Organizing A Successful Intervention

Perhaps the best way to begin to organize an intervention is not to start out following a set formula. While mainstream formats can be helpful, they are useless if they won’t work.

If you are like many other families looking into organizing an intervention, then, like many families you’ve probably read a few books on the subject, maybe a few articles, and I’m sure gotten an earful, especially from anyone who’s been part of one. Unfortunately a lot of the data that is out there on the subject all points to a basic formula supposedly common to all interventions. For example the family meeting where letters composed by family members beforehand are written and read aloud. Perhaps an ultimatum is given at this point. Doors are shut and so on. Some books even suggest having a bag packed and ready to go.

On my first intervention I ever did, about fifteen years ago, I remember the family had these ideas in mind and were quite ready to write their letters and group everyone together and arrange a quasi-ambush on the person they were trying to get into treatment. As an addict I realized that this would never work in his case. For one thing he had not spoken to any of his family in nearly two months. By all reports he was experiencing meth induced psychosis at times, and had become quite paranoid. He had no financial connection to his family to speak of. He owned his own house, so ultimatums of disconnection would have very little traction. As far as a loving ambush, I envisioned a sort of catastrophe occurring in the middle of this family’s living room. As an addict, I realized that he was locked in his own world, and reason was not something that would be much use to us at that point. I asked if he had been in love recently and his family affirmed that yes, he had indeed been in love and was in fact still in love with the girl, I asked for her contact information and was at first rebuffed by the parents who were convinced that she would have nothing to do with an intervention for him because he had burned her so badly in the relationship. But, I knew better. People are usually willing to help save someone’s life even if they have been burned. I called the girl and convinced her to lie a little in terms of asking him if he’d be willing to give this program a try, that there might still be hope for them. Of course this was not strictly true. But both she and I knew that if he heard that he would probably be willing to give the program a try. We went over to his house just the two of us. She knocked on the door. When he heard what she had to say, I had him in the car within about two hours, much to the surprise of everyone else.

It was a deception this is true, but I have learned that the only thing worth doping in any intervention is to succeed. If you have to lie cheat and steal then I say do it, in order to save the life of your loved one. There is no medal for honesty that will comfort you at your loved ones funeral.

I have staged far more elaborate deceptions over the years, but I want to stress that I have for the most part stuck to traditional methods in terms of how I approach an intervention. My point is that the first thing you should ask yourself is, what do you think will work to get the person into the program?

The second piece of advice that I think is vital is that an intervention is NOT a time to get the addict to admit to anything or to state that he knows he needs help. Someone somewhere along the line got the idea that in order for an addict to make any progress in a program that he needed to admit to having a problem, and in some respects this is true. However, nowhere does it state or is it shown to be of any benefit at all, or to indicate how well a person will do by having them admit such a thing to their family under duress. No successful addict has ever attributed his success to what he did or did not admit to his family before he entered treatment, for the simple fact that it is irrelevant. Most interventions are a marginally controlled mess, at the end of which, if you are persistent and have a little luck, you will end up with the addict starting a program, most of the time from the point of detox, so nothing the addict says or does at this point is of any substantive value therapeutically. This whole point about getting the addict to admit something or to ask humbly for help should be abandoned and the sooner you do this the better off you will be.

I always joke to people, “If you think the addicts are a mess you should meet some of their families.” But it’s true that most families are a bit of a mixed bag, sometimes at best. It is important that if you know your loved one needs help, that you do not let others get in your way or deter you from doping what you know is right.

In terms of whether or not to hire a professional; if you are only 30-60% convinced that you will get the persons agreement if you do things on your own, then hiring someone like me, with an 85% success rate makes a lot of sense. If on the other hand you believe that you have a very good chance of success then there is no reason to hire anyone.

If you are planning to hire someone then my advice as an interventionist is to not “try things on your own and then if it doesn’t work we’ll hire a professional. There is nothing I like less than to have to begin an intervention by cleaning up an enormous mess created by the family just before I get there. It is infinitely easier for an interventionist to play the cards you will in all likelihood, completely waste from strategic standpoint. If you have decided to hire someone then don’t do anything. Hire the person and let him or her play these cards for you. Some of them may be quite valuable and can be played for maximum effect in the hands of a professional.

Planning is probably the most important element in any intervention. You literally cannot plan too much, rehearse too much, and throw ideas around too much. The best interventions are the result of a lot of planning beforehand. This is how a family makes it through the labyrinth of chaos that the addict will throw back at you; be prepared. Plan for contingencies; what if this happens, what if that happens, who will do this and who wail do that. Have a plan for the beginning of your meetings but also for the middle and the end. Know how you’re going to end, otherwise you’ll end up in a three hour long bitch session.

Welcome objections. Objections are one of the most valuable things the addict can give you. These are a list of what he is protesting, and you cannot solve hos objections if you have no idea what they are, so welcome it when he says no, and listen to his objections and then regroup afterwards and plan to go in for the closed.

Most interventions are a set of meetings, not just one. You’ll have the initial; meeting where the offer is made, and then you will have subsequent meetings with key people ion order to close the deal so to speak.

Sell aesthetics when it comes to the program. Families focus on therapy and the need for recovery but nothing sells tickets like a co-ed treatment center with a swimming pool or satellite TV. Anything you can do to make the facility seem attractive is to your advantage. You want him to want to go.

Don’t tell the person that he needs to go away for six months, Get rid of all of his friends, date someone else, sell his car and so on. You’ll just overwhelm the person and they’ll be jumping over the back fence. Give the person something he can have. Tell them to give it a try for a few weeks. Tell him there are no locked doors. Tell him about all the great food, and that you just want him to give it a good chance and see if he gets some perspective while he’s there.

Persevere. Not as many interventions actually fail as the families give up too soon. They are told that it needs to happen within a short period of time, or that if the person doesn’t want to go that they are not ready to go to treatment. Some interventions do only take a day or two but moist take the better part of a week, if not two. Even three weeks is a success if at the end of that time you have the person successfully in the program.

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