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Though they are sometimes used to get a laugh in a sitcom, interventions can be highly effective tools to help someone with a substance use disorder. Rogers’ Dr. Michelle Maloney, PhD, executive director of Rogers’ Addiction Recovery, offers five tips for holding an effective intervention.
The amount of work that needs to go into planning and holding an intervention is something that not many people fully understand. Dr. Maloney recommends working with a professional interventionist for support leading up to, during, and after the intervention.
“It can help keep things moving and make sure that the intervention doesn’t get out of hand,” she says. “It can provide a framework of safety. An intervention is full of emotions—yours, the other family members as well as the identified individual. Sometimes the person will storm out in the middle—that’s another area where a professional interventionist can assist. He or she will have a plan to accommodate any of these circumstances.”
To find an interventionist, Dr. Maloney says people will usually either rely on word of mouth or by asking for a few referrals from a treatment facility or mental health professional. When considering someone, Dr. Maloney suggests keeping their experience in mind, the types of interventions they conduct, cost and how they’re paid, and the services they provide before, during, and after the intervention.
Good planning includes identifying any potential barriers to the individual accepting help and working on solutions to those barriers prior to the intervention. For example, if childcare is a concern, who can assist while the individual is in treatment?
When planning the intervention, Dr. Maloney suggests gathering around five or six friends and family members and working with them to write letters.
“In the letters loved ones can write things that recall a special time in their life or a good memory with the person prior to them using,” she says. “That’s the care part.”
In addition to showing the person that you care, Dr. Maloney says the letters should also ask them to seek treatment and remind them again that you do love them.
Boundaries should be set toward the end of an intervention letter. After the request that the person voluntarily seek help, the letter then needs to say what the consequences of not going to treatment will be from your perspective.
“Your intervention letter should communicate that you love them but that they need to do this,” Dr. Maloney says. “If they choose not to, lay out what you need to do to care for yourself, and end with reminding them that this is all coming from a place of love and concern.”
The boundaries can be anything from having them move out, not talking to them, or no longer helping the person financially.
“Many family members have found themselves in situations in which they are not sleeping, not eating, or having difficulties at work,” Dr. Maloney says. “For some family members, they need to begin to put themselves first. This could mean that they change their phone number so that they no longer receive the 2 am phone calls. Although this may sound extreme, unless family members take care of themselves, they will no longer be able to care for anyone else.”
If a professional is helping to facilitate the intervention, they will end things by saying if the person chooses to seek treatment, that they can begin right away. Those holding an intervention should make sure that they have a bed ready at a treatment facility ahead of time, so that it’s available the day of the intervention.
“If the person needs residential or inpatient care, treatment needs to be already lined up,” she explains, “because if you wait, typically speaking, the individual will not follow through.”
Not everyone will agree to treatment, and if you hold an intervention, then you must be prepared for this outcome. If you tell someone that they need to move out if they keep using or that you can’t talk to them while they continue to use, you must act on those boundaries.
“In order for it to work, you have to follow through,” she says. “Whatever boundaries you set, you have to follow through.”
If someone keeps using after being told that they need to move out if they don’t seek treatment, you can place their belongings outside on the front porch. Boundaries are especially important if you or someone else close to the person is also in recovery, so that the recovery of others isn’t jeopardized.
Boundaries can seem like tough love, but Dr. Maloney prefers to use the term “carefrontation” and to focus on communicating how much you love the person, but that if they choose to not get help that the boundaries are needed to care for yourself.
To learn how Rogers can help someone who is struggling with addiction, call 800-767-4411 or request a free screening online.
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