Myths about family interventions and the truths you need to know

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For a loved one
The Hader Clinic
The Hader Clinic
April 14, 2020
minute read

Stage a successful intervention with your loved one

If you or someone you know has a problem with substance abuse, whether drug or alcohol related, it can be difficult to know how to help them. Rehabilitation services play a tremendous role in helping people to get to a stage where they can recover, no matter how severe their addiction. Most of the time, however, people either do not know acknowledge they need help or do not want to seek treatment for their abuse disorder.

Indeed, one of the hardest parts of drug or alcohol addiction is admitting that there is a problem. This intensely personal moment of recognition can be a turning point for sufferers and the first step towards complete rehabilitation.

While it might appear difficult, a family intervention is a highly effective way of presenting treatment as an option for a loved one. After all, a loved one's substance use doesn't only affect them; it can affect all members of the family.

This guide is designed to explain some of the myths around family intervention for substance abuse, and discusses some key truths you need to know before going ahead with an intervention and seeking treatment.

When do you know if it's right to stage an intervention?

Watching a child or parent, sibling or friend suffer the destructive and wide-ranging effects of addiction, people often feel helpless and heartbroken.

For the loved ones of someone who is grappling with addiction, an intense moment of recognition may arise, similar to the moment that arises for the addict themselves.

One way that people seek to provide help and support to a loved one with an alcohol or drug addiction is to reach out through a formal family intervention.

  • A family intervention can help to cut through the denial and rejection that less formal expressions of concern are often met with, and perhaps trigger that moment of introspection in a sufferer and the important first steps on a long journey.
  • Many people are hesitant about the idea of a family intervention, believing it’s more dangerous, harmful, and intrusive than productive.
  • A lot of the time these ideas myths about family intervention are driven by media portrayals of interventions or even an internal fear about confronting the issue.

In this article we’re going to set the record straight on family intervention, dispel some common myths, and explore some strategies for conducting an intervention for a loved one.

Myths around family intervention

Family intervention is a betrayal

One of the most common concerns about family interventions is that they are a betrayal by the people closest to the sufferer. People who are addicted to harmful substances are vulnerable, and family members believe that a confrontation will push them further away.

  • The truth is, a well-structured intervention does nothing of the sort — instead it provides a space to offer support and show love and care for your loved one.
  • Ultimately, an intervention aims to motivate and reaffirm love to enhance the abusers self-worth and guide them towards rehabilitation.

That's not to say that an intervention won't initially be met with resistance, anger, emotion, and rejection — and you need to be prepared for what to do if this does happen.

Immediate inpatient care is essential for complete rehabilitation

Another major myth surrounding family interventions is that they are pointless unless they can result in the substance abuser committing to inpatient treatment. However, the thought of putting someone into a rehabilitation centre can put people off the idea of interventions.

Plus, the thought that the intervention will fail often causes inaction too. This is a myth that can be busted on two levels.

  • Firstly, inpatient care isn’t the best option for everyone and it doesn’t necessarily mean locking someone in a hospital either.
  • Residential rehabilitation centres provide a supervised community for clients with a range of therapeutic activities, options, and treatments.
  • More importantly though, immediate commitment isn’t the only sign of a successful intervention.

As the beginning of a journey, an intervention will help an individual to accept help and take a small step towards a healthier lifestyle.

You have to come to rehabilitation on your own for it to work

Many people fear that they don’t understand the struggles that their loved one is going through. They also feel that they don't know how to guide them towards rehabilitation, so they avoid the idea of an intervention.

The truth is though; you don’t need to do it alone, and many addicts actually need support to seek treatment and move towards recovery.

  • Caring and compassionate practitioners can work alongside your family, bringing their support, their experience and their objectivity to help you to positively motivate your loved one.
  • When it comes to tackling addiction, no one is truly ever alone.

Sometimes it takes reaching out and providing some extra support and guidance to help a loved one to come to the help that they need.

How to organise a family intervention

A family intervention is a clear step towards helping someone break the cycle of substance abuse. If you have reached the decision that an intervention is right for your loved one, there are a number of steps you can take to prepare yourself and your loved one for what is to come.

1. Get help

While you are ultimately going to be participating in the intervention as a family/friends unit, you should seek help from a professional - whether this is a psychologist who specialises in addiction, a social worker, or a doctor. You may wish to have this support professional attend the intervention, or you may wish to have them perform a follow up with your family.  

2. Work out your intervention team

Your intervention group should be small and limited to immediate family or close friends. Too many people and you'll find that it can overwhelm the person needing help. If you have anyone in your group who may be experiencing their own substance abuse issues they should not be included in the team.

3. Gather information

If you haven't already, you want to read as much as you can about organising an intervention, including specific information about treatment for the type of substances your loved one may be using. Learn as much as you can about the recovery process and contact some rehabilitation clinics about specific types of treatment.

4. Organise a date

You should organise a specific date and time for the intervention to take place. This includes organising a list of people who are going to attend, and what each person is going to say. You may wish to have someone lead the intervention, and you'll also want to coordinate a neutral, comfortable, and private space to conduct the intervention.

5. Write personal impact statements

Many of the people impacted by substance abuse will be experiencing strong emotions as a result of seeing their loved one suffer. Everyone who is present at the intervention should have an opportunity to share about the person's struggle with addiction; these might be personal statements which help to show the person how these relationships have been hurt. A statement should be honest and focus on love and compassion, as opposed to being an attack on the person.

6. Identify how you will help

Each person attending the intervention should be able to offer support in some way, whether this is a lift to a group meeting, meals cooked a couple of times a week, or some other type of support. This shows the person that they do not have to go it alone.

7. Do a run-through

Once you know who is coming, what they will say, and how things will run you should have a practise run to ensure you know what to say and when.

8. Manage expectations

While each person attending would like to see their loved one accept their addiction, respond to treatment, and move on with their life the fact is that addiction can be a very difficult thing to tame. Your intervention may run well, or it might be difficult — either way, prepare everyone for the worst but expect the best.

9. Follow up from an intervention

No matter the outcome, whether your loved one accepts treatment or not, it is important to stick to what you have said during the intervention. If you have offered dinner, call with that invitation. If you refuse to accept codependent behaviours, stick to that. You need to show them that you are reliable, and that there is certainty in what you have said as it allows them to trust you.

What not to do

No matter how prepared you are, there are still some things that can go wrong in an intervention.

  • Don't stage your intervention when your loved one is under the influence.
  • Try not to involve too many people — you don't want to overwhelm them.
  • Steer clear of labels like addict, junkie, or alcoholic. If your loved one has not yet recognised this label for themselves it may have a negative impact.

Again, it is well worth speaking to a professional about your options when it comes to organising an effective family intervention.

What to change if your intervention doesn't work

If your intervention does not work the first time around, regroup, work out what wasn't effective, and try again.

You cannot fail when you do not give up; so long as you have the opportunity to help your loved one seek treatment there is hope for recovery.

If you would like assistance with family intervention services in Melbourne, our caring practitioners at the The Hader Clinic can help you. Guide them towards rehab and support them on their journey.

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