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What is an addiction intervention?

An addiction intervention refers to the family or friends of an individual taking proactive steps to persuade the individual to enter treatment for their addiction. Interventions are often used when individuals are unwilling to seek help themselves or do not recognise that they have a problem, and the aim of an intervention is to make a collaborative effort towards getting them the help that they need.

When an individual can no longer control their drinking or drug use, or their engagement with unhealthy, addictive behaviours, it is likely that they are struggling with an alcohol, drug or broader behavioural addiction that will likely require professional support to overcome. Watching a friend or loved one struggle with an addiction can be overwhelming and upsetting, and you may be experiencing difficult emotions. As well as being concerned about your loved one’s health, wellbeing and safety, it is not uncommon for addicts’ family members to struggle with feelings of resentment due to the way that your loved one’s addiction has also impacted upon your life.

If you think that your loved one is struggling with an addiction, or they do not want to receive help for their addictive behaviours, it’s important to understand that despite the negative emotions that you may be feeling, you are not alone. Our addiction intervention guide provides advice and guidance to those considering staging an intervention, and we can support you throughout the process of gaining addiction treatment and help for your loved one.

Why conduct an addiction intervention?

Interventions are useful when friends and family have not been able to persuade the individual to seek support for their addiction, despite their best efforts. Interventions are effective for individuals who are unable to see the effects of their destructive, addictive behaviours, or who are unwilling to accept that they have a problem.

The involvement of a group of friends and family members can be a very powerful way of expressing the message to the individual, and makes it more likely that the individual will listen to what is being said. The powerful nature of this experience can result in the individual accepting the message from their loved ones and agreeing to receive the help that they need for their addiction and addictive behaviours.

What happens during an addiction intervention?

An addiction intervention consists of an individual who is struggling with an addiction attending a meeting, which has been arranged by their loved ones.

Each family member or friend should write a letter to the individual, which is read aloud during the meeting. Letters typically aim to express how much the individual means to that person, the effect of the individual’s addiction on that person, a description of how they want their relationship to work in the future and asking the individual to accept the addiction treatment and help that they need.

Support, compassion and respect are key features of the addiction intervention, and the objective of the meeting is to firmly convey the message that the individual needs help for their problems. Following the intervention, the individual can then progress to addiction treatment, if they consent to this. 

How to stage an addiction intervention

Prior to staging an addiction intervention, it is important that you take the time to prepare and ready yourself, friends and family for this process. You may find the below steps useful in preparing for an addiction intervention:

  • Select the group of people that you will invite to the intervention, keeping in mind that a small group of attendees is usually preferable 
  • Be sure to include only those individuals with whom your loved one has a close relationship, and who you know are willing to play a role in your loved one’s addiction treatment and recovery journey
  • Ask all attendees to reflect on what they wish to share with their loved one during the intervention and encourage them to speak with a tone of compassion and sincerity
  • Remind all attendees that the purpose of the addiction intervention is to encourage their loved one to enter treatment, and to offer support; they should leave criticism of any kind out of the conversation
  • Prepare to be met with some anger, frustration or resistance. Even if your loved one knows about the intervention and agrees to attend, they may still feel some unease throughout the conversation and may need some additional time to ‘warm up’ to the idea of entering residential care 

Intervention models

There are many different types of intervention models recommended by addiction professionals. However, no matter which method you and your friends and/or family members choose, it is important to understand that this step can be a critical component of recovery. Addiction intervention is the first of many steps on the path to sustained sobriety and abstinence, and there will be many more opportunities to assist your loved one on their journey to a life without addiction.

The road ahead

Interventions can be a difficult, challenging and emotional experience for everyone involved. Our addiction intervention guide outlines the different approaches that you can take, and provides information on next steps following the intervention. If your loved one consents to start addiction treatment, we are also able to provide a free addiction assessment to make the process of entering treatment as smooth and straightforward as possible.

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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding addiction treatment, please call 0330 056 6023 or click here to submit an enquiry form. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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