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How to carry out an Intervention

If a loved one is suffering from an addiction and you judge that they might be responsive to an appeal from family members and close friends to address their problem, an intervention might be a good course of action. 

By “intervention” we mean a deliberate, planned discussion initiated by those closest to the addicted person with the intention of encouraging him or her to recognise the problem and take action. 

The immediate objective of an intervention is to induce the addicted person to see clearly the impact of the addiction on themselves and others, without provoking defensiveness on the part of the addicted person or allowing the conversation to escalate into a conflict. 

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In general, the best outcome will be achieved by adhering to the following guidelines

Do's

  • Ideally the intervention should involve a small group of people that are close to and care about the addicted person.
  • It is often helpful to write letters in advance, detailing the impact that the addiction has had on the writer. These can be read to the addicted person on the day.
  • You should educate yourself beforehand on relevant aspects such as the nature of the particular addiction, detoxification and treatment programmes – particularly those which suit the personality and needs of the addicted person.
  • The participants should plan in advance precisely how the conversation will unfold and should rehearse beforehand.
  • Each participant should be willing to offer concrete help to the addicted person in some or other way, within their respective means – e.g. attending family therapy sessions, financial support, care of children while the addicted person is in treatment.
  • The participants should be prepared to implement and act upon boundaries if the addicted person is not receptive to the request for intervention. Relationships will need to change. Everyone present must commit to cease enabling and codependent behaviour and be clear that there will be consequences for the addicted person if they refuse help.

Do's

  • The tone of the discussion should not be one of blame.
  • The discussion should not occur spontaneously when the addicted person is drunk or high.
  • The participants should not be overly prescriptive or authoritarian in the solutions presented.
  • Do not despair if the intervention ends badly. A seed has been planted.