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How and why to conduct a family intervention

By Tim Woodley


If you are concerned about a loved one’s drug and alcohol misuse, you’re not alone. Over 268,000 adults were in contact with drug and alcohol services between 2018 and 2019, and many of those began their journeys of recovery after having a family intervention arranged by those closest to them.

We want you to know that we understand: it’s far from easy to consider doing this yourself and very often family members will involve a professional interventionist to help. In most cases, family interventions are finally done after a long period of concern and hope; we desperately want our loved one to recover and improve by themselves, and it’s common to wait until the pain of doing nothing becomes too much to bear any more.

Conducting a family intervention is about not waiting for a loved one to hit rock bottom to decide to do anything. Family intervention bypasses this to the point where recovery and treatment is a choice for the now and not the future.

In this article, we’ll go over the hows and whys of staging a family intervention for drug and alcohol misuse.


What is an intervention?

Let’s start with the basics: defining what an effective intervention actually is.

In short, interventions are gatherings where friends and family meet with the individual that has the drug and alcohol problem. That person is presented with the opportunity to accept their problematic drug and alcohol use and to address it before it gets worse.

Unfortunately, interventions are often portrayed in popular media as dramatic and confrontational. While it’s certainly common for the individual in question to react strongly to being faced by those closest to them in such a way, it’s important not to be dissuaded from conducting a family intervention out of fear of things getting out of control. When done right, an intervention can be gentle, supportive and productive.


How to plan an intervention

A lot of planning is required to get the best result out of a drug and alcohol family intervention. Conflict can happen for the worst if you rush into the meeting, making careful consideration of every element of your approach important in achieving a result that’s productive and effective instead of damaging. Involving a professional interventionist as part of your preparation can be immensely helpful. Here’s what to consider.

Consider who to include: It’s vital you think seriously about who to bring to your meeting in addition to the person in question. While it can be tempting to bring along every family and friend close to the individual, this can sometimes backfire.

Consider personalities: is anyone close likely to ‘kick off’ and escalate things inappropriately? If so, you’ll want to either avoid including that person or speak to them clearly and personally about avoiding any behaviour and talk that can jeopardise the family intervention.

Similarly, it’s important to bring people to encourage. Personal friends of the individual are valuable during family interventions as they can provide a calm, grounding support that can diffuse tension and boost the individual’s mood and response.

Pick the right place: A family intervention should be held at a place where the individual feels private, safe and comfortable. For many, this means the family home. It can be a good thing to avoid holding a family intervention where the individual lives themselves, as their house or flat may be messy or littered with things relating to their substance misuse. This can lead to them feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable, which draws them away from calm discussions and increases the likelihood of conflict.

If parents are involved, holding the family intervention at their home is often a suitable choice. These places feel familiar and private and are more detached from the daily reality of the person’s private substance misuse.

Contact professionals: While it’s perfectly possible to get the information you need to conduct an intervention from a book or reading articles online, you might end up missing important information entirely. We recommend contacting professionals who are experienced in addiction and recovery family interventions, whoever they may be.

We’re always available to help signpost you to appropriate people and organisations for this. You can contact Help Me Stop directly at 0208 191 8920 for a chat at no obligation. If you’d rather get in touch via email or text, you can use our contact form or the live chat on our website.

We’ll talk to you about your plans and will offer advice grounded in decades of professional experience in treating drug and alcohol addiction and misuse.


Present a solution

It’s vital that your family intervention has a practical conclusion to it. If you don’t offer clear advice and suggestion, it’s easy for the individual to feel like they are sitting through a session where they are simply blamed for their troubles. By focusing on practical steps to take, you can reduce the chances of them feeling attacked and singled out.

Dayhab treatment programmes and online treatment like those offered at Help Me Stop are practical, affordable and effective. Two common barriers to drug and alcohol treatment are being away from work and family and money; two areas where our service shines. Available via flexible hours that fit around work and family obligations and offered at a fraction of the cost of residential rehab, our Dayhab programme is a proven model that delivers long term recovery.


We hope we’ve helped

Conducting a family intervention is a serious action. It can be scary to consider but is often the next logical step in helping a loved one face their drug and alcohol misuse head-on before they hit their rock bottom.

As we’ve already mentioned in this article, Help Me Stop is here to offer free advice if you need it. Call us on 0208 191 8920 or use our contact form to get in touch today.