How to perform a successful intervention

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Intervention-style conversations are very successful in addressing destructive behaviours in your family members and friends. Learn best practices for staging an intervention which will bring results.

Our success and failures greatly depend on those around us and those we love. We often find ourselves unable to move forward, grow as individuals, work on our financial goals and towards our financial independence, when a loved one is going through a hard time.

Destructive behaviours hurt us on many levels and affect the way we live our lives, so it is important to learn how to deal with them.

Intervention-style meetings and conversations are a great starting point. They aim to bring families and friends together for common goals – to show the unconditional love, support, to educate and offer solutions.

Follow the instructions below to stage a constructive intervention.

Planning the intervention.

  1. Consult with a professional. To ensure the best results, it is wise to consult with someone who has helped others in the past. A professional interventionist will have the knowledge and will be able to make recommendations and suggestions on best ways to handle the intervention. We especially recommend contacting a professional if any of these are true: The person has a history of mental illness. The person is likely to get violent in reaction to the intervention. The person has exhibited suicidal behaviour.

  2. Form an intervention team. This should be a team of 5-6 people, who are respected by the subject of the intervention. Parents, siblings, best friends – those who have been impacted by the destructive behaviour. This group of people needs to be able and committed to helping in any capacity and be reliable when it comes to execution. It is recommended to avoid inviting those who are not liked or trusted by the person you are trying to help. Don’t invite those that may become too emotional or side with the person you are trying to help – it will make the entire intervention ineffective.

  3. Find the right treatment plan. For every condition and situation there is a possible plan of action. Find the one that has highest chances of success and can begin immediately. The treatment plan should incorporate ways your loved one can get professional help as soon as possible – whether by going to rehab, getting psychotherapy, enrolling in an outpatient treatment program. Prepare by planning the exact steps and funding of the treatment plan.

  4. Decide on consequences in case of refusal to use treatment plan. Each person on the intervention team needs to decide which consequences will take place if their loved one refuses to get help. It is extremely difficult but necessary to ensure results, whether the intervention is successful or not. The consequences may include: Not enabling the destructive behaviour, not offering shelter or withdrawing financial support, getting a divorce or changing the relationship, vowing to never offer “rescues” again.

  5. Choose the location and time. Each member of the intervention team needs to be able to attend at the exact time and understand that failure to do so may result in a failed intervention.

  6. Have a rehearsal. Interventions can be very emotional, so it is a great idea to practice with the intervention team, to ensure all topics are covered and no one is straying too far from the plan. Each person needs to prepare notes which addresses loved one’s behaviour and the way it harms them and their family. Consider creating a list of actions and behaviour patterns which will no longer be tolerated. Next to each item, include a list of consequences that will take place in case the behaviour continues.

Having the intervention meeting.

  1. Invite the loved one to the meeting without telling them what it is. Use a reason that is not out of the ordinary: dinner, helping out with moving, etc. Ensure that the entire intervention team is in place for when the person arrives.

  2. Have each member speak. Following the rehearsed plan, have each member address the notes they have prepared. Make sure they emphasize their love for the person and their hope for things to become better. It is important that although people express real emotions, they do not resort to anger, screaming and acting confrontational. Trying to lighten the mood is also not recommended.

  3. Present the treatment plan. After everyone has spoken, have the leader or the interventionist present the treatment plan. Make sure to state that the plan was thoroughly researched and approved by professionals. Ask for immediate action to accept the plan. Describe the consequences, should the plan not be accepted. Be ready for any reactions, including anger or even laughter, and stand strong.

  4. End the meeting with concrete next moves. The person should begin the steps of the treatment plan immediately, as well, they need to make a strong commitment to completing all steps. Alternatively, they need to be aware of the consequences and the intervention team needs to act on their threats and promises.

Following up after the intervention.

  1. Support the person if they choose the treatment. It takes time to see the results of the intervention. Make sure you and the intervention team are there for the person through every step. Do not break down and compromise with half-measures, lightened treatment plan, modifications of any sort. Support the person by ensuring they complete the entire plan as agreed to initially and approved by a professional.

  2. Be prepared for the loved one to refuse the treatment. Sometimes denial wins the day and the person is not willing to accept the treatment plan. Unfortunately, it is impossible to force someone to take action, until they are ready. With that, do not think the intervention was pointless. Now your loved one understands that there is a solution on the table, that you support them and that there is a problem with their behaviour, which will no longer be enabled or tolerated.

  3. Enforce the consequences. Without a doubt, this is the most painful part of the process, although, completely necessary. Make sure than the intervention team takes action on consequences they’ve agreed upon before the intervention. Remember that you are helping the person by sticking to the plan. Use crisis situations as an example to why the person needs to seek professional help immediately. A second intervention may be helpful as well.

Most important advise is to take action. Closing eyes to the reality and hoping the situation goes away will not help you or your loved one. Stay strong and committed through the process. For additional steps on dealing with addictions, real life stories, checklists and resources, check out our Managing Addictions Life Event.

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