An intervention is when friends or family attempt to get help for someone struggling with or resistant to treatment for substance abuse issues or mental health disorders. Loved ones enlist a qualified professional to facilitate an intervention to encourage recognition of the problem and accept the need to change.
Intervention is a long-standing recognized tool to facilitate the start of healing and change. The older, more traditional methods focused solely on the person in question and arranging treatment for them. However, it is now understood that the most effective forms of intervention include help and support for the family and broader support system, as an individual’s substance abuse and mental health issues can harm everyone around them.
The Role of Loved Ones
Humans are inherently social beings who thrive in a community. We all understand that we need support and connection from others to help us along life’s journey, but as we grow into adults, it can become difficult to accept help or ask for it.
We had support from our primary caregiver and immediate family throughout childhood, and we had the school infrastructure with teachers and friends guiding us towards adulthood. At work, we have colleagues, managers, and a routine to help keep us on track, and we may have a romantic relationship and a family unit to nurture and care for us. However, there is a strong tendency for those with mental health issues and substance abuse disorders to withdraw and seek isolation from others. This is often down to guilt, shame, or thinking others will not understand the situation.
Substance abuse has a negative impact on an individual’s life at every level, and it can seem like an impossible task to rebuild. Therefore, close family and friends are vital to the long-term success of an individual’s treatment and recovery. Numerous studies have demonstrated that positive support networks have a pronounced effect on a substance abuser’s behavioral issues, with a marked decline in both frequency of use and severity of substance misuse over time.
That said, a positive support network is unlikely to be created overnight. Those with substance abuse disorder tend to experience low self-worth, low self-esteem, and damaged relationships with loved ones. By the time an intervention occurs, families have likely been on a difficult journey already, with many previously unsuccessful attempts to help and engage with the individual.
Due to the nature of this disorder, people are likely to lie, break promises, steal, respond with aggression and anger, or push people away. Loved ones must understand that this behavior stems from the illness rather than the individuals’ true intent. Compassion and understanding are required to build trust with the sufferer to allow intervention to be successful. However, this is a painful experience for family and friends who are likely to feel resentful, traumatized and have an inherent lack of trust.
The involvement of a professional interventionist allows for a family-centric approach that focuses on positive communication. A successful intervention focuses on the health and well-being of all involved and seeks to create a motivational, empathic space to facilitate change for everyone affected.
It has been evidenced that those without strong support networks are far more likely to relapse. Intervention is the first stage in the long journey towards recovery and assists all those involved to emerge from the confusion and distress of the situation. An intervention is a life-changing process for all those involved.
Through intervention and subsequent treatment, the underlying issues and co-occurring disorders of the individual will be unearthed. This can be a huge relief, not only to the sufferer who can understand their actions away from the narrative of self-blame but for families who can re-engage with compassion and empathy for the sufferer while having their own struggles acknowledged.
The hope that the individual will enter treatment the day of the intervention may not always come to fruition. Sometimes an individual is not ready to face the truth of the situation and will refuse treatment. However, faith and positivity must remain, as it is highly likely through the continued support from the interventionist and loved ones, the individual will decide to engage a few days or weeks later. By demonstrating that they still have your love and support, even the most resistant individuals will likely engage with a treatment plan. When they know they have a support structure in place, they will feel more able to face their fear and distress at making the significant lifestyle changes that come with treatment.
Intervention is a process rather than a single event, and the interventionist will guide the friends, family, and sufferer through the entire process step by step. The critical point of intervention is that friends and family are not alone in this situation and do not carry the total weight of their loved one’s recovery on their own.
A good interventionist will guide everyone through the scenario and provide compassionate, experienced support. The interventionist is there to encourage access to treatment and educate the support network on the importance of setting appropriate boundaries and maintaining them before, during, and after the intervention and through to recovery.
If you are concerned about a loved one's mental health or substance abuse, then the involvement of a professional interventionist is the first step in creating the positive environment needed to allow the sufferer to acknowledge their difficulties, accept the need for change, access the help required, and start their journey to a healthy, joyful life.