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Every addiction is different, and the problems the individual is experiencing is not the same as the next person. Also, people abuse drugs for different reasons, but it is common for most addicts to refuse help and not be able to admit they have a problem involving drugs or alcohol. Family intervention is a common approach used because it provides the right nudge toward treatment. Family interventions work, but it is difficult to predict how the intervention could unfold. Certified family intervention specialists have the training to prepare a family for what to expect. However, it is the effort of everyone involved that eventually convinces the addict they need help.

Most family interventions use pressure to encourage an addict to admit to their problem and seek treatment. A group of close friends and family come together, and the gathering is usually a surprise to the addict. Typically, each member of the group outlines the ways in which they have been harmed by the addict’s addiction. During this process, they then request the addict get treatment or list the consequences for getting help. Interventions are emotionally charged, which is why some families feel the process would not work. There is a common misconception that it becomes a screaming match, and the addict would walk away. However, a professional family interventionist acts as the third-party mitigator keeping the intervention on track.

Do Family Interventions Work?

Generally, most interventions are successful, but this depends on the interventionist and the family or friends involved in the intervention. A family may feel it is successful when they agree to go to treatment. Still, success is a result of the family setting healthy boundaries and holding the addict accountable, while also following the guidance of the interventionist. Addiction is 100% treatable, and a person does not have to live the rest of his or her life as an addict. However, the process of getting someone to this point is challenging. Addicts are more likely to seek treatment when they undergo an intervention. Yet, the intervention does not necessarily affect the outcome of the treatment itself. It is a combined effort mainly with the family and working with the interventionist to help them keep the addict focused on rehabilitation while they are at the treatment facility.

Family intervention is also effective at any time, and it should not be considered the last step to take. Addicts do not have to reach rock bottom because there is no end to addiction despite what horrible things may have happened. Drugs or alcohol are more powerful and provide relief from physical and emotional pain and anguish. According to a journal article published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration—Brief Interventions in Substance Abuse Treatment, the introduction states: “Primary care providers find many brief intervention techniques effective in addressing the substance abuse issues of clients who are unable or unwilling to access specialty care.”

Whether it is early intervention with a conversation involving family or friends or a staged intervention, the process does work. Overall, family interventions do not pose serious health or psychological risks yet will only disrupt the relationship with the addict. Some addicts respond to the intervention with anger, threats and refuse to attend treatment. Other addicts may break down and quickly realize they need help. Once the family has the addict’s agreement to receive help, the tough part is following through and not giving in.

Common Types of Family Intervention

There are many common methods of family intervention, whether done with a professional interventionist or organized by the family. Simple intervention, for example, is not a huge gathering of people to confront the addict. Typically, this is one family member facing the addicted person asking them to stop using drugs and enter treatment. A simple intervention could also be done with the help of a professional interventionist. A classical intervention begins with a planning session that includes everyone involved and usually an interventionist. The interventionist would counsel and educate the family, and everyone has a role to play when the intervention happens. Most classical interventions are based on the Johnson Model, which is a surprise approach with a family interventionist.

Family system intervention is occurring when there is more than one family member struggling with addiction and co-dependency. The approach used helps the addiction and family bonds and encourages the family to participate in family counseling and coaching. Crisis intervention would occur in an addicted person’s life when it is clear to everyone they need help. The addict may have become a danger to themselves and others, requiring immediate intervention and treatment. Family intervention specialists help a family through the entire process and ensure the correct approach is taken to help the addict.

How to Make a Family Intervention More Successful

There are general things any family could do to ensure the success of an intervention. For example, do not schedule an intervention for a time that the addict is likely to be high or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Do not yell or shame the addict but take a loving and understanding approach—intervention is not the time to place blame and point fingers. Always be specific when itemizing the ways the addict’s addiction has affected you. Keep everything you say short and to the point, and write down what you want to say. Also, have a specific treatment plan organized, which includes detox, rehabilitation, and aftercare. The family must also follow through with the consequences of the addict refuses help. If a family does not follow through with the consequences, the entire intervention will fail.


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