At its core, an intervention is an act of profound love. Although it can sometimes be very difficult or stressful to confront a person, if done correctly, it can make a huge difference in someone's life. Many people engaged in addictive behavior cope with their addiction through narratives of denial, ways of justifying their behavior to make it seem "not all that bad."
A well-executed intervention can break through this sense of denial, helping him or her to realize harmful behavior and seek help before it's too late.
Some attempted interventions take place spontaneously, a kind of casual "heads up" meeting without a script or a goal. However, such sporadic efforts or improvised appeals to reason may not be able to penetrate a wall of denial.
For an intervention to truly be effective, it helps to have a carefully constructed plan and script so you can truly impress on a person the importance of changing his or her behavior. Here are five reasons why planning is so important to an intervention, that will also give things to think about as you are making a plan.
1) For an intervention to be effective, you need to clearly communicate what you would have the addict do.
The addict may already be somewhat aware that his or her behavior is sometimes a problem or "out of control." However, they may still minimize or underestimate the extent to which addiction truly controls their life; they may think it's enough to simply "cut back" a little.
So, to simply express concern without any clear goals can simply invite further denial and rationalization.
Before you confront the person directly, have a recovery treatment plan already picked out, and devote some of your time to encouraging him or her to at least explore it. Your words will have a more measureable impact if you have a direct behavioral change you are encouraging.
It may be helpful to issue an ultimatum, withdrawing shelter or financial support unless they agree to enter into recovery.
2) An intervention should involve the right people, behaving in ways that are truly helpful
An intervention must be carefully balanced and staged in order to be effective. You should have a group of people who deeply care about the person in question, and are able to remain calm enough to communicate love, care, concern, and honesty no matter how the person reacts.
Interventions can bring up a lot of emotions and responses, and yelling back or breaking down to overpowering emotions can get in the way of your desire to communicate a clear message. Co-dependent behavior, or a difference of opinion between group members can undercut the effectiveness of the meeting.
Everyone must be on the same page that the behavior in question is destructive, and must be able to communicate clearly how it affects them, and how they want him or her to pursue recovery.
3) Some places and times might be better then others, and it helps to think about this ahead of time.
An intervention will be a very stressful for everyone involved, especially for the person in need of recovery. A person receiving an intervention may feel ambushed in a way that can lead to defensiveness or angry attacking.
For that reason, care should be taken to make things as comfortable as possible. Choose a time and place that will make the addict feel comfortable, and familiar, in a way that will remove all distractions from the environment, and help you be listened to.
4) A rehearsal will help everyone to communicate more clearly and directly
Everyone participating needs to know what they are going to say, and be prepared to stick to that message no matter what. Going into the intervention spontaneously can make it easy to feel overtaken by the negative emotions, but knowing what you want to say ahead of time and being prepared can help you communicate directly and effectively.
5) You have to work at changing well-set patterns of co-dependency, enabling, and denial.
Every interaction you have with an addict is "rehearsed," memorized just like a choreographed dance or a symphony, by many "practices" or interactions. You have unconsciously learned how to "protect" the addict and yourself, working out of scripts that hide the truth in an effort to minimize harm.
An intervention thus requires a lot of effort to stop working out of these scripts, to instead face the truth directly. Learning how not to slip into old habits is going to require some discipline, and practicing your "new dance" of honesty and love and concern is going to require intentionality.