members to identify unhealthy relationship patterns. With this information in hand, the therapist can teach family members how to replace unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones. The therapy can also improve communications between family members and build trust. The hope is that family therapy will provide the family with a more solid foundation and infrastructure – one that is supportive of abstinence from drugs.
  • Going to any family day events at the rehab: To help families remain connected during the recovery process, rehab centers may offer family days and other social events. Attending an event is essentially a way of signaling to loved ones that they have support from family.
  • Staying in contact: Rehab programs, whether inpatient or outpatient, typically last 30-90 days (and sometimes longer). During an outpatient program, a recovering person lives off site. A concerned loved one can keep in touch with the person, or visit, outside of rehab hours (in addition to participating in any family therapy or family programming). Being consistent in communication is a good practice, since it builds trust and signals support. During an inpatient program, it can be particularly important to maintain contact. In addition to attending family therapy or going to any family day events, loved ones can keep in touch, in observance of any rehab rules and policies. For instance, a rehab program may have limited time windows for phone calls. The best practice is to find out the rehab center’s policy.

As these points reflect, when a loved one is in rehab, a concerned person has opportunities to build trust and provide support. The stronger the bond created, the greater the potential advantage after the loved one completes the program. This is especially important considering that a lack of social and familial support is a risk factor for relapse. But the reverse proposition can also be true: Providing support is a protective factor for abstinence maintenance.

Each person’s addiction recovery experience is different, but having a family that is active in the recovery process – from the intervention through rehab completion and aftercare – can provide incalculable help.

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